This poem written by Leonie Orton Barnett is a touching portait of her father, William Orton. William worked as head gardner at The Coppice.

Photograph of William Orton 1970.
See a photograph of Joe at The Coppice here




There he sits
On the edge of his chair.
Framed on my window sill,
Hands clasped,
A finger missing,
A mishap pruning, lopped it off many summers ago.

Head Gardener at The Coppice,
Owned by a Peer,
Who summoned, “Orton, come here”
Dad took off his cap folded it in half
Twisted at it as Sir spoke.
“Tennis court all set is it?
Mowed, and marked, ready for play,
Big tournament Orton, today.”

The strawberries and tomatoes
Are waiting in the long greenhouse.
To be consumed by lanky ladies,
In floral flimsy frocks.
And men in white flannels who mock
The underclasses.

At home he got contempt,
And scorn.
From a wife who cackled to cronies,
“It's a pity he was ever born
His endeavours to feed her excesses
Fell on stony ground.
He retreated out back, to tend his plants.
But she wanted more.
Late one night In the garden
cut the heads off all his chrysanths.

His seed he set to germinate
would come to fruition
At a later date.
This mild mannered man
Gave life to me.
No one sits on my window sill
But he.

Image: Courtesy of The Orton Estate   Text © Leonie Orton Barnett  

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