Victoria - one of the authors - is a very good friend of mine, so I've witnessed snippets of this book's birth for nearly 2 years. Not only that, she's generously mentioned me in her Acknowledgements - squeeeeeeee!
When Victoria told me about her commission and the title, I giggled as I thought there are very few gardens in the Cotswolds which are secret. Indeed it's one of the most well-known areas in the world gardens-wise.
The next time we met up I presented her with another book about Cotswold gardens. "Please make sure it's better than this one", I begged her, "this effort is little better than what you can find online".
I needn't have worried, this book is far, far better. Victoria has done her research thoroughly and I've visited just one of the gardens. Most are only open one or two days per year and some not at all, so these are gardens awaiting discovery. There's a useful listing at the back of the book, so I suspect they're poised to become more familiar to many of us this year.
Like the famous gardens such as Hidcote and Barnsley House, these have the characteristic mellow honeyed stone the Cotswolds bestows. Many also have the usual box and yew to give them structure and topiary often features, but there the similarity ends. Victoria and Hugo Rittson-Thomas have cleverly got beneath that familiar veneer and teased out the individuality of each of the 20 gardens featured.
This is partly due to the current makers being featured in most cases - including Hugo and his wife Silka at Walcot House. This is a good move because we not only have the owners as our guide, the thinking behind each garden's incarnation is revealed. We find that many of these are a work in progress, so this approach helps them feel more of a living, developing entity rather than set in aspic.
Victoria's essays are revealing and deftly written, and Hugo's photography is superb. I particularly like the one page pictorial summaries containing both broad views and tiny details. These help to provide a sense of movement through each garden.
Bravo Hugo and Victoria - I look forward to seeing you at the launch!
Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds is due for publication on February 5th 2015 by Frances Lincoln.
NB The Anxious Gardener has a competition for you to win a copy, though you'll need to be quick as the closing date is January 23rd.
If you're too late or unlucky, fear not. I have a special offer for you:
To order Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p* (RRP: £20.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email email@example.com and quote the offer code APG281.
*= UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.