Reflections on knowing Jim


by Chip Knight
August 2010

When my wife and I decided to build a walled garden at our farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Jim suggested a trip together to tour English walled gardens for ideas and inspiration. The prospect of seeing some of the most beautiful gardens in the world through Jim's discerning eyes was thrilling. But we were a little nervous. We had been working with OvS on the initial landscaping for the farm for only three years. Beyond a few meetings and site visits, we didn't know Jim at all. And let's be honest, he comes across as a rather exotic flower. What would he be like as a travel companion?

We needn't have worried. No one could have been easier, more fun or more in tune with our own travel rhythms. We always wanted to get started, eat, rest, break for the day or, most important, have a drink at exactly the same time. Jim showed great imagination and even chutzpah as tour leader. He enlisted the services of illustrious British landscape architect John Brookes and garden photographer Andrew Lawson to be our local guides. They unlocked the gates of some special private gardens. When we arrived at Stourhead only to find it closed, Jim persuaded the gatekeepers to let us in, though we did have to promise not to scribble graffiti on the temples. We also arrived at our much-anticipated visit to Sissinghurst on its normal closing day. "How could this happen?" I muttered to Jim. Just then, a lady emerged and said that since the Chelsea Flower Show was taking place that week, they had decided to open the garden. "Would you like to come in?" she inquired. We roamed through Sissinghurst virtually alone for most of the morning.

The highlight of our trip was Rousham House in Oxfordshire. Jim promised we'd love this untouched Williams Kent garden and he was right. But Jim's perspective made it truly special. He knew just where to turn to see the remarkable view. He explained how the garden circuit worked to perfection. He pointed out that the garden was maintained to just the right degree of imperfection. And while we gazed at the landscape, Jim took countless photos of all the small, intricate details of the hardscape. As for describing the plants -- well, he'd leave that to Wolfgang.