Today was a day decreed by Royal Appointment: the ultimate of tweetups arranged by Patient Gardener for 25 of us take a tour round Prince Charles' private garden at Highgrove. Anna has already beaten us all to the scoop as she went round last week with her garden group. They waited 10 years for their visit, but ours was arranged in far less than 10 weeks as the arrangements for booking tours has been changed recently.
Our trip was very similar to what Anna has described already, except that we had the perfect day for it: sunny and almost too hot. Also, because Helen had warned them that there were some quite knowledgeable people in the audience who just might ask a tricky question or two, Highgrove had arranged for a volunteer guide who just happens to be a triple gold medal winner at Chelsea to show us around the gardens.
It was my second visit and just like last time we weren't allowed to take photographs. The last time I'd had the privilege of an evening reception on Midsummer's eve and a personally conducted tour by Prince Charles himself. 17 years later the garden has changed dramatically with many more garden 'rooms' added and the trees are much taller which made it much more enclosed in its feel.
As befits a tour group stuffed with garden designers, there were heated debates sometimes on the worthiness of some of the features. Our guide also tested us regularly on our plant knowledge: luckily @NewShoot managed to retain what little credibility we had left. Tea and cakes at the end was sufficient to restore harmony.
We'd had to arrive by minibus to take our tour as there's a limit on the number of vehicles per group. So afterwards we returned to our various vehicles in Tetbury where a car boot plant exchange ensued with various plants available from Patient Gardener, @RolandPatterson, Mutterings in the Shrubbery and Serendipity. The literal icing on the [pictured] cake were the ones which Lazy Trollop had made for us all.
Dinner with @xxxZoexxx and @DebBird the night before and meeting again with various other bloggers and tweeters from Malvern, Hampton Court, plus some welcome new faces ensured that I had a fabulous 24 hours. Thanks to Helen for arranging it all - she really needs to consider going into business as Johnstone's Tours!
If you would like to see Highgrove for yourself, full details are available on the website, which also gives you a flavour of what we experienced today. Don't worry if you can't get a group of 25 people together: the first and last tours of the day are called 'random' ones, made up from applications from individuals or smaller groups of people.