British embassy gardener digs in for queen’s visit
By ADRIAN HIGGINS - The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — This is how you plant a tree for a queen: Measure the root ball carefully, drag the dead-weight bundle into its planting hole, cut back the wire basket holding the burlap, and leave just enough of the soil backfilling undone for the tree planting ceremony.
Jim Adams is preparing to do this for Queen Elizabeth II’s impending state visit to Washington. The horticulturist at the eight-acre garden at the British Embassy residence will be on hand next Tuesday as Her Majesty symbolically installs a hybrid English oak on the south lawn. “She’ll have some ceremonial soil throwing,” he said, looking at the little orange flag that marks the tree’s permanent home. “I’m not going to give her the bolt cutters and tell her to cut the basket off.”
This may take a degree of self-control for Adams, who hates to see idle hands in the garden.
In the 18 months since he took charge of the garden around the stately red brick palace by Sir Edwin Lutyens, Adams has set about revitalizing one of the highest profile gardens on Embassy Row. He has hired other gardeners, enlisted a cadre of keen-as-mustard volunteers, and set about imbuing his army of cultivators with energy and enthusiasm that are almost a match for his own.
A slight, boyish-looking native of Michigan, Adams is mindful of the iconic place of the garden in British mythology, and yet he is reviving a tired landscape in a way that is neither strictly British nor distinctly American. It is, however, entirely Jim Adams. His style is a Type A blend of organization and inspiration, and those who have seen Adams’ work elsewhere have little doubt that the ambassador and his wife, Sir David and Lady Catherine Manning, have got themselves one helluva gardener.
“I think he’s one of the best plantsmen in the country,” says Derya Samadi, one of his assistants, “and they’re lucky to have him here.”
Adams, 40, is working furiously to prepare the garden for the royal visit. Any dead branches have been excised in recent weeks. A medlarfruit tree that blew over in a summer storm and refused to leaf out will be grist for the chipper before the official festivities. The cool and warm greenhouses are stuffed with perennials, annuals and tropicals that have been nurtured through the winter and will decorate the garden, residence and portico.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip begin their official tour today in Richmond, Va., and conclude the visit Tuesday, hosting a dinner for President and Mrs. Bush at the residence. Monarch and consort will hold a Buckingham Palace-style garden party May 7 for embassy staff. The tree planting is scheduled for the next day.
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