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Old Nov 15, 2008, 01:28 AM   #1
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Default George's gardeners

Here are a few stories from gardeners;

A Man With A Truly Big Heart
by Konrad Engbers

The man who founded Engbers Garden Centre has told how George Harrison helped him to establish the business in its early days.

Konrad Engbers recalls how George visited the centre just after he started. “He came in to see me and asked how things were. I told him it was a little slow and he said ‘I’ll give it a little push for you’. He then bought almost every tree I had in stock and first thing the next day a motorcycle courier turned up with payment.

“Ever since then he was one of my most loyal and regular customers.”

Konrad, aged 79, sold the business two years ago but has never forgotten how George helped him on his way.

They first met when he arrived at Konrad’s original nursery near Abingdon in the late 60s.

“He had called in to another nursery just along the road from mine,” said Konrad. “The owner there told him he didn’t serve hippies and to clear off. I had no idea who he was but we got talking and he began to visit regularly.

“There was a small hut in the nursery that I had converted into a bar. We used to sit together and enjoy a couple of drinks. I remember one particular occasion when he played his guitar there for me.”

And George would walk down the hill from Friar Park to the market where Konrad ran a stall. “He would wait in the queue, take his turn and never expected any preferential treatment. One day he asked me up to his garden for advice on some trees that were dying. After that, he regularly asked for my advice on any gardening matters.

“One Christmas Eve he sent a message down to the stall inviting me to Friar Park for a drink with his then wife, Patti . And on another occasion he took me over to the Catherine Wheel for lunch.”

When Konrad had problems getting planning permission for his nursery at Shiplake he had lots of support from many people, including George.

George continued to visit Engbers and, Konrad said, would sit in the coffee shop in his dirty wellies talking about herbs and Hare Krishna, herbal tea and plants. Nobody would recognise him.

But it was for the support that George gave him that Konrad remembers the star most.

He said: “He was such a kind man with no airs and graces — a man with a truly big heart.”

This is from George Robb (that is his real name)

A Generous Man

George Harrison’s former stonemason has been fondly remembering the man he knew as a ‘generous and intelligent’ man who was deeply affected by the death of his former Beatles colleague John Lennon.

Speaking at his home in Oxford, George Robb, aged 81, told the Standard: “I knew George as an employer and there was never anything I could say against him.

“He was very good to me — a very generous man.”

“I remember the first Christmas I worked for him, and I was in a club down the road when someone told me there was a taxi outside for me.

“I went outside and George had sent me a hamper from Harrods all the way from London in a taxi!”

Mr. Robb was first invited to work on Friar Park in 1980 and he was awestruck at the beauty of the place.

“When I first went to Friar Park, I was stunned because it was such a beautiful, beautiful place, and I couldn’t believe that one person was undertaking the work he was going to spend on it, because it was a monumental job.

“I worked on the main house, the gardener’s lodge, the middle lodge and the front lodge during my years there, as well as the gardens and maintaining the lakes, which are probably two or three acres.

“George literally put millions of pounds into the place over the years, and I don’t think he would like it to be opened to the public, because he was always such a private man.

“I have worked all over the world but Friar Park is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen.”

Although Mr. Robb was always aware of his role as one of Harrison’s employees, he was very close to the family.

“When Dhani was learning to speak, George insisted that he called him Daddy George and me Stonemason George so that he didn’t get confused.

“He was an adventurous lad who loved climbing on the scaffolding, and he’d be up there with me, 30 or 40 feet off the ground quite happily enjoying himself.

“George himself was a generous and intelligent man who suffered no fools, and he was always very private. He used to enjoy a drink at the Row Barge pub in Henley but he didn’t go into the town as much after John Lennon was shot.”

Mr. Robb’s wife, Mina, added: “That really shook him — he used to say that if he landed after a flight, and came out onto the steps of the plane, he would be wondering which person might have a gun.”
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Old Nov 15, 2008, 01:31 AM   #2
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A Man of His Word.
by Derek Mann

The ex-head gardener at Friar Park this week spoke of George Harrison’s ‘wicked’ sense of humour.

Derek Mann, aged 48, said that George was a kind and gentle man, who was genuine and totally unpretentious.

“I first men George and his wife Olivia when I was working as a gardener at a hotel in the Virgin Islands,” said Derek. “I took them on a guided tour of the grounds and we spoke at length about gardening. He said that if I was to come back to the UK to get in touch and he would give me a job.

“When I returned he was as good as his word and I started at Friar Park in 1991.

“We would regularly walk around the grounds together so he could tell me what he wanted done. Sometimes he would have a ukulele with him and play a few cords while we wandered around.

“There were a couple of spots in the garden where George would sit, watch the sun go down and meditate. There I planted night scented stock plants, which gave off a very strong perfume. He thanked me and said it reminded him of his mother who used to plant the same flowers in their council house home.”

Derek, who was forced to retire due to ill-health in 1994, recalls seeing Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at Friar Park, “They always seemed to get on extremely well,” he said.

“The tennis star John McEnroe paid a visit once. He played a few sets with George, Olivia and their son Dhani on their own court in the gardens.

“John Lennon built a mosaic of what looked like an alien in the garden which was surrounded by roses named after Paul McCartney.

“George had a pet Yorkshire terrior called Winston, John Lennon’s middle name.”

And Derek said that George was not quite the recluse that everyone believed.

“He had a mountain bike that he used to ride around the estate on and would often put on a pork-pie hat and a pair of scruffy jeans with holes in them and cycle through Henley and onto the river bank.

“He also owned an old fashioned racing car, which was barely road-worthy, but on occasions he would race it up and down Gravel Hill wearing a leather flying helmet and goggles.”

Derek said that George was a generous man who gave his original head gardener a new car as a Christmas present.

“George was a genuinely nice man,” said Derek. “I remember fondly the times when he and I would sit together in his kitchen with a cup of coffee and talk about gardening.

“Together, with the rest of the world, I shall miss him.
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Old Nov 15, 2008, 06:07 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by FPSHOT View Post

“He had called in to another nursery just along the road from mine,” said Konrad. “The owner there told him he didn’t serve hippies and to clear off. I had no idea who he was but we got talking and he began to visit regularly.

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Old Nov 15, 2008, 06:52 AM   #4
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“He was such a kind man with no airs and graces — a man with a truly big heart.”

You know, it doesn't surprise me that he found his "home" in the garden. Over the years I've met a lot of 'plant nuts', as I affectionately say, and the vast majority is down to earth (no pun intended), very kind and helpful. There's something about growing plants that doesn't allow for airs and graces. You got to be honest with plants, you can't fake it because it will show, and somehow I think that realness, if you will, appealed a lot to George. I've heard him called blunt too but it's another characteristic of most plant folks! Calling a spade a spade!
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