Anne Wareham – THAT “Bad Tempered Gardener”!
I first became aware of Anne’s now famous website “Thinking Gardens” when I was studying at university for my Garden Design degree. My tutor and our class were then having a discussion about garden design being an artistic pursuit. I always remember what he said to us “…a country reaches the the pinnacle of its civilisation when it makes gardens purely as art and not to serve a purpose”.
At the time we were then studying Renaissance gardens and comparing them to today’s conceptual gardens – interesting dichotomy I thought but why not? I liked the fact that Thinking Gardens had a Manifesto! So uncommon in this country – seems we have all gone completely PC. Luckily as a foreigner I feel rather obliged to criticise my countrymen and others with good solid debating rules – after all wasn’t debating invented in England?! I digress a little as her book of which I am writing a review, is says a lot about non PC. The world of gardening in the UK is hallowed ground but I always think that a good critical and constant appraisal of what is done and said is a good thing – I always thought the English were very good at being self critical!
I actually remember posting a comment on her website about gardens being art. It must be over 5 years ago now. We started loosely emailing each other and when I came to Twitter a few years ago now, we started chatting a lot. I went to visit her garden The Veddw in 2010 and she was at the time editing her final draft of her book The Bad Tempered Gardener. Her husband is Charles Hawes, the photographer for her book and also the book Discovering Welsh Gardens.
Anne just makes me smile – her forthright nature is always tempered with analysis and constant questions – and I admire her. I admire her for guts, her unwavering making of a stunning garden in a challenging site and her constant battles with the horticultural establishment! right or wrong – at least she asks the questions and wants to debate – something I think we have all forgotten how to do without getting nasty or abusive these days.
Anyway enough philosophising, “Place a Madame…“
What do you love about your work?
Being part of a growing community of people dissatisfied with the bland, dishonest gardening world and working with them to create change.
How do you think the UK has influenced the garden world?
Recently for the worse – UK gardening has been stuck in a time warp for far too long and is riddled with unjustified complacency.
What inspires you?
Light! And planting a garden so I can find out what it will look like.
Do you have any predictions …
The garden world will get more and more depressing as everyone will obsess about growing their own rhubarb and beauty will be forgot.
Who do you enjoy working with…
My husband, photographer Charles Hawes. Except when he bawls at me ‘I will NEVER do another book with you!’
What do you like doing best…
Staying in bed and reading.
Best advice given to you…
I’m not very good at taking advice..but best maybe a friend saying ‘ It is as though you are still a little frightened of being too controversial? You shouldn’t be!’
Who do you admire?
Frances Prior for making his subject (prehistory) so accessible and fascinating for the lay person.
Share a new discovery
Bragging rights to?
Writing my first book! “The Bad Tempered Gardener”
How did I get into…
Getting a regrettable compulsion to make a large garden with no money.
Were you always artistic…
I was always supposed to be a writer according to my teachers, but I took a long detour and a long time to get there…
What/who got you started?
A friend giving me some seeds…
What’s the idea?
Reviewing gardens seriously so that the gardens improve, honesty prevails and everyone visiting a garden has a really good experience. And improving people’s ability to ‘see’ so that they riot when they see a riot of colour. Or a rose garden full of ugly hybrid teas in mixed colours.
Am dead chuffed to have published a book and at the warmth of so many people’s response to it.
Getting angry and bad tempered about the garden world, while being highly sensitised to people disliking me.
Bath. Have wonderful times there – beautiful buildings, great shopping and eating and the theatre.
The UK – a different and beautiful landscape almost everywhere you go, all within a few day’s reach.
Too superstitious to say…
What book are you reading?
Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death, Irvin D Yalo
I am a frustrated…
I’m not really. No… not frustrated.
If you could go back in time…
Veddw, two hundred years ago - to see what it was like and how people were living here then. I have spent so much time trying to imagine their lives and how the countryside would have looked. But, please don’t leave me there! Life was so hard for them.
Best way to relax.
Reading, watching telly, having a bath, spending time with Charles and with friends, wandering the garden.
Thanks Anne for taking part in our quick fire interview. Enjoying the latest articles in the daily press by the way! Fx
The Veddw garden can be visited but please check for opening times here or visit the Thinking Gardens website fro superb articles and reviews and debates. I can recommend the book, The Bad Tempered Gardener – it’s frank, fun, not really PC (although Anne had to temper her word due to editorial rules!) and a book from the heart with more courage than I would ever have.
Chat with Anne on Twitter at @AnneWareham