‘What the eye don’t see the ‘eart don’t grieve over’ (for full effect, say it in an Aylesbury accent circa 1930). It was the first rule of life I remember nanny teaching me, as she wiped a bit of no-matter-what off the nursery floor with the hem of her apron.
I often repeat it as I go round the garden, rejoicing that a good percentage of it comes into the ‘eye don’t see’ category. Maybe 10 per cent, maybe 15. It lies under old shrubs, at the backs of borders, under the skirts of trees, or where ivy has covered the ground with an impenetrable carpet. Occasionally, and often in autumn when the need for hacking back is most obvious, I poke my nose in, hoping not to find a body, and peer through the gloomy tangle to see what’s going on. I have been rewarded with useful, even interesting, seedlings. But sometimes the reward is an idea for something better. Even for abolishing the ‘don’t see’ zone altogether.
There is a proper mean between a judicious mingling of plants and each one having its own space. We have a rather splendid old Judas tree, a good forty feet across, two of its branches supported by props. It was planted in 1959, in an enthusiastic fit of planting by our predecessor at Saling. Over fifty years many good trees and shrubs have united in one canopy, the Judas tree included. Once I had decided it was time to let the light in, the cutting back would have done credit to the Coalition and the piles of branches were prodigious.
An amelanchier has been cut down to the stump, a photinia the same, also a Chinese privet; a clerodendron abolished altogether and a score of bottom branches lopped from a Cryptomeria and one of those Lawson cypresses that seem to droop with exhaustion. We have taken perhaps ten feet off the diameter of the Judas tree, letting the light flood in to its handsome undercroft. At the same time we have de-ivied the adjacent tea house. The effect is revolutionary. I see the components of the scene as mature individuals framing delicious glimpses instead of a ‘don’t see’ zone. And there is a glorious bonfire waiting.