A growing story of a woman on a bike

A growing story of a woman on a bike

RHS Membership Growing Stories

A growing story of a woman on a bike

This is a Growing Stories guest blog by Jacqueline Payne AKA @AWomanOnABike . If Jacqueline isn’t on her bike she’ll be in the garden or taking planting inspiration from RHS Tatton Park.  Over to you Jacqueline…

Jacqueline Payne

Jacqueline Payne

When I was first asked about my “Growing Story” I wasn’t sure I had one; I’m just an average gardener. But we all have a story once you start thinking about it. I recently picked up some Crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) bulbs and the scent suddenly transported me back to Cannizaro Park, a place near my childhood home on the edge of Wimbledon Common. I have always loved this unusual scent; it has however taken me years to work out that it was Crown Imperials that I was smelling back then.

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Philadelphus has the same effect. My mother was a keen gardener and we had a large philadelphus at the back of a rockery, that hung down to the ground creating a natural den. I would hide inside and play. Then there was our gorgeous, very elderly neighbour, Mrs May, who my sister adopted for a grandmother. She smelled of talc and grew the most beautifully scented roses from which we would make “perfume”. Her garden was also full of honesty and I was fascinated by the see-through seed heads that she then put in vases all over her house.So scent, not even especially nice scent in the case of fritillaries, has been a huge inspiration for me. Along with secret hiding places! “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett was another inspiration and I have been excited by high walls with doors in them ever since. My favourite is a garden that is sadly no longer open to the public: Jura House Garden in the Hebrides.

Jacqueline as a child

Jacqueline as a child

It wasn’t until my mid-thirties I really had a place I could call a garden of my own. Before that, I had a flat with a backyard with holes in the concrete that my partner drilled out with a pneumatic drill. His father would then bring us a sack of soil whenever he came to visit. The soil came from his vegetable garden hence the unexpected appearance of potatoes in amongst my flowers. Our next move took us to a house with an even smaller backyard. So it was pots: an apple tree in a half-barrel and a honeysuckle in a large pot.

Finally we moved to a house with a garden – or so I thought. We moved in in December. There was an area at the bottom of the garden that was just crying out for some fruit trees. So we bought some apple trees and started to dig… Building straps. Plastic water containers. Bricks. Slates. Broken concrete. Then we realised why the rest of the garden was essentially raised beds made of low stone walls. There was no soil. I cried. But 20 tons of top soil later plus years of garden compost and several visits to the inspirational RHS Tatton Park Flower Show and I have a garden! I even have two philadelphus, grown for me from cuttings by my late father-in-law. They aren’t the large-leaved variety of my childhood, as it is not robust enough to survive wet and cold Lakeland winters, but the scent is the same and it still takes me back to hiding in my den.

Biking across France and taking in the flowers

Biking across France and taking in the flowers

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This guest blog is part of our Growing Stories guest blog series.  If you have a story to tell please email us on hello@gardentags.com to find out how to take part.

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