Saturday 24 December 2016

New Year garden memories

My garden scrapbook

Wild cemetery man 
Brenda noted in horror that I am promoting myself yet again. By the looks of my historical hair and choice of shirts I don’t think it will enhance my reputation. Let me wallow in nostalgia.

Early days
I have been fumbling through my tightly packed box of newspaper and magazine cuttings. They are mainly about Bolton Percy cemetery but some are about my own gardens and dicentras.

Country Life did my dicentras
There was a time when the press beat a path to my door. Gardens in churchyards were somewhat unusual. Perhaps fifty articles were written over a fifteen year period. Nine separate TV features were filmed. 

 Marianne Majerus centrefold in Sunday Express magazine
My churchyards are now out of fashion. Apart from over exposure my own feeling is that using glyphosate to direct natural ecologies is anathema to those who are green.

There have been some lovely articles written and amazing ingenuity displayed in their titles. I have been privileged to meet great writers, photographers and gardeners.

Ingenuity in titles 
Gardening memories
Two very well known American nurseryman - I forget their names - were  on a well publicised busman’s holiday observing UK horticulture and came to the cemetery. One of them, a plant breeder spotted a special heuchera with nice markings in my patch of the Green Finch strain. I vegetatively propagated it  and still grow it in my own garden twenty five years later. 
He opened his wallet and produced a wad of … multicoloured heuchera leaves - and declared that these would be his new introductions the next year. We all grow his heucheras today!

I have written before about the launching at Chelsea of Yorkshire writer Joyce Fussey’s wonderful white dicentra. It had been micro-propagated at Askham Bryan college and nurseryman Adrian Bloom came up to see it in my collection. At the time he had made a name for himself as an advocate of dwarf conifers. We walked past a very trendy expensively landscaped garden of conifers which was totally out of character with its village location. I asked his opinion. He just pulled a face.
Adrian told me that his namesake dicentra, red Dicentra ‘Adrian Bloom’ did not do very well for him but the red ‘Bacchanal' did very much better. I said with me it was the other way round.
He was fascinated by my yellow climbing Dicentra scandens which had also been micro propagated at college.
A couple of years later he was selling it and Joyce Fussey’s white ‘Snowflakes’ by the thousands.
I know no-one who has been able to keep ‘Snowflakes’ alive - including myself.

Thirty five years ago my wife took a phone call from Channel Four. Would Roger help with a programme filmed in the churchyard. It was a series called ‘Five Minutes’ and lasted the same. On a vague religious theme it was about churches. “No good talking to Roger, he is not a church goer” 
I immediately phoned back yes!
The way TV normally covered the churchyard was to get me talking and later overlay the best of my nonsense to their film. 
They sat me down in a deck chair in a pretty place in the churchyard and pointed the camera. The very first question was about the deep spiritual meaning of life. I failed that one. I did better on the gardening.
In a typical verbose sentence I said “Other than the use of glyphosate that is totally essential to my management, I use no fertilisers, insecticides or fungicides and leave everything to nature. They edited away the first part of the sentence! Anyone watching would think me totally green!
It was actually a very nice programme and Chanel Four used it four times! A lady told me her daughter saw me in New Zealand!

In to me a lovely sequel twenty five years later an elderly lady approached me at the end of my cemetery lecture. Did I remember that programme? She had been the producer!

The things people say
Part of my nostalgia is things people have said in my gardens. Here are a few.

 * Two hours a week? what does he find to do?  -  Churchyard visitor who had no idea of maintenance inputs for a flower garden. In actual fact my all-time average labour input in creating and maintaining Bolton Percy is much closer to one hour a week.
 * Hello Roger, are you still doing the cemetery?  -  Bolton Percy resident ten years after I had moved. He imagines the cemetery has maintained itself.
 * Little did I know when I knocked on the Rector’s door and offered to spray off the weed in the cemetery how it would change my life.  -  Roger Brook  and repeated endlessly at the start of his lecture
 * Oh what a mess  - Visitor to Worsbrough churchyard. She expects a cemetery to be traditional mown grass. All five acres with a meagre budget and no voluntary help what-so-ever. Similar comments have been made several times - as recent as yesterday!
 * Eeek (or something similar)  -  Lady who fled the cemetery on hearing I use glyphosate

 * Glad you have not dressed up specially for the filming  - Liz Rigby when visiting the cemetery for Gardener’s World twenty years ago. In actual fact I had!
  * What beautiful moss  -  Liz Rigby as she swooned over a  gravestone and examined the soil surface 
 * Damned pearlwort on Gardener’s World - Vanessa Cooke
 * I have to remind them to remove their Gucci watches  -  Producer when ‘Curious Gardeners’ filmed in the cemetery
* How lovely  -  Lady moved to tears 
 * Where are they burying you?  - Alan Mason
 * No need for bonemeal  -  Cemetery visitor who knows my aversion to this so called fertiliser
 * Roger will be opening the churchyard next week  -  Jeff Hamilton as he introduced Liz Rigby’s piece on Gardener’s World. I had a thousand visitors! (They don’t promote open days anymore)
 * If you read everything in Amateur Gardening for two years you won’t need to read a gardening magazine again  - Bob Wall keen gardening friend of my father’s when I was 14.  Amateur Gardening ignored this storyline when they visited Boundary Cottage
Amateur Gardening came to Boundary Cottage. This appeared under the title of ‘Reader’s Gardens’ !

The picture below appeared in a Yorkshire magazine. Brenda later bumped into the house vendor in a supermarket and he had seen the article…..

More  pictures

Tender Lavatera 'Barnsley' had a chequered existence but it survived thirty years

Rather stilted comment in an advisory booklet on cemetery management

The same organisation gave me a special award in the Cemetery of the Year competition. This picture appeared in the local newspaper and is now on our wall!

Thank you Roely Dekker

Two months ago I received an e-mail from the Netherlands. This lovely gentleman had visited Bolton Percy in1989. He had taken pictures of the cemetery. He discovered me when he read my blog! He has compiled a small booklet. It contains his own pictures, my pictures from the blog and exquisite photographs taken by Marianne Majerus just before the Millenium. He had only printed six copies and kindly gave me one. It is really beautiful - I shall always treasure it. We would have loved to have bought more to give to our friends. Our friend Cathi runs Yorkshire Publishing who do self published books. It has given us an idea.
You can see Marianne Majerus’s photos if you go to her website and insert Bolton Percy in her search box.

You might like these posts from past Christmas
I dug manure on Christmas Eve
I wrote about mistletoe


  1. I didn't realise how famous you were. Now I can name drop about knowing you.

    I had a brief flurry of media sessions when we were in the throes of the manure debarcle. After a four minute slot on Gardener's World ( edited from four hours filming) the phone rang. It was a French friend who had just watched the programme. She said she was so excited and was calling her husband to come and look and said she had no idea what I had talked about! The filming crew ( all two of them) commented to me on how inappropriately dressed some people were for filming and glad I was sensible, (although it was quite a hot day and I had to wear a cardigan as they needed somewhere to clip the microphone). As for me I never considered dressing up to talk about manure although I didn't wear the jeans with permanently soiled knees.

  2. FLattery will get you everywhere!
    As a teacher I thought they would have got you in one take!
    As for dressing, one of my pictures was me in an outrageous shirt. My picture was a poor one so l left it out.

    1. The powers that be cut a lot out - much to the interviewers disgust. Sll the way from Birmingham - four hours of filming and for 4 minutes. In my defence any retakes were things like "Can you say that again a plane flew over?" Then it's a case trying to remember what you said. The Politics Show was much quicker for about the same amount of air time.

    2. Bolton Percy seems to be the noisiest place on earth. They were doing retakes all the time!
      My trouble is I cannot say the same thing twice!

  3. There is nowt wrong in a little self-promotion - don't us bloggers all do that to a certain extent? Otherwise we would not blog, would we.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Roger!

    1. Seasons greetings to you Lib! I like your good Yorkshire word!

  4. Interesting background.

    There is no contact info on your site? Could you email me rpavlisatsympaticodotca.

    1. I completely failed to break your code although I did put the at ini
      I would love to chat with you at any time My own e mail is roger-brook at!

  5. If you go to my blog there are photos of 'your' clivia.


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