Mud, Mulch and Marigolds will be touring National Trust properties this summer, playing to NT visitors at the weekends and school parties during the week.
The central idea of M, M and M is a television shoot. A quick-fix television gardener called Mary Gold (Lisa O'Hanlon) has commandeered the garden. A diminutive prima donna in gaudy yellows who shrieks, "What on Arth is this supposed to be?", she bullies us into waving outsize marigolds and singing her theme song, "Let it be told, Mary, Mary Gold, How do you make your perfect garden grow?"
The garden is populated by characters who highlight issues such as the irresponsible use of peat. And finally, a loud, odd and imperious woman in an Edwardian skirt turns out to be the great English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), and not a deranged person, which is a relief. Ms Jekyll hands us potted herbs to sniff and tries to enthuse us about herbaceous borders involving lupins. She tells us that the wife of Edwin Lutyens, the Victorian architect with whom she so often collaborated, always referred to Ms Jekyll as "Bumps".
Meanwhile, the accompanying resource pack, which arrives in a flowerpot, sets an ingenious range of tasks, the best of which is the Great Estates Trading Game. Competitors must imagine themselves the incumbents of large estates in 1900, to be managed right through to the year 2000, with tokens for cash, tokens for gardeners, and so on. It is inventively done. Wars intervene. The gardeners go off to be killed in trenches. Land girls arrive. Machinery starts to take the place of labour.
School performances of Mud, Mulch and Marigolds and teachers' briefings take place at various National Trust venues until late September. Next: Castle Ward, Northern Ireland (May 16-18) and Washington Old Hall, Tyne amp; Wear (June 13-15). Shows at10am and 2pm daily. More details and all bookings on 020 8986 0123
- The picture shows Lisa O'Hanlon as Mary Gold