I overheard two pasty-eating builders lounging outside Tesco Express the other day:

‘She’s tidy,’ said one laconically to the other, glancing across the road.

I followed his line of vision and saw a short skirt, vertiginous heels and blonde hair.

Now, maybe I have led a sheltered life, but I had never heard that expression used for that purpose before!

I went home and checked the computer, rather than the dictionary – more up to date. Our language is moving fast these days, but it did not say ‘slang for sexual dynamite’. It did say: ‘neat, satisfying and substantial’. Maybe it amounts to the same thing!

Lesley and I went to a ‘tidy’, in conventional terms, garden a few weeks ago. It was actually also quite a conventional garden, but satisfying in its well thought out structure and design. And it was immaculate.  And the sensation was: Phwoor!

I have, in the past, prepped gardens for National Garden Scheme Open Days. And after some days of harder than usual graft, when I turned up early in the morning to do the flowers for the tables for teas, the garden felt different. In fact it felt quite extraordinary. You will laugh, but it felt almost holy! Maybe that is where the phwoor expression comes in!

There is a great vogue these days for ‘natural’. Gardens are however cultivated spaces and all too frequently ‘we like a natural look’ means there are a mass of scuzzy weeds with just a few cultivated plants sticking out of the top. Natural can in short be an excuse – for laziness. Which is covered with a bit of arrogant blag!  

Tidy on the other hand does not mean ‘unnatural’. And tidy can make natural really sing! Think meadows with mown edges! And it is the garden singing which is really important. ‘Tidy’ is the seeing of the bones of the garden with no distractions.

‘Tidy’ is also well prepared for your visit. It shows respect and value for us as garden visitors. We have set aside time, travelled to the garden, paid to get in. For what? For a short time it is your garden. How it is matters, as an experience.

As visitors we should be made to feel privileged. After all, why do we visit gardens? Sure we wish to learn, be it about plants, design, history, whatever. But we also want, crave a pleasant time! Tidy is uplifting, disorder is depressing.

In the garden we visited we were politely received. The staff were knowledgeable about the history of the garden and its plant collection. Signs were neat – rather than: Toilets  scrawled in rough pen on a bit of sawn off plywood! And all this mattered….this experience. It was satisfying for all of this as much as for anything else.

We felt nourished, cared for and valued.

A tidy garden also shows respect for ourselves as garden owners and respect for our own creation. If your garden is dirty, you have, as they used to say to miscreants at school, ‘let yourself down more than anyone else’!

It is also good, basic domestic culture. A tidy garden performs better, since weeds compete for nutrients and are vectors of pests and diseases. Debris lying about will not break down properly until it actually gets to the compost heap!

If you are finding your garden difficult or too expensive to keep tidy there is something wrong with the design, because it is not suited to the work, time and cash that you can throw at it.

And all these issues affect a good visitor experience which means return visits which equals cash. What garden doesn’t eat cash by the wallet full?

Sense all round, I’d say.

So yes, gardens open to public view should be tidy!

R

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