Udaipur, India (January)
Today marks the anniversary of when I started blogging and I want to say a really big thank-you to all my readers; all the friends I've made on line; all the garden owners who've put up with my endless questions; and most of all to my family and friends, who've watched me or joined me Galloping round gardens all over the world. THANK YOU EVERYBODY!!
It's been a wonderful year and much has been achieved - some 100+ gardens reviewed; a hospital built in India; many air miles accumulated; and times of great sadness and joy! It all began because of my dear father .... when he was dying last year, we used to visit gardens together in Cornwall - on the days that he was well enough to be pushed in a wheelchair round some of the best gardens in the world. They were truly wonderful days and I shall always remember the joy that they brought us when time was running out. I started photographing gardens then and once he was gone, I started blogging. Thank you Paul.
I've met wonderful garden owners; made many new friends; kept battery companies buoyant with all the pictures I've taken; and made pilgrimages to far-flung corners of the globe to find new places and new faces. There's been some terrible disappointments in terms of gardens visited, but also some real surprises.
I've been stopped at borders; travelled all night on buses, trains and planes; got sick and recovered; but I've had incredible fun too, despite the ups and downs. Many of you wonder how I do it, but I've already written how and why and if you want to know, here's the link.
Veddw, Wales (April) - to be reviewed next week
A special thank-you goes to all the garden owners who've allowed me to visit at very short notice, or let me in when I've appeared at the gate. And to all the people who've helped me overcome plagiarism, picture stealing, computer glitches and camera hitches.
There's certainly been more than a few nights in grim hotels ... when I wondered why I carried on .... but the good times have far outweighed the bad! And the gardens more than made up for lumpy pillows, foul food, dirty rooms and noisy neighbours.
What I have learned is that gardens and gardening are a wonderful way of putting the world in perspective. You see the seasons change; you witness extraordinary weather conditions, but nature always bounces back and provides more beautiful flowers, regardless of the weather.
I've managed to build a hospital in rural Rajasthan which is nearly ready to open. And I'll be honest, I'm more proud of that achievement than anything else I've done in my life. But none of that would have been possible without the unerring loyalty of my Indian business partner and the encouragement and support that I've received from family, friends and benefactors. And I've even managed to visit gardens in India on my travels there.
Thank you too to all the gardeners who read my blog, who've become fans of The Raven Foundation on Facebook and given us moral support as we've been building the hospital. Just knowing you are there makes all the difference!!
And as we reach the end of May, the list of gardens that I hope to visit gets longer and longer, so I hope you'll continue to follow me around the world. I don't think my garden wish-list will ever be completed!
So today, I leave you with a selection of the gardens that I've seen throughout the year - they are featured in the month in which they were photographed, so I am not expressing any preferences here - I just wanted to share some of the wonderful sights I've seen. If you'd like to know more about any of them, you can click on the caption - it will take you to the original entry. So here's to the next year of visiting gardens .... and who knows where I'll end up!!