The title of ‘Associate Producer’ of VKG (Victorian Kitchen Garden) sort of belies the importance of Jennifer Davies’s role in a phenomenon which started life as a germ of an idea in the mid-1980’s and has lasted, in many ways, up to the present day.
A collector of Victorian literature on gardening and horticulture, her passion drove her to formulate first one, then a number of further television series. The hardest part, perhaps, was convincing the BBC to fund their making. The success of the programmes proved she was right to persist with the idea. Peter Thoday is on record as acknowledging Jennifer’s determination in getting the programmes made as the whole reason for the VKG’s success.
And in making them, she documented and recorded those old ways for posterity whilst, at the same time, restoring both a Victorian Garden and Victorian Kitchen to something of their former glory.
It may be that those examples only existed for a finite time after the filming but it’s my opinion that, through those programmes, Jennifer changed the way we thought about walled gardens and the kitchens they supplied. I have no empirical data but, as I visit National Trust properties (which I have done for decades), it seems that now there are far more walled gardens (a) open and (b) in some kind of cultivation than there were before 1987.
As well as the plethora of books that accompanied and followed the various series, Jennifer has written other books that illustrate further aspects from that bygone time, including: ‘Tales of the Old Horsemen’ (ISBN: 9780715324196); and ‘Saying it with Flowers: The Story of the Flower Shop’ (ISBN: 9780747274056). The latter, I believe, was borne out of an idea meant to follow the VKG programmes as a series of its own, about the development of the flower shop in the Victorian era. Unfortunately, only the book materialised: it never was realised on television.
The daughter of a farmer, Jennifer grew up in Herefordshire where the skills she saw practiced had been handed down over generations. She still lives on her own smallholding in Herefordshire, doing her bit to keep the old ways alive and the worst of modern development at bay.