Last month, the biennial Open Gardens event sprang up across the two Trimleys. It was just about impossible to visit them all but I did manage everyone open in Trimley St. Martin, spending a happy day moving from one to the other. One of the first gardens I visited was that of Steve and Lynne Bozier, who have opened their garden for all three events. Full of surprises and delights, this garden enchants the eye at every turn and displays an inherent understanding of plant possibilities and sensitive landscaping. I recently had the opportunity to talk more to Stephen and Lynne Bozier when they explained the how today’s garden came into being and how it evolved. Their matter of fact, realistic approach made it all seem simple but as a non-gardener, I appreciate it requires something more to create a garden of such character and quality.
Lynne and Stephen are the third owners of the house and garden, which was built in the nineteen thirties. The first owner was Walter Alphaeus Hammond, the Postman and part time gardener, who continues to live in the memory of Rosemary Gitsham, just a few doors away from this one. Mr. Hammond was responsible for the house build next door but was dissatisfied with it, so had a second house built and then moved into it. After his death, it was sold and for many years was surrounded by a dense holly hedge.
The origins of the garden as it is today, go way back to 1977. Of course, there was always a garden but it was old, overgrown and neglected when Lynne and Stephen first viewed it. Lynne thinks they were meant to live in their house from the moment they set eyes upon it and she explained how this came about. As a newly engaged couple, they were looking for somewhere to live, way back in 1978 and found themselves viewing a different house in Grimston Lane. It wasn’t suitable and they drove to the corner of Thorpe and Grimston Lane to turn the car round and as they headed towards the High Road, they saw the Holly hedge of their future home. They looked through the gate which used to be on the right had side and could see the house looking empty. They were drawn to it but didn’t know who owned it. It certainly wasn’t for sale. A conversation with Lynne’s grandmother, Maggie Watson, elicited the information she had a second cousin who might be able to help and consequently made enquiries. The contact revealed the owner was a Miss Doris Kemp, who had been in Westcliffe Nursing Home for a couple of years, hence the abandoned and lonely appearance of the house. Her occupation of the house followed on from that of Walter Hammond, the former Village Postman and sometime Gardener. Miss Kemp and her sister hadn’t travelled far in order to occupy the house, for they originally live in one of the tall houses in Thorpe Lane.
Steve and Lynne went to visit Miss Kemp and explained they were interested in purchasing the house and that should she ever wish to sell could they have first refusal. They made it clear they were constrained by finance, because they only had a deposit of £1,000[i], a fairly standard amount for the times. Whatever words they used to explain their interest, it must have resonated because not long afterwards, they were contacted by a Solicitor on behalf of Doris Kemp, who had chosen to sell the house to the couple for less than the market value.. They wanted to make it a family home and this was what Miss Kemp desired. After Lynne and Steve married in 1978, they would often invite the previous owner for Sunday lunches until she died in about 1980. There were no melancholic reflections on her part; quite the contrary. The house and garden came alive again as the new owners threw their energy into creating their home.
Lynne had never been in the position to create or recreate a garden before but was far from daunted. As a child she had spent time with her grandmother to whom she was very close. From her she learnt stories of Suffolk and gardening lore. Her grandfather had been the Head Gardener at Levington Hall and was always maintained his keenness and as Lynne said, her grandmother also,
“…knew her gardens. I still have things in my garden that came from her.”
Her understanding of gardens therefore, had been instilled at an early age and was to stand her in good stead. Steve also had a gardening background as his father had worked at Fison’s in Levington and could grow anything from hydrangeas to wild roses.
“…he would take cuttings from dog roses, graft them on to rose sticks and they would just grow…”
With such a background and their own interest, they were in a sound position to start work on the garden once the house became available.
The house was accessible before their marriage in 1978 and they immediately set to on the gardens. They had a more or less blank canvas, although some plants and trees were in situ. The back garden had waist high grass; Steve tackled it with a scythe. The fruit trees were diseased; Steve cut them down. Their energy drove them on as they revealed the extent of the garden and its’ potential. Photographs from the very early days hint at the extent of their labours. The colour has faded from these earlier photographs rendering them into sepia tones, creating an image more from the nineteenth century than the twentieth, The leaching of the colour goes to emphasise their current glorious condition as you can see when you compare the images:
View of the back garden with Stephen burning garden waste. c. 1978
View of the back garden looking slightly to the left. 15th June 2019
View from the front garden looking down Grimston Lane. c. 1978
View of the front garden, 14th June 2019
The work on the front garden was done in the knowledge they wanted to put in a drive and having visited a garden with a wide herbaceous border, Lynne knew this was also what she wanted for the garden. The Magnolia was planted before her daughter was born in 1981 and the Hydrangea continues to bloom, a happy reminder of the grandmother who gave it to her. The garage was built nearly thirty eight years ago and is one of the few installations not carried out by Steve, who otherwise did all the carpentry work on the building. After the installation of the drive, which should have been straight according to one elderly neighbour[ii], the front garden has grown and matured into one worthy of any stately home and the holly hedge has long since gone.
The back garden has been subject to more change and alterations. Steve thinks he first built a pond sometime in 1979 before the children were born. Any pond has to have Carp[iii] and these have now been swimming in a leisurely and contented fashion for just about forty years. Some have died but a few may be dated back to the earliest pond manifestation and now present a rounded appearance. The Barbeque area once housed the fish but no longer, for they now bask on the southside of the property. No one can say these fish haven’t travelled, for the pond has been placed in different sections of the garden several times and the fish have viewed every aspect from their watery enclave.
The carp in their pond. 15th June 2019
The garden is large by modern day standards, especially when viewed in its separate parts. Perhaps the most significant development of the garden was the desire to create separate sections or “rooms” and it is these which give the garden the spacious feel of a garden without borders. Now there exists a Fire pit to burn the pruning and cuttings from the garden; a dining area surrounded by roses and other blooms; the pond area with its giant carp; a small area for the grandchildren known as Bird Lane exists and Lynne is keen to involve her grandchildren and excite them to become gardeners themselves. Another physical room exists whereby a conservatory looks out over the wide field known as ‘The Allens’ at the time of Isaac Johnson’s Map of 1784.
Way back in the Seventies, I can remember seeing a Weekend Supplement telling you how to do all your gardening in under 24 hours a week. Well, seemingly times have changed or perhaps it is the efficiency of these particular gardeners. When I asked how much time does all this take to keep their garden in such good condition, Lynne reflected carefully upon the question. Spring is busy because they clear and tidy the ground, preparing the way for all the young tender bulbs about to burst through and the later spring buds. Lawn cutting will begin as well and together they spend four hours a week in the garden although. Lynne assured me Summer is comparatively simple as everything just grows, entailing minimal work. Autumn is also a busy time. Averaging out their time on a weekly basis comes to about four hours give or take. As both of them said, all the happy hours in the garden have never been a chore. Of course, the work establishing the garden happened when Lynne and Stephen were both working full time, Lynne as a hairdresser and Stephen as a City and Guilds qualified Carpenter. His skills were called into play from the very beginning of the house and garden alterations.
The hours out of the garden have also been contented ones and Stephen and Lynne had a small discussion deciding where the most inspirational gardens are situated. Perrywood Garden Centre[iv] in Tiptree is the best place in the U.K. for plants and was the first place they both mentioned almost simultaneously, swiftly followed by The Old Vicarage at East Ruston[v] in Norfolk where thirty acres of garden supplied the notion of gardens as ‘rooms’ which Lynne has developed to perfection. Sissinghurst[vi] inspired the concept of Lynne’s White Border
and Beth Chatto’s[vii] garden, small though it is in comparison with East Ruston, has also been a place full of planting ideas and concepts. Both of them were quick to include two local garden centres; The Walled Garden[viii] near Stratford St. Andrew and Goslings, our local plant and farm shop. Lynne told me the latter came up trumps:
“There was a particular plant I wanted recently and I’d looked everywhere for it and just couldn’t find it. I decided to visit Goslings and there it was! I shall never be unfaithful to them again.”
We returned to Lynne’s grandparents and their influence when she produce three books she had inherited from them. Charming in their age and venerability, the patina of generations of ownership is apparent. Externally, they are worn and well-handled. Inside, scraps of notes, papers and newspaper cuttings advertised the interest of their earlier owner. In the same way a family recipe book can depict the times it served, so do the gardening books Lynne inherited. They have all the gravitas of a family bible.
The cloth bound boards bringing together slightly thick and foxed paper, are entirely of their time and reflect the nineteen thirties to perfection. The illustrations are devoid of the lavish colour photos we now expect and instead, the floral images are hand drawn and reproduced. It would be easy to dismiss these elderly titles and defer instead to one of the many new books about gardening published every year. But these books are much more than information sources, they are an inheritance.
Part of Lynne’s inheritance from her grandparents
I have often been asked if I have a preferred book or author I favour and find such a question almost impossible to answer. In the light of this I should know better than to ask a gardener if they have one plant they place above all others but I asked the question anyway. Steve thought it may be the magnolia in the front garden, a really old plant which I believe predates his arrival. But then he added he has a soft spot for the Jacaranda and the Copper Beech he had for his fiftieth birthday. Lynne thought carefully, swithering between a Graham Thomas rose and indeed, all roses. Then she added another component, her succulents. They are so easy to propagate and have been very successful was her argument. Maybe they are the newest plant children in her life and are therefore immediately bewitching, demanding as they do, particular and special attention.
By the time we finished talking, dusk was falling, obscuring the fine points of the garden but not the over-arching atmosphere and lushness. The creation of their garden mirrors a life time of marriage, children and grandchildren. Plants have grown, flourished and died during that time. New ones have been added. The garden had achieved a distinctive shape and personality and is so richly planted, any future owner of the property will need to be as equally dedicated and hard working as Stephen and Lynne. It is a flourishing, living art work and an abundant legacy for the future.
If you have any comments or would like to be part of the Trimley St. Martin project, please contact me at:
[i] https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator Bank of England Inflation calculator suggest this is worth £5, 635.72 in 2019
[ii] The neighbour clearly forgot the rule of all art works: a curved line is always more interesting than a straight one.
[iii] Koi Carp are venerated by the Japanese as symbols of prosperity and good luck.