The annual open gardens event in Pillington Village had attracted the usual interest.
The cream teas in the village hall were popular to the point of lunacy – the scones
had run out by 3.20 and back-
The Manor gardens and the Court’s Arboretum were filled with admirers, practically
elbow to elbow in places. An aerial viewpoint would have highlighted an unusual
number of sunhats in an assortment of pastel shades. Ice-
For the first time, two of the council house gardens in Sylvester Crescent had been
opened to the public. Number 9, Rose and George Green’s place, presented its visitors
with a marvel of miniaturism. The modest rear patch was stuffed with wildlife statuary.
Cheeky hedgehogs with bandannas marched across the shaven grass towards gnomes with
fishing rods and metal flamingos set on either side of the tiny pool. Coy plastic
fairies peeped from behind bonsai trees, and sweet little cats, dogs, ducks and squirrels
capered on rocks, pathways and shed roofs. To best showcase this plethora of motionless
activity, every plant and bush had been trimmed back to within an inch of its life,
then imprisoned by 12-
In dramatic contrast, the front garden at number 11 had been developed over years by its owner, Jim Munroe, mechanic at Pillington Garage, as a cottage garden in its truest sense. The space was divided in two by a red brick path and was entirely filled with flowering plants, a glorious tumble of roses, delphiniums, lupins, sweetpeas, lavender and phlox providing a veritable riot of colour and sweet scents. Visitors passed straight through the house to the back garden, where Jim was to be found working in the phenomenal heat of the afternoon. The back garden had a very different character to the front, being shaded by a graceful silver birch on one side and an ancient ash tree on the other. Traditional flower borders curved around two sides of the lawn, which looked in relatively good condition, despite the number of feet that had trodden it over the course of the afternoon.
Jim himself, a stocky man in his thirties known for his self-
‘What are you planning to do here?’ asked a thin man wearing wire-
‘Making an asparagus bed’ Jim replied shortly.
Now a younger man with a moustache pushed through to his side.
‘Quite a job in heat like this’ he remarked. ‘Here, pass me your spade. I’ll do a quick few for you, give you a break!’ He grabbed the spade and started to dig. Jim made no comment, just mopped once at his gleaming brow and surveyed the efforts of his unknown visitor implacably.
After a few minutes the moustached man threw down the spade and stepped back, panting. ‘Good luck, mate,’ he said. ‘You’ll need to go deep for a successful asparagus patch.’
Jim nodded at him and made to resume his task. By this time the imagination of the male onlookers had been captured and a second volunteer stepped up to do his turn. Accompanied by cries of encouragement from the small crowd, he managed to deepen the pit by a good foot. To his evident pleasure, he stepped away to a spontaneous round of applause. The pile of soil on the grass had begun to take on the character of a mediaeval barrow.
‘Go on, Mark – you can dig faster than ‘im,’ a young woman dressed in silver shorts
and a purple boob-
‘Nice to feel a part of that little project,’ one military-
Which, indeed, they did, as did several others of Jim’s willing volunteers. All, without exception, admired the wonderful, heavy crop of asparagus that Jim had achieved.
‘What’s the secret, then?’ asked more than one visitor.
‘Good fertiliser,’ Jim answered in his habitual succinct way.
It wasn’t until new occupants moved into number 11 fifteen years later and decided
to get rid of the asparagus bed, that the skeleton was discovered, a dent in its
skull and a rusting monkey-
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