These gardens have become a bit of a pilgrimage site. Particularly for those of us who live in the East. There simply are not many substantial gardens in these parts. Not the first time I have visited, but a week or two back, I treated myself and two others to the Full Monty Alan Grey tour with lunch.
I made a mistake. The two were poles apart. Friend one, a textile designer with many years of plying her trade. Purity and attention to detail are her watchwords. The other friend has bright pink hair, wears bling and delights to shock. She in turn had Bernie in tow: he works for her. Then of course there was Alan, looking immaculate in tight trousers and tee shirt with fashionable leather patch.
East Ruston is a running experiment of trying out new ideas: in other years I have gasped at the hyper-style hall of ferns, weaved my way through battalions of hydrangeas, and been stunned by the shimmering cornflower rich meadow sown near the church.
Alan gives you a one and a half hour tour and during this, you can see only a third of all the gardens. The history of the making of East Ruston is one of obsessive and glorious building, propagating and forging on. When you consider that we are only a mile from the sea and its cruel winds, the whole site is nothing short of a miracle. Exotics are grown: aeoniums as big as telephone exchange boxes (they go inside in the winter) echiums that are twice as tall as a man.
As we went round friend one shuddered at overblown colour combinations and the other was busy building castles in the air with Bernie. At lunch she and Alan practically fell into each other’s arms and have now become chicken swapping buddies.
If you squash site specific zeal, East Ruston is a testamant to energy, passion and what you can do with loads of money. I always ask garden owners how much help they have. The answer, unhesitatingly delivered is always no more than one and a half men. Either everybody is lying or they must work 24/7.