When George Harrison first went to his local nursery, he bought almost every tree they had in stock. George visited the store many times. He was an avid gardener with acres of land to tend to meticulously. However, all of his hard work wasn’t just for his viewing pleasure.
George Harrison bought Friar Park, a 35-acre estate, in 1970
At his first home, Kinfauns, George didn’t exactly have a green thumb. That all changed, however, when in 1970 he bought Friar Park, a derelict Victorian Gothic Revival mansion in Henley-on-Thames, England.
Sir Frank Crisp, an eccentric multi-millionaire, barrister and adviser to the Liberal Party of England, built the 35-acre estate in the 19th century. He left the property to the Catholic Church. Interestingly, George had recently renounced Catholicism, but he needed Friar Park to house his new home recording studio.
When George bought the house, the nuns living there were soon replaced by members of the Hare Krishna Temple. However, they had left Friar Park in one state. It was crumbling and the terrain left a lot to be desired.
in the Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George HarrisonJoshua M. Greene wrote, “Crisp had dug lakes around the property, planted topiaries, and carved a river to flow beneath the property.
“He had planted thousands of different flowers and trees around the property and excavated a complex of underground caves, some of which contained skeletons and distorting mirrors. Dominating an alpine rock garden in the center of the property was a hundred foot tall replica of the Matterhorn, built from tons of crushed millstone.”
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George wiped out his local nursery
When George started cleaning up the grounds, he needed a flamethrower to get through the weeds. Greene wrote, “Friar Park blossomed into a metaphor for George’s exploration of the mind: a place of discovery that was wild at first and then gradually revealed its secrets.”
The property would not have thrived without the help of the nearby nursery, which George frequented. The owner, Konrad Engbers, told Greene about the first time George walked into his store.
When Engbers told George the nursery was slow, the former Beatle said, “I’ll give it a little nudge for you.” He then bought just about every tree Engbers had in stock.
“From time to time George would walk down the hill from Friar Park to the market where Engbers had a stall,” Greene wrote. “George waited in line and got his turn without expecting any preferential treatment. Whenever Engbers saw his friend, he would pause and the two would sit at their filthy cafe nearby
overalls and talk about herbs and plants.”
“Such a friendly man,” said Engbers, “without airs and graces – a man with a really big heart.”
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The garden didn’t belong to George
George soon became more of a gardener than a famous musician.
said George in an interview, “I like the garden … In the garden you see all the seasons come and go and everything you do can affect everything. But at the same time, the flowers don’t answer you. Do not make the effort. It’s very nice.”
After years of being scrutinized by the press and fans alike, George loved that he could escape to the garden.
Eventually, George became so obsessed with how his garden looked that he spent hours late into the night making sure it was perfect. However, it never was. In Martin Scorsese’s documentary George Harrison: Life in the Material World, said George’s son Dhani: “He would say: ‘Take this pond, place it over there and move this hill. Don’t like that hill.” And next week it would be pond over there, hill over there. And it would look better.
“He worked in the garden at night. He would garden until midnight and he would squint because he could see at midnight he could see the kind of moonlight and you could see the shadows and that was his way of not seeing weeds and imperfections, that plagued him during the day. So he could imagine what it would look like when it was finished.”
George went to great lengths to make sure his garden was perfect because it wasn’t his; it was God’s. Through gardening he connected with God.
“Being a gardener and not hanging out with anyone and just being at home was pretty rock ‘n’ roll, you know?” said Dhani Rolling Stone. “When you’re in a really beautiful garden, it reminds you of God all the time.”
George loved his garden so much that he wanted to be remembered as a gardener who made some good tunes.
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