Last chance to catch Alan Dallman’s garden of eden

Alan Dalman in his garden. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Alan Dalman in his garden. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Archant

After 30 years of showing off his Muswell Hill plot Alan Dallman is hanging up his trowel

If this evening is not warm and delightful between 6 and 9pm then the weather gods have slipped up.

As indeed they already have in this current gardening season, but when a much-loved local garden is open for the last time, they really should co-operate.

Unless, perhaps, they can’t believe that Alan Dallman will never open his garden again.

When I asked him if there might be pop-up openings in the future, he just laughed, declining to answer “incriminating questions”.

What is certain is that this long, meandering garden in Muswell Hill has been pleasing visitors for decades. A

nne and Alan Dallman have put in 30 years of opening for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) and before that for the Red Cross and Girl Guides.

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It was the ¾ acre of wild garden that had sold the house to them in 1969.

But it took the perfectionist Alan a while before he felt ready to share its transformation with the public.

As Anne’s mother once remarked, there was no need to wonder where Alan was, he wasn’t at the pub or with other women, he was in the garden.

At the far end of the plot a landmine had blown up what was once a tennis court, in the process burying topsoil and bringing subsoil to the surface.

Alan rotovated this area in about 1970, then put in shrubs along the bottom and planted the now huge willow tree.

Ever since he has been feeding the soil with compost, restoring to it the good heart that the landmine took away, and using it as the veg patch.

He installed a big greenhouse and planted a Black Hamburg grapevine, then won a smaller one in a competition.

These greenhouses, in which he sows and brings on many of the plants that make the whole garden so bright and floriferous, are fundamental to his way of working.

Asked why they were giving up the openings, the inevitable answer was, “we’re getting on a bit”.

They love having visitors, and have no intention of leaving the garden, but even so.

Alan has a gradual grassing-over and shrub-planting strategy in mind, to reduce the garden’s labour-intensive character.

Do see it as it is now – not many amateurs garden in this way any more.

Those aware of the Highgate Horticultural Society and its Flower Shows must know the Dallman’s contribution to local horticulture is not limited to opening their garden.

It is thanks to them, to Roxane Stirling and a few other dedicated people that the shows, and Society, continue.

Anne is the Treasurer, but if any reader used to accounts would like to take her place….

Committee members Steve and Jill Marston are trying to attract new people to the Society by organizing outings, so in June, I went on their first one.

We traced what is left of the Highgate domain of the philanthropist, Angela Burdett-Coutts, now the Holly Lodge Estate.

It was fascinating. We only saw places open to the public, but with Jill and Steve illuminating the estate’s history,

I was particularly taken by the garden and history of the flats themselves.

They were provided for women working in London, many of them single because of the First World War.

The touching solicitude of The Lady Workers’ Homes Ltd. for their tenants’ safety and wellbeing may have been paternalistic, but is a far cry from today’s harsh rental world.

An August outing to Cambridge gardens is being planned.

Anne and Alan Dallman’s garden is open 6 – 9pm, Thurs, 7th July 27, Wood Vale, N10 3DJ