Dorothy Smith (17 May 1908-23 Dec 2002) married Joe Whiddett in 1938 and the couple moved to a newly built house at 18 Pytchley Crescent, Upper Norwood, a suburb of south east London, where they set to work developing a garden from scratch. Apart from a few months in 1939 when Dorothy was evacuated to the south coast with the school in Streatham where she taught, she continued to live in the same house for 64 years until a month before her death in 2002, aged 94.
During the war Joe Whiddett was away on active service for long periods, and Dorothy grew mainly fruit and vegetables but thereafter the Whiddetts created a mixed herbaceous garden, largely inspired by visits to the RHS gardens at Wisley. After Joe Whiddett purchased a car in 1952, visiting Wisley became a regular monthly outing and this pattern continued for Dorothy's lifetime.
In 1981 Dorothy was involved in a road accident which resulted in the amputation of a leg, and this left her unable to garden as she had before. Joe died in 1984, after which she had help in the garden from a succession of friends.
The front garden in Pytchley Crescent had a square goldfish pond in the centre surrounded by grass and herbaceous beds. The back garden sloped away from the house. The upper section was mainly grassed with wide borders at either side, containing shrubs and herbaceous plants. Trellis fencing with an arch divided the upper and lower areas of the garden. The lower section had a circular lawn, edged with wooden poles and ropes draped between them, supporting a variety of climbing roses. In the middle of this lawn was another goldfish pond. Around the edges of this part of the garden were spaces set aside for sweet peas, runner beans, a grape vine and various shrubs. There was an unheated greenhouse in the far corner.
Dorothy started keeping gardening diaries in 1968, recording weather, information about the garden and occasional details of family interest. At first the entries were occasional, but this increased to an almost daily record. The diaries are most complete from 1983, the period when work in the garden was undertaken with support from friends.
Source: Jenny Tyte, daughter of Dorothy Whiddett