How a variety of rhubarb from Balmoral Castle arrived on my allotment needs some explanation: I should say up front, there is no need to inform the Police – nor indeed, The Palace. My growing rhubarb meets all legal and moral benchmarks – honest! Here goes.
We need to go back some seventy years. Jim is the Head Gardener on the Royal Estate at Balmoral. Sandy is a junior gardener on a nearby shooting estate.
Each summer Balmoral hosts a Flower and Fruit Show in early August. Each year, Jim enters his Balmoral strain of rhubarb and Sandy enters an every-day variety – five matching sticks from each. Every year the result is the same: Jim takes first prize, Sandy second.
After every show, Sandy asks Jim if he can have a root cutting from the Balmoral variety. Every year, Jim says, that he is sorry, that isn’t possible, for it’s not his to give.
This goes on for forty flower shows. Then Jim, the next winter, runs out of growing seasons. His daughter Mary nurses him until he dies.
The next day, Sandy gets a phone call from Mary, telling him her father had passed peacefully away in his sleep. His last words the evening before she says were, /“Oh aye, will you phone young Sandy in the morning and say he can come by anytime and pick up that rhubarb he wants”./
So, Sandy then has Balmoral rhubarb in his garden that he grows on for the next thirty plus years. He enters rhubarb in local shows and wins first prizes more often than not: but not for the Balmoral variety: that wouldn’t be right, in Sandy’s book.
Sandy does however plant some on his allotment. Today, you can find clumps on a dozen or more plots around our site, each gifted by Sandy.
I was offered my cutting when Sandy was ninety. That’s when I was told this story, more or less as I have repeated it here.
Sandy died, June last year, a week after his ninety-second birthday. We miss him still.