This is where celebrities tell us about their gardens, about their favourite, and sometimes their least favourite, plants. This month Greenfingers’ George Plumptre caught up with novelist Jilly Cooper, on her breathless publicity tour for the paperback edition of her latest blockbuster Score, who took a few minutes to talk about her garden in Gloucestershire.
George: How long have you had your present garden?
Jilly: Eighteen and a half years.
G: Do you think it is too small, too big or just right?
J: Too small - when I find heavenly plants and want to put them in - but too big in May, June and July when the weeds start absolutely galloping and we cannot control them!
G: Did the garden influence your decision to buy your home?
J: Yes it did. We first saw the house in July when the garden was glorious. There was a herb garden outside the kitchen window and the owner of the house just jumped through it to pick some camomile for her tea.
G: What was the first thing you wanted to change in the garden?
J: Cut down three inky-dinky little conifers along the ha-ha beyond the terrace and extend the field between the lawn and tennis court into a wild garden, planting trees and wild flowers.
G: What is the one thing you have done that you are most proud of?
J: I absolutely adore our animal graveyard beyond the tennis court. It is full of riot and rather vulgar coloured polyanthus, hyacinths and daffodils. But we have buried all the dogs that have died, the cats, a fox cub because it drowned in the pond, and Emily’s hamster born and died in 1979 like most poor hamsters. They all have lovely headstones with inscriptions and I go and talk to them at night.
G: What is the one thing in the garden that you absolutely hate?
J: I always go berserk about forsythia because ours has the disgusting habit of coming out at the same time as the bright pink double cherry, which the previous owner had planted next door to it. But this year it has come out ahead of the double cherry and looks rather cheery - like a lovely golden plume.
G: What is your favourite plant in the garden?
J: An impossible question. I went to Highgrove about four years ago and saw the pale blue drifts of love-in-the mist and have planted love-in-the-mist ever since. I think it is the most wonderful addition to a garden but it does tend to get slightly overexcited and choke other plants if not watched.
I love the beautiful cream roses created by Bill le Grice that were named 'Jilly Cooper' - after me. They are absolutely charming [Ed: what do you expect]. I love a very pale mauve Buddleia, because it gets covered in butterflies and I simply adore Lily-of-the–Valley because they are so discreetly charming and smell so beautiful. And I love towering blue delphiniums. We bought a lot off Blackmore & Langdon in Devon and they are wonderful.
G: Do you use your garden mainly for gardening, exercise, family life or socialising?
J: All of them really. I use the garden for gardening, family life and socialising. The tennis court has grown very whiskery and weed choked but I am going to try and restore that somehow and start taking a bit more exercise. In the summer I always write in the garden and I have my table at the end of the big lawn.
G: What is your favourite pastime in the garden?
J: Wandering around in the morning seeing what has come up, smelling the dew drying on the lavender and letting my hand trail over the various sculptures we’ve placed in the garden of which I am very proud.
G: If you could have any garden in the world which one would it be?
J: It’s a very feeble answer, but it would be our own because I love it so much.