In Sus­sex

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Notebook -

Par­son­age Farm, Kird­ford – won­der­ful colours, beau­ti­fully de­signed. In 2017 open­ing on Fri­day June 23 and Sun­day Septem­ber 10, 2-6pm. sec­re­tar­ial job at Hen­nessy Co­gnac, and then work­ing into the night. “I have no idea how I did it,” she says.

Af­ter she mar­ried she gave up the day job but con­tin­ued flower ar­rang­ing – for the V&A and other mu­se­ums, for wed­dings and at venues in­clud­ing St James’s Palace, the Ban­quet­ing House, White­hall, and the Queen’s House, Green­wich. She still does oc­ca­sional wed­dings but her coup de theatre is a dis­play for the NGS’s an­nual press con­fer­ence. “The best flower ar­rangers are the gar­den­ers be­cause they un­der­stand how things grow,” she says. “They don’t con­trive any­thing. They just make the flow­ers speak for them­selves.” Long be­fore it be­came the fash­ion, Penny was cre­at­ing loose, in­for­mal dis­plays of na­tive flow­ers.

The mem­ory of those floor­sweep­ing bridal con­fec­tions of the past haunts her. “Ev­ery one of those lit­tle stephan­otis stars had to be wired,” she says.

In 1999, Penny’s sail­ing-mad hus­band, Ben Jones, was lost at sea. He and his crew per­ished – it is thought they were run down by a tanker in the North Sea – but it was many months be­fore she dis­cov­ered, via a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor, where his body had been buried. The cou­ple were sep­a­rated but the trauma of not know­ing what had hap­pened was in­tense, es­pe­cially for their four chil­dren.

“It was ab­so­lutely hor­rific. They just scooped him up off a beach some­where and buried him in Ger­many with­out telling me. I had wanted to do a proper burial at sea.” Her sec­ond hus­band, Mau­rice Snell, a tim­ber agent, died in 2008. In both personal tri­als and tragedies she found her gar­den and her NGS work a refuge. “When I get stressed by any­thing I just go out in my gar­den. Be­ing busy helps but the beauty of it all lifts your spir­its.”

The day af­ter my visit, Penny opened her gar­den for the 21st year and raised £1,500 in three hours.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.