I think I may have found my ideal man. Too bad he died 54 years ago.
Turns out there was much more to him than that. He held ‘tulip teas’ for the community and friends on his birthday in May, was a talented artist, taught literacy to local children and was a mean ice skater. If a member of staff was having family troubles he’d slip an extra ten shillings into their pay packet.
You get a real sense of the man at Myddelton House, thanks to the swish new visitor centre and helpful signposting around the garden. This isn’t a place with manicured herbaceous borders and neat rows of bedding – it all feels on the verge of being slightly out of control. Mr Bowles wasn’t an aesthete – he was more interested in acquiring plants and giving them the right conditions in which to grow. Many of those plants are familiar to us now but they must have been very unusual at the time. I saw quite a few things that I didn’t recognise.
It’s a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. Be sure to see the clump of Japanese knotweed, its leaves as big as dinner plates and stems as thick as bamboo, now contained by an iron ring to stop it spreading. Edward Augustus planted it for its architectural qualities, not knowing then, as we do now, that this plant is horribly invasive. But nobody’s perfect.