George Harrison’s Secret Passion? Gardening

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Spring is in full flush, so Clash has decided to revisit George Harrison’s abiding passion – gardening.

Sure, the Beatles icon’s first passion may have been the guitar, but the free-thinker could take or leave the vagaries of the music industry. Famously the first of the Fab Four to tire of the road and its endless travel, he clearly had an innate urge to put down some roots.

First developing his green finger at Surrey property Kinfauns, George Harrison then saved Friar Park – a spectacular Victorian neo-Gothic Friar Park mansion – from demolition in 1970. Perhaps the main attraction for the guitarist was the 36-acre garden – woefully overgrown, George built a team of 10 gardeners and helped them pull each weed, and plant each carefully chosen fern and flower.

In fact, his autobiography I Me Mine was famously dedicated “to gardeners everywhere”. George Harrison wrote:

I’m really quite simple. I don’t want to be in the business full time, because I’m a gardener. I plant flowers and watch them grow. I don’t go out to clubs. I don’t party. I stay at home and watch the river flow.

For a while, gardening would enhance his creativity. ‘Here Comes The Sun’ for example was sculpted on a fresh afternoon in Eric Clapton’s garden, while the cover of his classic 1970 solo album ‘All Things Must Pass’ features George Harrison in his garden.

George Harrison’s solo adventures pivoted away from music as the 70s ended, the rigours of the industry becoming too much for him. In this freshly unearthed interview from David Hartman’s Good Morning America, he explains the attraction of working in his garden.

“I like the garden,” he says. “Being there, it’s true. In the garden you see all the seasons come and go. Whatever you do can effect it all… but at the same time flowers don’t answer you back! Don’t give you any trouble.”

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In a way, George Harrison’s most potent legacy can be found in his gardening. An influential early adopter of the Hare Krishna religion, he gifted a new site to International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1973. Now its biggest home in the UK, the society returned the favour in 2013 – by opening a new garden at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Estate near Watford.

At the time, his widow Olivia Harrison said: “I am grateful to the devotees for honouring George in the form of a garden. A manifestation in the material world of which he would be very proud.”

Related: George Harrison’s Isolated Vocal On ‘My Sweet Lord’ Displays His Genius