If I’d left it another day to photograph the spring colour in my parents’ garden, I’d have been too late. The unseasonal battering of hailstones mercifully came after my visit, and took most of the colourful blooms with it. It was a spectacularly good year for the Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Magnolias, and a host of other flora, collected and planted by my father over nearly 40 years. I’m only sorry he didn’t get to see it this year, but it was at least a very fitting tribute to all his years of hard work and passion for plants.
We moved to Elmside in the village of Northiam back in 1977. While the house was wonderful, as far as Daddy was concerned, it was the garden which sealed the deal. At the time it was an acre or so of well established shrubberies and a fountain lawn, but from the moment we moved in, he had his eye on the jungle that lay beyond the fence; another couple of acres, including an unkempt orchard, and a forlorn landscape with large rectangular pond, a towering Wellingtonia, and a vast swathe of marauding knotweed. For many years, the land, which belonged to an eccentric elderly neighbour, had been used solely for grazing his flock of noisy geese. Once the additional acreage was purchased, Daddy wasted no time in clearing it to accommodate specimen trees and shrubs, a bog garden, and a meandering stream. In 1987, the great hurricane did untold damage, knocking out several mature trees, but it also provided new planting opportunities, and opened up new vistas. In the last decade, my parents probably should have downsized, but understandably Daddy’s attachment to the garden was too strong, and so they stayed. But now, with his unexpected death last year, it is time for Elmside to find a new owner, who has the drive and vision to allow it to flourish for the next 40 years.
I can still hear my father reeling off those Latin names. Sadly I can only remember one or two. Apologies if I’ve got them wrong.