I've been heading down to the South cost at the weekends recently for family reasons, and though you wouldn't think that a hour or two's drive would make such a difference, Gosport is deep in a sheltered bay, shaded from the channel by the Isle of Wight and the gardens are teeming with palm trees, tender flowers, and shrubs which have clearly never suffered a hard winter die-back.
There's also quite a lot of garden history - we found ourselves wandering through Crescent Garden on the Saturday, though I was without camera, phone or any other recording device. The trees were largely original, each one a vast trunk and decorative branchery managed to within an inch of its life. Rambling roses jutted up through the canopy and a huge myrtle the size of a small caravan hinted at what my tiny bush could become, given rootspace and an endless supply of warm bright winters.
Tim remembered Privett Gardens as a place of fancy planting, but any flower beds had long since grassed over. Two fancy tree arches hinted at past glory, while a decorative mound of trees had been co-opted into a crazy-play area, with bikescar paths and a swinging rope. There were ancient native Hawthorns trained carefully into smart little trees, a hint at austere raw materials made grand by great care at some point in the past.
Suburban back gardens have their own glory, of course. These two items (a peachy Alstromeira and a fine wildlife access port) are both things I want for my own back garden. Though I was offered some of the clump of the Alstromeira, there was ground elder in the bed and I currently have none. The wildlife door will have to wait until I see my back neighbour again. This seems to happen once every four-five years.
Stanley Park was closer to the sea and accordingly the planting was HOT. Look at those Red Bananas, what beauties. They were as tall as us. The dark red Nicotiana had a delicious scent, and looks worth pursuing, a very pretty plant. Those fancy echinacea were planted in a fishpond turned long bed. Too hot and dry for fishponds nowadays? Or are they just too high maintenance?
There was also a very mature woodland full of very fancy trees (including a fairly giant Redwood), teen hangout spots, exciting running around places, and an endearingly creepy pet cemetery.
We broke out of the bottom of the park onto the seaside, and ice cream while we watched the Moths and Lasers zipping across the bay. Sea cabbage and low-growing nightshade colonising the gravel slopes against the promenade. Dogs and children running. Sunshine.