A plantsman is as hard to define as he (or she) is easy to recognise. His (or her) garden is easy to recognise, too: a place where plants subtly out of the ordinary form a thriving community. Where the rare, the newly-discovered and the élite of the plant world are cherished with passion (and where there is never room to
accommodate all the newcomers).
We went to such a garden the other day: White House Farm on the Kentish Downs, the creation of Maurice and RosemaryFoster. It was a journey through layers of discovery: from smiling lawn through classic pergola into a forest of flowers where all horticultural
inhibitions have been thrown away. Up every tree clambers a rose, and up each rose a vine. Clematis scrambles through magnolia, Actinidia through Azalea, and the earth below and between is pulsing with competing growth. The pergola snakes for 100 yards among maples and bamboos, rhodendrons and roses, dripping with every wisteria known to man. Seven more acres of arboretum are
planted with trees from wild-collected seed. If plantsmanship like this is exhausting to view what must it be like to practice? To judge by the Fosters’ purposeful serenity, pretty close to heaven.