Launching ‘Project Dahlia’


Having completed twenty five years service at John Lewis, ‘Partners’, as we are all known, are rewarded with six months paid leave. I will qualify for my ‘long leave’ in three years’ time. Of course, a lot could happen between now and then, but I have already started to daydream about what I might do with that precious to time. It is possible to tag annual leave onto either end of the break, making up to eight months off in total. A generous sabbatical is not the kind of opportunity one wastes; friends and colleagues have spent the time in many different ways, including traveling, moving house, learning a new skill, doing charity work and indulging in a hobby. It’s the first and last activities on that list that appeal to me most.

I have had many ideas about what I might do, but one resurfaces time-after-time: a round the world trip visiting some of the finest and most interesting gardens on the planet. Such an adventure would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; an exciting trip to do whilst a few shreds of my youthful vigour remain. Recording the journey would certainly make a good blog and maybe even a book. It will also require meticulous planning, especially if I am to reach some of the more obscure gardens on my list. This trip, and a few other ideas I am working on, go under the name ‘Project Dahlia’.

Monty Don’s recent ‘Paradise Gardens‘ two-parter, the warm soothingness of which I enjoyed enormously, reminded me of his previous series, ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens‘. This ten-part series began airing exactly a decade ago and took eighteen months to film, ten more than I have at my disposal. Timeless Monty still looks exactly the same today, if a little less grey. I immediately bought the little paper-back book that was released to accompany the programme, and I must get the DVD too. The book cost 1p, plus nominal postage. Together the book and DVD will provide a solid foundation for my own research and planning. Monty did not do the whole trip in one go, breaking it down into several smaller ones, which is a consideration for me also. I would miss my own garden, friends, family and creature comforts too much to be away for six or eight months in one stretch.

Apart from being a complex project to plan, I also need to start saving my pennies. This is not a scheme I wish to embark on unless I can do it properly, thoroughly and in reasonable safety and comfort. I might seek sponsorship, or record the trip in such a way that I can recoup some of the cost afterwards. I might even call in on some of my followers across the world. Wouldn’t that be great? I am already starting to compile a list of countries I might want to visit, followed by gardens. If you could only recommend one or two gardens in your home country to visit, which would they be, and why? Wherever I go on my adventure, I invite you to be part of it.

For updates on Project Dahlia, please visit my ‘Projects’ page.