Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lizzie Slater, 29 June 1956 - 5 April 2008

The Kitchen Garden was much saddened at the death of Lizzie Slater whose funeral was held yesterday.

Lizzie and I first became acquainted in Budgens a few years ago where we stood and blocked an aisle for 40 minutes and bemoaned the fate of our local park, Chiswick House Grounds. Lizzie began to try and extract information from the authorities about their plans for the future, but she soon became an integral part of the Kitchen Garden project itself.

Every Thursday, rain or shine, a different class of schoolchildren attends, and for the last two years Lizzie was one of the main helpers at these sessions. Her speciality was potatoes – first planting them and then digging them up, with the children. If I could explain that we have 25 different varieties this year, you will understand that this is no small task. I could in fact assign Lizzie to any job, knowing that the kids would have fun, would learn a lot, and that the job would be well done. I gave a talk to Kew last month on our educational work, and I used an image of Lizzie with her group of kids planting away to show best practice.

She often commented that walking round Chiswick now kids would acknowledge her, particularly noting her curly hair – Frizzy Lizzie - and remembering the good time they had had digging in the garden and chatting to her.

On Kitchen Garden open days, Lizzie’s first task was to draw an artistic and baffling treasure trail for the kids to follow in the magic forest. Then her job was to police the maze, which she did with the same combination of humour and firmness that she used while working with the kids.

The other job Lizzie took on was running the little plant stall in the café. Her flower arrangements were particularly successful. She would pick the ingredients, say dahlias and verbenas, and then spend quite a bit of time making the bunches really beautiful.

The last Thursday, the day before she died, Lizzie had a lovely day. We got to the garden about 10 and we stayed there until gone 3. She sowed seeds, potted up angelica seedlings, and a few of us sat in the sun and chatted, and we were happy. When we left, Lizzie took chard and kale for herself, and for her neighbour. Lizzie found a haven and a respite in the Kitchen Garden.

The Kitchen Gardeners will miss her, on a personal and on a practical level. The garden is heaving with plants that Lizzie tended, and the greenhouse is bursting forth with seedlings – nasturtiums, melons, kohl rabi - that Lizzie sowed. We hope to get an olive tree for the centre of the herbal maze in her memory. It is terrible that she will not be there to see the spring, but she will be very much missed and very much present.

Karen Liebreich
Friend and Kitchen Garden co-ordinator

If anyone would like to contribute towards Lizzie's olive tree, please get in touch.