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A Century Of Gardening – Part Two

2nd of November 2007

From its modest beginnings in 1907, the firm of H. Simmonds and Sons had grown to become one of the largest nurseries in Hertfordshire by 1930. Trees and shrubs, conifers, fruit trees and herbaceous perennials were grown in rows in the fields which covered around 15 acres at the time. From Switzerland came the Simar Rototiller, a small 2-stroke rotary cultivator, which occupied the services of one of the men who, from dawn to dusk, would drive the machine along the rows between the plants. The first lorry was an American Chevrolet which was used to deliver orders of field-grown plants to customers during the planting season from November until March. Rose bushes, some 20,000 of them every year, were grown in a 5 acre field behind Braziers House and these had to be lifted during the planting season. With so many plants in production the firm became one of the two biggest employers in the area – the other was Waterhouse the builders.

Herbert and Jim Simmonds ran the nursery while Arthur developed the landscape gardening and financial side of the business. By the 1930’s, Herbert and the boys had built a dozen or so glasshouses. These were traditional cucumber-style wooden houses heated by 4″ water pipes, and bedding plants and pot plants with a catch crop of tomatoes were grown for the spring season. Alpines (rock plants) were grown in 3″ clay flower pots in beds with paths made of railway sleepers. Orders were placed by some customers who visited the nursery, but most business was mail order. Herbert had for many years exhibited at most of the local flower shows where orders were placed by keen gardeners. Flower shows at that time were quite elaborate affairs and there were regular shows at Sarratt and Bovingdon. Here in Chipperfield the show was held in marquees erected in the grounds of Callipers Hall and surrounded by side shows, dancing, and the Dickinson Silver Band providing the music. One of the biggest shows in Hertfordshire was the annual Bushey Flower Show which took place on August Bank Holiday (the first Monday of that month in those days) and the firm frequently won the cup for the best trade exhibit in the show.

Terry Simmonds

(To be continued)

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