Sir William Temple loved his garden at Moor Park so much that he made a provision in his will for his heart to be buried under the sundial. Which it was, when the time came, in a silver casket.
I’m not sure that Sir Roy Strong is planning to go to the lengths of Sir William in showing his devotion to his garden, but he is certainly planning his exit strategy. First to go have been dozens of conifers which had impudently outgrown their station. Next, the kitchen garden, on the very sensible grounds that there’s no point in growing things to eat if you’re not going to eat them. Sir Roy wisely pointed out that you can’t stop a garden, it moves and you’ve got to move with it. In the early days he was told off for planting trees, because “You’ll never live to see them”. “Live to see them?”, he replies “We’ve lived to chop them down!”.
Sir Roy regards The Laskett as a continual work in progress. When he arrived he was told “Remember, flowers in a garden are a sign of complete and utter failure” advice which he took to heart, because there are precious few flowers now, except in spring, but even that may change. His stonework and statuary, which was once brightly painted is taking on a terracotta hue, and he will need some colour in the borders to compensate for this.
Very modestly, Sir Roy acknowledges his debt to Hidcote and jokes that “like Horace Walpole, everything is phoney”. But he’s got his eyes firmly on the future. The Laskett has a huge archive – every week of every year – and there have been more than 40 of them – has been meticulously recorded. The archive has been bequeathed to the Bodleian, the house and garden to the National Trust, with a very handsome endowment. The ultimate fate of The Laskett will of course depend on the public, and whether The Laskett remains a favourite when the huge presence of Sir Roy is no longer there for it. Sir Edward Heath had a similar idea with his achingly beautiful house, Arundells, which had to close last year because of a lack of public support. It would be very sad if The Laskett suffered a similar fate.