To be happy for an hour, have a glass of wine
To be happy for a day, read a book
To be happy for a week, take a wife
To be happy for ever, make a garden.
These words were quoted by Ambrose Congreve at a luncheon given in celebration of his hundredth birthday. He died this week, aged 104 on a visit to London for the Chelsea Flower Show.
His life epitomises the pleasure that can be gained from a garden, although he was probably the only person in this century to run a garden in Edwardian style.
His garden was Mount Congreve in County Waterford. The garden extended to 110 acres and included four acres of walled garden which were arranged into May, June, July and August borders, filled with flowers for use in the house. There were glasshouses producing grapes, peaches and nectarines. It’s no wonder that he was able to attract the young Albert Roux to work for him before he went on the open Le Gavroche, which became London’s first 3 star Michelin restaurant. After he retired from business aged 77 he devoted his time to the garden and was awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by the RHS in 1987 and, in 2001, a Gold Medal by the Botanic Gardens in Boston, Mass, for creating one of the ‘Great Gardens of the World’ at Mount Congreve.
In true Edwardian style he employed some 70 people in his garden and the adjoining nursery. His wish is for the garden to remain open after his death and I hope that there are sufficient resources for this to be achieved so that he happiness he created can be maintained.