Local Face: Edwin Rye

Edwin Rye hails from Norfolk. In 1961 he went to New Zealand “for a year” and loved it so much he stayed three. He did all sorts of work to support himself and his travels so he didn’t really want to work for anyone else when he finally returned to England.

In 1965 he was able to buy “The Fruit Bowl” in Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, which had the advantage of a flat “above the shop”. Most of the businesses in Cambridge Street had the owners living in so it had a great community feeling. Edwin planned to sell plants as well as fruit and vegetables but this latter business was very lucrative at the time so he didn’t really diversify in that direction. This was also the time that Silver Street and other Medieval parts of Aylesbury were cleared to make way for the concrete Friars Square, now itself superseded by the current shopping mall. Edwin gradually began to extend the range of fruit and vegetables sold: Spanish produce extended the season and then buying from other continents provided more and more exotic items to tempt our adventurous palates.

At that time, Edwin’s great passion was dancing. He belonged to the Arthur Murray Dancing School which met above the Pantheon Marks and Spencer at Oxford Circus. Edwin was very successful gaining all the medals for Ballroom and Latin American dancing. He also met Pamela, a Londoner, teaching in Edgware at the time. Marrying in 1971, they moved into a newly built house in Wendover. They have lived there happily ever since. Pamela started at Bedgrove First School in 1974.

To this day, Edwin is a very enthusiastic “Friend of Covent Garden” and will take the opportunity to watch a favourite opera production more than once. Pamela is a balletomane. This mutual but different interest in music benefits Wendover greatly as Pamela is now on the committee of Wendover Music and Edwin helps steward.

About 15 years ago, Edwin was made a good offer for his flourishing business, including the property, which he decided to accept. Shortly afterwards Pamela also retired. Until then Edwin had worked from about 8am to 8pm six days a week so Sundays were for catching up at home. He kept his garden looking neat and colourful but no more than that. In retirement, Edwin and Pamela agreed that they would be busy 8 days a week but allow Sundays to be more restful. They have also travelled, in Europe, Australia and New Zealand and particularly in the Pacific, including Tonga, Fiji and, with great fondness, the Cook Islands.

Gradually, Edwin found himself reviving an earlier interest in plants. He started to grow his own instead of always buying in his bedding plants. He started experimenting with “rooms” of colour in different parts of his garden. The garden developed and became good enough to participate in the National Garden Scheme with friend- g~rQeners Sarah Nicholson and Brian Smith.

Each one worries, “will the garden be ready in time?” Pundits claim that this year is three weeks ahead so now the worry is “will it all be over too soon?”

Last year, Pamela, a non-gardener, noticed a competition for Gardener of the Year and sent off for the form. Edwin answered the questions for Pamela. Over 1000 people applied. Soon Edwin was in the last 30 so a camera man, producer and gardening expert came to make a short film about Edwin and his garden to show to the panel of judges. By the next day Edwin was in the last 5. He had only a month to prepare a plan, have it approved then gather the plants and materials for the competition. He was allowed a “gardener’s mate” and Pamela was the obvious choice despite her lack of gardening experience. She is excellent at organising time and keeping to a budget. The theme was “Magic” and Edwin’s garden was entitled “The magic of moonlight”.

They had 4 nights in a hotel in Birmingham in September but worked 8am to 6pm every day, to 9.30pm on the night shoot before the judgement. The results were shown to the nation on 20th December and Edwin was declared “BBC Gardener of the Year”. Edwin can now be found 3 days a week at World’s End Garden centre advising on your gardening problems.

Details of Edwin’s and other Wendover and Weston Turville Open Gardens are on the What’s On and More Events pages.