Where were you born and where did you spend most of your childhood?
Phil was born in Rotherham, Yorkshire in the middle of the Second World War blitz on Sheffield. He spent his childhood living in the town centre in a terraced house that had no garden. His wife Linda was born in Willersley Castle, Derbyshire. Her mother lived in London and was evacuated to a safer place to give birth during the war. Her parents left London after the war and eventually bought a small farm in the country where she spent her childhood.
Where do you live now?
They live on six and a half acres of land in Halswell and have been married for 50 years.
What aroused your interest in gardening or horticulture?
Phil’s interest in gardening really began after they bought their bare land in Halswell. One Christmas their young children bought Phil a book on no-dig compost gardening by W.E. Shewell-Cooper. This aroused his interest in organic gardening. He then joined Good Gardeners’ Association after a visit to Christchurch by Dr Shewell-Cooper in 1980. He has been involved in that organisation since then, currently as Chairman. Phil was also influenced by Bob Crowder and his work at the Biological Husbandry Unit at Lincoln College. He developed a vegetable garden and made compost. Later he and Linda became interested in developing an ornamental garden and orchard. They read many books and started to landscape the garden.
What gardening or horticultural interests do you have now?
They are passionate about growing their own food organically. They are now retired and can devote more time to their garden.
What’s your favourite plant and why?
They don’t have any one plant that is a favourite. They love the different seasons – Bluebells, Daffodils, Magnolias, etc in Spring. Summer brings the joy of the perennial border and roses. Autumn brings that wonderful change in the colour of leaves. Winter is a time to walk round the garden and enjoy witch hazels, hellebores, etc and the tracery of the branches of the deciduous trees.
What’s been your most challenging and/or rewarding gardening project ?
Their most challenging and rewarding gardening project was designing the large garden. The combination of Phil’s building skills and Linda’s knowledge of plants and design has led to the garden expanded by one project or another. The first was a small walled vegetable garden. Then to enhance this project they decided to build two gazebo type buildings in old brick with shingle roofs. Then they constructed a large brick arch to link different areas of the garden and built bridges over a wetland area on the property.
Their current project (named “Phil’s folly” following the tradition on UK estates) is a six metre high tower constructed in old bricks, with Oamaru stone quoins and tapestry windows. It has no specific purpose – just a building which enhances their garden environment. (see photo bottom left)
On writing down this list of projects they were surprised by the number as they have never made a list. All of them have been achieved, come rain or shine, with a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears. They have cleaned thousands of bricks, mixed tons of concrete and have spent countless hours working on their shared hobby. They are now almost ready to fly the flag – the white rose of York – on top of the tower.
When did you join the CHS and why?
They joined the Fruit & Vegetable circle over 20 years ago to exchange ideas with like minded people. Phil is a past president of the Circle. He served on the Management Committee of the CHS for several years. They have enjoyed exhibiting at many CHS shows the most memorable being the Mona Vale 2000 show and also two Ellerslie Flower Shows for the CHS.
What is your passion for the future of the CHS?
They would like to see the CHS seriously considering having a real home to be proud of. Phil says “The building would have good design, (not a square glass box). A garden of excellence to surround the building designed to be educational and importantly to a scale that people can relate to. We desperately need something like this in our garden city to foster an interest in gardening for future generations. In order to make my dream turn into reality is there a philanthropist out there with a million or two to spare so that we could begin?”