Me and my garden: ‘When we first visited, I couldn’t see the kitchen garden but was desperate to have it’

Kendra Wilson

Rosie Bose, nurserywoman, Kettering, Northants

The garden behind our terrace house in Cambridge was never big enough; I used to borrow the neighbours’ garden to grow vegetables. After having two children, we started to look for somewhere larger to live, sharing with a group of friends. We saw a beautiful house with a shepherd and shepherdess on the gateposts, but it couldn’t be easily divided, so we let it go.

A few months later, we drove to Glendon Hall in Kettering. It was a foggy February morning in 1976. Within minutes of arriving, we realised it was the place. We couldn’t see the walled kitchen garden because of the fog, but we knew it was there. I was desperate to have it.

We divided the house and garden into four. It was easy marking out the kitchen garden with canes; in my quarter, I traced where I wanted plants to go, then trampled hard along the paths. I didn’t sow grass seed; I mowed weeds. By the end of summer, we had grass paths. In the coach house, there were barrowloads of pigeon droppings in the chimneypiece, which I scraped off and wheeled back to the garden, with my son trotting behind. I’d get water in a milk churn; there was no electricity and no car.

We had no money, so I couldn’t do an instant garden. My mother gave me divisions, and I’d take cuttings and seed when I went to stay; many of my best plants have come from her. An enormous rose, ‘Perle d’Or’, gave us cuttings galore; it’s the first out and can go on flowering until Christmas. I use the garden to grow unusual perennials for my business, Glendon Plant Nursery.

I first opened for the National Gardens Scheme with my neighbour Jenny, and now I’m open for the NGS by appointment. We had more than 1,000 visitors that first time. When we opened together, we always had brilliant weather, but before my last opening there was a storm. I had lined up pots for sale on the lawn, and the wind blew them all over, then it rained.

We never used weedkiller, though I do use it on the drives; I don’t like it, but without it the work would be back-breaking. Hostas can look quite attractive “laced”.

My favourite spot

The area by the old privy. It’s shaded by a twisted laurel as well as Ligustrum lucidum, Euphorbia mellifera, ferns and epimediums; it looks good in spring. I don’t sit at the table. If you did sit, the seat would collapse.

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