|For Martin Johnson, this time of the year is one of
excitement and trepidation. It is now that a year's work can come
to fruit when he lays out his best for all to see. For his entire
adult life, Martin has been the head gardener at Stoney Grove and
much of that time has been spent growing large vegetables for
A quiet man not given to many words, Martin can get quite
agitated when it comes to the 'Big Vegetable' contests.
"It's cut-throat," he warns. "When I first got
started, I lost a lot of aubergines to some hooligan who crept
into the garden at night and smashed them to pieces. It
broke my heart. Several years later a bloke from Birmingham hopped
over the wall on the estate to try and sabotage my courgettes.
This time I was ready for him. He won't be causing mischief no
more. I wouldn't leave my babies at this time of year."
Martin has won prizes in several categories over the years,
including carrots and turnips, but he feels it's with courgettes
that he's making his biggest mark. "It's not just size,"
he explains. "They look at many things like colour and shape
too. They're really beautiful things, courgettes are.
Most people don't look at em. They just eat em."
Martin is proud to work at Stoney Grove where he has been able
to pursue his passion for large vegetables. He's recently
been finding out more about the history of the landscape at the
house, but says that much of it is a little disappointing.
"It's all show and design, I don't think they really loved
the plants, they just used them like furniture. But I do like
feeling that there is a history there, that seeds have fallen and
germinated over hundreds of years."
This summer, Martin has been pleased to have his grandson
John White working with him. John grew up in Somerset but came to
spend this summer in Puckering after completing a degree in drama
at University. "I believe he could become a good gardener if
he put his mind to it," says Martin proudly. Perhaps
it's in his roots. --Nigel