I was making my circuitous way through Wikipedia the other day and came across quite a gardening personality: Tom Hart Dyke, heir to Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent. Lullingstone was built in 1497, (not 1947, like I originally misread. Which would still be considered old in California.....sorry mum!Villas, Saints & Herb Gardens
) It was actually mentioned in the Domesday Book, which was written in 1085. So that's sort of old.
Besides the oldest stained glass windows in England, a chapel named after a ridiculously obscure saint (St. Botolph, patron saint of Botox), and an entire Roman Villa, Lullingstone Castle was once home to quite a famous herb garden. This garden was designed by Eleanor Sophy Sinclair Rohde (1881-1950), a well-known garden historian, designer and herb-garden fancier. Apparently it was grubbed up to make way for an idea of the latest Hart Dyke, something called 'The World Garden'.....
In March 2000, Tom Hart Dyke, in the style of the great Victorian plant hunters, was searching for rare orchids in the dark and dangerous Darien Gap, in Panama, with a friend. He had already traveled the world over, collected plants from far and wide. I don't know if he ever found his orchids, but they did come across something that knocked a serious hole in their travel itinerary: FARC guerillas who kidnapped them and held them for 9 months.
According to Tom, the thing that kept him going was designing a garden in the shape of the continents of the world that featured plants from all his travels. So, I can relate, a little bit. I mean, I used to design gardens to keep from falling asleep during boring lectures like 'Business Aspects of Horticulture', super-yawn. But here in the jungle, at gunpoint, we find Tom Hart Dyke trying to figure out where to put the water features. Wow. Now that's a hard-core gardener. And so as soon as they were set free, he did. Check out the link at the top of this post, the gardens looks amazing. And apparently he's gotten some plants to flower for the first time ever in the UK. His blog is funny- lots of exclamation points!!! I can tell he's passionate about his gardens. I'd be interested to see how his designs actually play out in real life, not just on drawings etched in coconut husks, or however he did it.
And did I mention that this guy is barely in his 30's? I feel like a massive under-achiever. I think I'm older than he is, and have never been heir to an ancient castle, not once have I hacked through jungles whilst stalking wild epiphytes, been kidnapped by guerrillas or razed famous herb gardens. Sheesh! I better get busy.
An End Note To Esther:
Have you ever been to this garden? Kent seems nearish, at least to my American measurement of nearness. But so does Scotland, so there you go.