Shades of Green | John Sales
This book incorporates lessons learned over a quarter of a century of managing, renewing and caring for the gardens of the National Trust; negotiating change with a variety of colourful characters, including former owners, now tenants. It traces the very British way the Trust learned about conserving historic gardens towards an overdue national commitment to leading this unique contribution to European culture.
By the time John Sales was appointed in 1971, the National Trust had already acquired an eclectic range of gardens and designed landscape parks, more than any independent organisation ever. The Trust was in the process of taking them in hand and beginning to acquire many more, sometimes with great houses and estates but also in their own right as significant documents of history, important plant collections, unsung works of art and reservoirs of disappearing expertise. Before then there was little national interest or understanding of the extraordinary richness and diversity of Britain’s historic designed landscape. Neither was it realised that the Trust’s assembly of gardens and landscape parks, including those of Lancelot (“Capability”) Brown, is the greatest in the world. With fifty of these places John Sales records first-hand experience of the garden’s modern history at a crucial time of transition from private to corporate ownership, sometimes smooth, sometimes difficult but always fascinating. This involved grappling with mass garden visiting of a scale never before envisaged, severe fiscal and staffing constraints and the perceived need to accommodate outdoor events which may or may not bear any relationship to the traditions and historic values of the place. In each case he has tried to draw out the specific lessons learned.
Above all shines through the pleasure of relating routinely to an extraordinary range of people from all walks of life and levels of understanding, including former owners, expert committees and dedicated staff, not least the gardeners, who inevitably have to cope at the sharp end.