My Garden: Changes over 90 years

Dave Darwent, of Ansell Road, Ecclesall, who is opening his garden to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme.

Dave Darwent, of Ansell Road, Ecclesall, who is opening his garden to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme.

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The garden, at 12 Ansell Road in Sheffield, was created by Frank and Beatrice Dyson, who bought the house when they married in 1928.

Belton’s the builders, bought the land from the local farmer and laid the foundations of the house in 1927, exactly 90 years ago.

Dave Darwent's pergola covered in roses

Dave Darwent's pergola covered in roses

In the pre-war years a rustic pergola – which still stands, covered in rambling roses – divided the garden into a fruit and vegetable area and a lawn, sown in 1929, on the day of the Wall Street Crash. With the start of WWII, the Dyson’s fruit and vegetables were a source of essential food for the family. The war also enforced the first change to the layout of the garden: an Anderson Shelter had to be sunk into the ground. What had once been a choice of growing vegetables and fruit lost some of its attraction after being a necessity for six years and, in 1945, the majority of the productive area was turned over to growing dahlias, chrysanthemums and sweet peas.

In the mid-1950s, the foundations of the Anderson Shelter were turned into a cold frame and the garden gradually became almost entirely floral. Sadly Frank died in 1959, aged 61, and Beatrice could not keep up the flower growing regime, and so she single-handedly built a wall to terrace the productive half of the garden and made the last major change to the layout of the garden: a second lawn covering most of the productive growing space.

Beatrice died in 1978 and in 1986 her grandson – Dave - moved into the house – where he remains today.

In the late 1980s, Dave did little other than maintain the garden, adding a small pond in 1987. In the 1990s the rustic pergola needed major repair and was re-built – utilising the same concrete sockets for the posts that Frank had cast in 1930 – and on the eve of the millennium, a small extension to the house resulted in small changes to the rockery and finally severed the link between the front and back gardens, which in 1929 had been connected by a continuous herbaceous border. Post-millenium Dave has carried out a programme of restoration, returning as much of the garden as possible to original planting plans and varieties, using his grandparents’ notebooks, photographs and his mother’s recollections. Old roses, which had died, have been replaced with identical varieties and a greenhouse, which replaced the late 1950s pre-fabricated one.

Growing fruit and vegetables lost some of its appeal after the war

In 2010, Dave applied to open his garden to the public under the National Gardens Scheme and was delighted to be accepted. He opened for the first time in 2011 and will open for seven dates in 2017.

Joan Darwent (nee Dyson), holding Dave's sister, a few days after she was born,  in June 1957

Joan Darwent (nee Dyson), holding Dave's sister, a few days after she was born, in June 1957

Dave Darwents mother, Joan Dyson, left, with her German pen friend Anita Wickz, right, in 1948

Dave Darwents mother, Joan Dyson, left, with her German pen friend Anita Wickz, right, in 1948