A bright pink front door, a row of trees dripping with pears and a tub of maize. I had to know more…
If only you’d come a month ago! We had courgettes and potatoes. Here, try this. Please, take one of these. Have you tried one of the figs? How about a cutting of this?
Mervyn’s enthusiasm for fruit and vegetable gardening is infectious. His wife, Ruth, is a food writer.
Mervyn, how did you become interested in gardening?
I’ve always been in to gardening since I was a small boy. It is an easy place to spend a few hours by yourself, getting enough time to think.
You have huge amounts of fruit in your garden, but interspersed with other plants. How would you describe your style?
My style is messy, but I like trees to be natural, and I allow things to grow if I like them and they are self-seeded. (The sunflower must have been planted by a bird.) I really like taking cuttings to remind me of places I’ve been. Most of the bought plants in the garden are to remind me of someone. We planted Jasmine when my grand-daughter (Jasmine) was born, we have roses to celebrate anniversaries… most plants in the garden have a story behind them.
What is your proudest gardening achievement?
At the moment, the pomegranate, which has fruited for the first time successfully this year. When a plant produces fruit for the first time, we always turn the first taste of it in to a small ceremony. We have been known to share a cherry between five of us! However, every time I come outside and harvest something from the garden, I feel the same sense of achievement. I have never got bored of the joy of planting a little seed, watching it develop and then harvesting the produce. We used to keep chickens at our previous house, and there was the same feeling when collecting an egg.
How would you recommend gardening to others?
Anyone can do it. It doesn’t cost a fortune, seeds are very cheap, cuttings are free. All you need is a bit of compost and a pot if you have no garden, and a packet of seeds. You need very little space to grow radish, turnip or salad leaves. It is a great pleasure in my life, and I am happy that neighbouring houses on the street are starting to plant fruit trees in their front gardens too. You are not going to end up with the cheapest source of fruit, but there is nothing nicer than picking your own fruit and vegetables and sharing them with your loved ones.
Mervyn’s garden is useful, providing sustenance for the family but also providing ways for the family to celebrate together. Different foods will appear through the seasons, and there will be the odd unexpected success as a peach or nectarine appears. As he talked, he collected a ripe fig to give to his wife; a little present that she’ll enjoy.
What is plain for all to see about Mervyn’s garden, is that it is grown for love.
I highly recommend following Mervyn’s wife, Ruth, on her vegetarian food blog… veggischmooze.blogspot.co.uk/, where she provides delicious recipes using many of Mervyn’s homegrown organic ingredients.
You can buy Ruth’s new Jewish cookbook, Warm Bagels and Apple Strudel direct from the publishers, or visit her website. Ruth has also written her personal history in Remembering Judith, which describes the time with her mother, who survived the holocaust but never recovered.