Christine's Garden Episode 4

Christine's Garden Episode 4

In this episode of Christine's Garden we meet Christine Walkden  at her home in Harlow Essex, who introduces us to the programme by saying "I love gardening - I do not like it - I eat it, sleep it, drink it, dream it".

Christine has been a gardener for over 35 years and her life is fantastic and she never wants to do anything but gardening and horticulture.

She says she lucky to earn a living doing this.

Late August

Late August

Christine waters her garden now every day which she usually does in the evening but she is going away and the garden needed an extra water.

She is off back up north to Lancashire and this is where as a child her passion for plants began.

Her plants are like her children and they are much quieter than children.

The doorbell rings, Tara is going to be left with Reg and Pat who are like substitute parents and it is Reg at the door, but he already gone round the back.

Reg laughs and asks for Tara and he going to take her on a walk before she settles in at Reg's house and she going to be a good girl!

Christine finishes her packing and she is going to give a talk at the Garstang Horticultural Society in Lancashire and her old College Lecturer Ben Andrews is the Chairman.


She not seen him for over 30 years and he a real character and her favourite Lecturer.

He gave her the enthusiasm she has for Horticulture and he used to say 'There's no money in it, but it'll enrich your soul'.

All packed and she on her way and she on the motorway moaning at the roadworks caused she says by 'bloody southerners' coming up north and having to build more roads.


Most of her adult like has been spent away from Lancashire but she so proud to be from Lancashire and giving this talk is a good excuse to go back to relive some memories.

Christine is nearly at her destination and just off the motorway is the Trough of Bowland which is not far from the Lake District and her playground as a child.

Every Wednesday afternoon it was where she had her sports lesson on a motorbike as she would skip college and conventional sports and escape here.

This is also where her passion for finding plants in the wild started and as they drive through some trees she says this could be Japan with the moss gardens.


She is now walking through the moors and is at peace with the wind, grasses and clouds.

'I could stay here and compost down'.

Christine does not know if she believes in God but believes in something as she lays back in the grass.

Back in the car Christine is nearly at the town she was brought up in, Rishton near Blackburn and she has arrived at her childhood home.

Christine home

The house just had a tiny terraced garden and her parents still live here and are now old and frail so will not be coming out and we are just there to look at the garden.

The small patch at the front of the house was Christine first garden and since she no longer lives there, it is full of weeds.

The tree she planted 40 years ago is still there and back then it looked lovely, she then started doing next doors garden too and before long she had most of the block's gardens too!

Christine home

She went up and down Harwood Road as by then she had gardens on both sides to do and then she earned Pennies, lots and lots of them.

She spots a little Astilbe she planted when she was just 10 years old and decides to dig it up and take it home with her to Essex.

She goes to look round the back of the house that is just a tiny yard and looks up at her old bedroom that she had to share with her sister.

Christine home

Her bedroom wall was not filled with posters of Popstars or Footballers but of plants!

She would grow cress on flannels and get excited watching them grow and come alive.

By 11 years old Christine was ready for bigger things and got herself an allotment and that is when she really got into gardening.

Christine allotment

She would go to her plot first thing in the morning then after School and she didn't have time for friends other than people on the allotments.

These were old 'geezers' with cloth caps.

The allotments are still there as she has a good look round and they are thriving when so many have been built on by new housing developments.

Christine allotment

She spots Billy Dawson's old fertiliser shed and she used to work in there at the weekends selling it and the shed is still standing.

The allotment now has security but back then it would be a couple of the men armed with broom handles.

Christine has now reached her old plot and its been about 20 years since she was last on it and after she left it became overgrown and neglected.

Christine allotment

The new plot holder welcomes her to her  allotment and Christine says how amazing it is looking.

She points out that her greenhouse and posh shed have gone but she always knew it was good soil as she put so much muck into it in the past.

They tell her to have a wander round and she straight into the compost bin admiring it and that it used to be hers.

Christine allotment

She glad the new plot holders are loving this allotment as much as she did.

The real thrill is growing something in season and picking this produce and enjoying it.

Once you have tried homegrown you never want supermarket vegetables again.

Christine allotment

Billy Dawson showed her how to dig properly and there is double dig, single dig and ridge digging, it is all hard work.

She spies the trees in the distance that have always been special to her and calls them her 'guardian angels' since childhood, a 'security barrier'.

When she was 12 she thought she was married to her plot 'a Lancashire Lass goes out into the world and blooms'.

Christine's old College Lecturer Ben and his wife Susan have invited her to stay with them for the weekend and she heads for their house.

She was only 17 the last time she saw him and he made a big impression on her and tomorrow night she is giving a talk at his Horticultural Society.

Ben and his wife Susan house

Arriving at his bungalow and beautiful garden she declares he has not changed at bit as he greets her at the front door.

He comments how small she still is and they exchange compliments and cannot believe it has been 30 years since they last saw each other.

Ben showed a real love for gardening during his lectures and he takes Christine on a tour of his garden, which you can tell is his pride and joy.

Ben and Christine

The garden is on an old railway line that ran from Garstang to Knott End so it is long a narrow but is much grander than Christine garden.

Tress and shrubs have been used to form pathways so it is like going on an adventure and he has lots of surprises in the garden like an old Telephone Box.

Ben Garden

Christine goes in to make an imaginary call on the telephone inside but she thinks it would be good as a fernery.

Now it is time for his ex student to have a test and she names the plant as Sciadopitys Verticillata and passes first time.

Then she remembers back to lessons about learning conifers by how they smell Like of shoe polish and pineapples and she uses the same way of teaching with her own students.

She spots a Fuchsia with fruit on it and asks Ben if he know about it and he asks is it that they are edible.

Christine go on to tell him a gory story that Peruvians when they used to shrink heads they used the Fuchsia fruits to dye the heads and to preserve them.

'Gruesome' declares Ben and advises she not share that story with his Gardening Club.

Christine now in her element when she gets to the vegetable plot and she thinks his hotchpotch of a growing frame is beautiful.

Ben Garden

He says even with the frame he cannot get his Pumpkin to grow any bigger and she questions if he is watering it enough.

He says its had gallons she suggests sugar in the solution which is one of her tricks and the quantity is 2 tablespoons per gallon.

Christine says Ben has not changed at all but then she was not expecting him to have.

His garden is organised chaos and full of imagination and round every corner there is something special and unique.

She feels honoured to be asked to speak at his Horticultural Society.

Ben and Christine are now indoors with his wife Susan and they are taking a trip down memory lane looking at Christine photo albums.

Ben Susan and Christine

The photos of her is just how he remembers her at 17, with long hair and collecting leaves for a collection.

She comes across Ben old cottage and a photo of a young lad who worked at the College who Christine used to 'see' and they used to spend a naughty weekend at his cottage.


Christine had kept it on the quiet but Ben let everyone know what was going on at the Cottage but he can remember none of it and denies it all!

Not only have they relived old memories but they are now making new ones meeting up after all this time.

The next day Ben asked her to help him judge at the Village Show and this takes place before the public is let in to the show.


They are judging the Flowers and these shows are very competitive.

They set too sniffing and inspecting the flowers and some smell a lot better than others do.

It is a responsible job being a judge and lots of elements to consider, the number of stems, presentation, size, quality and they all have a set criteria.


A flower can be let down by the wrong vase as the presentation really counts as they spy on in an old jam jar complete with label still stuck on.

There nothing to stop someone buying flowers to exhibit but they would be found out at a village show as they would be too perfect.

Christine has been taking part in Village shows since she was a kid and at just 13 years old she was the Show Secretary at Rishton Horticultural Society and people were astonished she was in charge,


A Village show brings the whole community together.

Christine cannot resist running over to the cakes and preserve section and asks why she cannot judge these as well as just the flowers.

Ben gives her a stern look as she tries a few mouthfuls of the cakes and he takes her home before the public arrive to see what they have judged their flowers at.

Ben has another passion and that is vintage cars and it is also something Christine enjoys too so they are off to a car rally in his 1947 Triumph Roadster.

car rally

Unfortunately just at the entrance Ben floods the engine but help is at hand and the Stewards push them into position.

With a bit of engine fiddling and a crank start Christine manages to get 'Betty' going again, much to Bens relief.


Christine has a look round and has an over enthusiastic bounce and pretend ride on a motorbike.

Rally over and Betty made it home in time for tonight's talk.

Cabus Village Hall is filling up with members of Ben's Horticultural Society and Christine says it it an honour people want to hear her talk about her passion.

It will be strange lecturing to her old lecturer.


Christine is busy setting up her equipment and thinking about her opening speech and before long Ben is introducing her to his group.

She starts with a very vocal and enthusiastic story about buying plants at the Garden Centre that you have no idea where you are going to put in the garden and that is what todays talk is about, how to fit even more plants into your garden!

Curtains drawn, lights out and the slide projector is started and off she goes.

Christine covers container gardens, Alpines, Tufa and planting into rocks, growing vertically in towers and even in old boots.

 A big round of applause later, cups of tea and biscuits being distributed and the talk is over.


She says how special these societies are for the friendships made over a common interest but they are dying out as no young people are joining them.

Christine packs up her equipment and says what lovely people they were and she has really enjoyed the whole of today.

Next morning Christine is out in the garden and getting emotional over her weekend back home and seeing Ben and how it was like going back in time but even though he is older, the sense of humour and smile are the same.

Christine and Ben

She packs the car and says her goodbyes and thanks them for a lovely time and she has a photo of them in Betty to add to her photo album.

Christine wishes she had not left it so long to come back but she will be back and a lot sooner next time.

Back in Essex and Christine is planting her little Astilbe she dug up from her old front garden in Lancashire into her rockery where she can give it the TLC it deserves for such a old plant.


A bit of Harwood Road at her new home in Harlow.

Her love of plants have taken her to lots of places and she has shared this with people all around the world.

If she was to die tomorrow or 'pop her clogs' as she puts it she would have no regrets.

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