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Notes from a Head Gardener: a design bible of the moment that deserves to be shouted about ~ 20/11/2018

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The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom is remarkable in a number of ways. The garden designer’s book showcases the extraordinary gardens that she has created worldwide. Gorgeous, sumptuous gardens that have led her to be named ‘the most romantic, creative person in garden design’ by Piet Oudolf – himself a global superstar of the garden design world. But it is her words that have captivated me the most.

I have to admit to being taken aback by Jinny Blom’s boldness. Her confidence in her own ability came across at first as brazen but I found myself analysing what this spoke of me rather than her. The marked contrast between her prose and that of the two gardening authors that I had read prior to The Thoughtful Gardener – Dan Pearson and Antony Woodward – made Blom’s book seem conceited next to their gentle humbleness. This troubled me so I spent a long time thinking about why the male authors’ unassumingness was so winning and why, after some simple mind-adjustment, Blom’s was equally seductive.

It occurred to me that whereas male garden writers can afford to be unpretentious and it is seen as, and indeed, is charming, female gardeners and garden writers need to shout to make themselves heard. Jinny Blom has forged a career in a profession that, at the top at least, is dominated by men. I of all people should understand this.

When I started out in horticulture in the late 1990’s the mess room was a very male environment. I was young and wide-eyed and though I always felt welcome and never felt remotely threatened within the team, my novelty amongst the older gardeners in particular was sometimes tedious. My red hair was repeatedly ruffled and the comment “you’re a young Charlie Dimmock!” was one that could have earned me a fair amount had I been collecting £1’s for it from the start.  Looking back I think I even enjoyed my role as the token young women. I was nurtured rather than excluded. It was enormously beneficial.

Once I had resolved my preoccupation with Jinny Blom’s expression (after only a few pages) the words flowed more easily and melded with the glorious photographs, masterfully executed renderings of her designs and the book became, for me, a wonderful story of the expertise behind these romantic gardens.

Jinny Blom’s gardens are on a level of artistry that is rarely seen. Billowing, sometimes seemingly wild yet always tonally perfect. A genuine joy for me was to be privy to the craftsmanship involved in the creation of the Cotswold gardens that she has designed. The degree to which she places herself within the very atmosphere of the garden is described in extraordinary detail and is both exciting and inspiring. It appears to be a spiritual experience for her.

The Thoughtful Gardener – and it appears that this is precisely what Jinny Blom is – has left me feeling thrilled that a person can find success and emotional fulfilment from their profession. It is a feeling that I am lucky enough to experience often. Why should we not shout it from the treetops? There is excellence in what we achieve as women gardeners. Maybe a time will come when we can produce written work about our exciting creations without it sounding initially abrasive. Jinny Blom is in the top echelons of garden design and is justly proud. I am inspired and I hope people of all genders and professions will be too.