My view is that Jacques Wirtz is a good designer but that most of the work was done by his sons. I believe one son holds a qualification in landscape architecture from what is now the Erasmushogeschool in Brussels, and was regarded as a weak student. The other son is an agricultural engineer. Caveat emptor. The Duchess made a big mistake in not appointing Tadao Ando, who was invited to Alnwick. Ian August’s book reports the conversation with Ando. He said ‘”I want to design this whole garden myself. In my opinion, there is no great garden designer alive today” – this sitting next to Jacques Wirtz – “and no great garden has been built in the last hundred years”. We sat, stunned. The insult to the Wirtzes was worse for being so casually delivered, but Ando seemed oblivious’. The simple truth is that Ando, who trained as a carpenter, not an architect, is a great designer and, with help, could have done a really great job. Instead of this, the Duchess has what might be a display garden for an upmarket garden centre and ‘leisure attraction’. The lesson is that a good client, when ‘stunned’ by a good designer, should pause for thought. A week’s meditation in a hotel designed by Tadao Ando might helped to concentrate her mind.
Alnwick Garden very disappointing, as I do. The Telegraph reported in 2003 that ‘The Duchess of Northumberland has launched a scathing and bitter attack on “bitchy” and “snobby” gardeners in the south in a riposte to critics of her lavish £42 million “people’s garden” at Alnwick. The Duchess, whose garden has attracted 300,000 visitors in the past four months, making it the third most popular in Britain, said that she was dismayed by the sniping since starting the renovation project seven years ago’. An exception to all this ‘snobby’ and ‘bitchy’ criticism, quoted on the back of Ian August’s book on The making of the Alnwick Garden, comes from the Mail on Sunday. They called it ‘The grandest garden to be built in Europe for more than 100 years … a visionary landscaping project’. Coming from further north, I feel entitled to regard the Duchess as a snobby and bitchy southerner!Most of the people I have asked find the