“I suggest we put each other on a month’s trial to see how we get on” said Hew. I think we can safely say that we have passed as that was 25 years ago.
I first saw Columbine on a blistering hot afternoon in August 1997 and instantly fell in love with it. I had come for an informal chat/interview as a shy sixteen year old after Sally Reeves the local postmistress who I knew, suggested I did so. She had just visited this “wonderful place” that had just opened for the first time for the village open gardens day that year, and very cheekily said to Hew and Leslie “you need a gardener and I know just the person”. Me.
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Hew and Leslie walking me round telling me of their great plans and although I was as quiet as a church mouse back then (you wouldn’t think that now), I could hardly contain my excitement. I have loved gardening ever since I was three or four and the potential this place had was incredible – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I started my dream job in September. All that was here was some established trees and an iceberg rose – that was it – the rest was mostly mud.
The planting and creation of the garden began in earnest in autumn 1997 and has never really ceased since. The changes have been dramatic and may seem astonishing to some. I have raked, weeded and planted every inch and have got to know the lay of this land intimately. It is the centre of my world.
And what a team the three of us were. Leslie, who we miss so very much, with her fantastic eye for colour, design and knowledge of plants, Hew with his love of trees, vistas, the landscape and the overall layout – have been very much the inspiration and driving force for both house and garden and a huge inspiration to me. They have made my dream of becoming a head gardener come true, have always been so encouraging and have transformed my life for the better and I shall be forever grateful. To have been here with them from almost the very beginning makes me so incredibly lucky.
Yet in my mind those early days when the garden was in its infancy yet filled with dreams, remains with me – it is still there beneath all the years. So cheers Columbine – here’s to even more dreams and the next quarter of a century.