'This is an engaging and well-crafted tale' Sue MacGregor. (Sue MacGregor)
From the Author
But also because I fell in love with my heroine Lotte, whom I had originally imagined as a rather buttoned-up academic divorcee with her emotions deep under wraps, and found she emerged as a feisty woman who falls passionately in love with her sexy, driving, but uneducated and frankly, bullying, boss.
Her dilemma (does she do what's right by the children or right by her?) is age-old, but there were other themes that gradually took me over, such as: Whose garden is it anyway? The legal owner who pays for everything and comes down at weekends and notices that the delphiniums have not been staked, or the gardener who works in it 40 hours a week and knows every blade of grass, and has lovingly
pricked out the cabbages, weeded the lawn, fed the roses, pruned the apple trees, and been there, rain and shine, cold and blistering sun?
And then there was the question of taste: Brody is essentially vulgar, but he's generous and fun, and his business drive and risktaking is what makes the world go round. Lotte has posh tastes: classic, subdued, careful, never vulgar. Is the garden to be a plantswoman's design of drifts and sculptural shapes, or Brody's vibrant mix of shouting colour and fountains to rival Versailles?
Much of Maddon Park's garden is a blown-up version of mine. Our lake is not much more than a pond, with the Chinese pagoda on the island made of fibre-glass, and the Chinese bridge designed by my husband and built by the local builder, whereas Maddon's lakes are vast and the Chinese Island has boathouse and teagarden; my old roses probably number a dozen while Maddon's would qualify for the National collection; my veg garden is a few hundred square metres, Maddon's walled garden covers several acres.
But my garden was my inspiration, and a lot of what happens to Lotte happened, usually on a much smaller scale, to me. I made a sort of memorial path to an ancient copper beech that had come down in a storm by slicing its great trunk into 6" think rounds and laying them to form a winding path - not a success: I laid them when the wood was green and they rotted. But by the time I had Lotte doing the same thing with her Dad, I'd learnt about seasoning the wood, so they got it right.
And I once poisoned a rose by muddling up pesticide with herbicide in a sprayer. In The Garden, Lotte, overworked and exhausted, makes a similar mistake with truly horrific, grand-scale consequences.
Of all my novels, this is the one I felt most deeply involved in. Lotte and Brody lived in my head more than real people I think. Which is odd since I am only an amateur gardener and both my previous books were about people with jobs I'd had: Leaving Patrick is about a restaurateur, and Sisters is about a party caterer, both of whose trades I know backwards. But it is the gardener, Lotte, that I felt, and still feel, most close to.
I think my next book will be about a pianist. And that will REALLY tax me. I cannot read music, have had no musical education, and cannot sing a note! But I'll have fun researching all that, that's for sure.