Thursday, 2 January 2014


Our Essex garden before demolition!
           A derelict nursery and remains of peach glasshouses.The ground was full of old cast iron water  
                     pipes, brick foundations, and there were 14 wells to provide water for fruit trees.

           When we moved to our over-large Regency house in Essex, there was a lot to do and there were a lot of old buildings that were in a very bad state.   I decided to make the house pay for most of the improvements by using every asset I could - first was the creation of two single-person flats at the end of the first floor with its own back staircase, which I could let to training personnel from the big local employer who guaranteed the rent and the proper maintenance of the units.(Marconi)
            Next, I cast my eyes over a group of rather rough garages and storeroom/workshop and thought they might be suitable for tenants starting up new small businesses - i.e. moving out of the front room of their own house and wanting to start up on a very modest scale.   I had a willing foreman, builder, handyman who was able to do the necessary improvements and found my hunch was correct - there were lots of would-be tenants wanting a secure, dry, space with water and electricity on a meter.   The Council offered  bigger spaces which were much more expensive BUT tenants had to commit to a two year tenancy, which was too much risk for many.  So I became a Mrs. Rachmann!
           At the same time we were busy with our garden which  my husband completely re-made on the derelict site of old peach houses and a fruit orchard, and then after huge efforts with an old tractor and a handy labourer-gardener,  it was time to make the garden pay a contribution.  Our first planting was a shelter belt against the strong East wind that plagues East Anglia and we had thick belts of euonymus, plain and variegated, as well as lots of fast-growing eucalyptus which all romped away and soon needed cutting back..    I was sorry to see the branches being burnt, but then thought I might find a market for them!  Having had two flower/garden shops previously, I knew that flower arrangers always had great problems finding large branches for the backing of their big event arrangements.   The deadly asparagus fern was the norm!   I then found a wholesale veg/fruit  driver who had an empty lorry returning to Covent Garden from a city nearby,  and he was delighted to have his petrol paid for,. and my foliage went up to my client florist in Covent Garden and was often used to decorate top society weddings and many of the big livery halls in the city of London.  As more flowers, roses, escallonias, alchemilla mollis grew in the garden, I was able to send really big quantities and this was quite a successful venture.  I had to pick, barrow and sort big branches,  late in the day,  then hammer stems,  remove thorns, pour boiling water on some fragile stems to make them last  and immerse all in big tied bunches,  wrapped in polythene sacks cadged from the local farmer - I left them out in the yard overnight and the lorry arrived next early morning and whizzed them up to Covent Garden.  (To be continued)
The lime tree avenue and circle at our Essex house. The flowers and 'keys' were very popular with florists for wedding flower arrangements, but every leaf had to be removed, a slow and boring task.

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