In my day it was about this time of year that we’d find ourselves in the grip of gardening. Bit like now actually. But in those days flower growing could get a little too competitive. Now things were relatively civil when the Chrysanthemum was undisputed Queen. You might get some misguided soul who put his head above the parapet to challenge her with a Fuchsia in his hand but to be frank Swingtime or Dollar Princess was never going to threaten the all conquering Pom Pon Chrysanthemums. It was difficult to argue against those beautiful groomed petals and sheer variety. The Pom Pon growers oozed pride and quite rightly so. So when a chap called Clayton Moore swept into Albert Road, he caused a stir. Obviously, with a name like Clay Moore he was from Scotland so what brought him to Finedon? We may never know? He was a tall dark stranger of few words. With a smart trilby pulled low over his eyes and dark sunglasses masking those eyes he had an air of inscrutability.
From day one he was looking for confrontation. Right in the very heart of Pom Pon land he planted a garden bristling with Hydrageas. Not only that but he emptied the previous owners greenhouse. A greenhouse that had been happily occupied by, you guessed it; Pom Pons. Uproar. Clayton was ostracised. He didn’t seem to mind. The thing about him was that take away his hydrangea obsession and he was a nice bloke. He did manage to pal up with one bloke; Tom Tobe. TT as we called him was from the Isle of Man and a solitary type who was happiest rambling around the countryside. Clayton started tagging along with him on his walks and the two of them would do good deeds. They might put some pensioner’s bins out or walk their dog. They’d help you clean your spark plugs or mend the puncture in your Chopper. Chop wood, fill the coal bunker all sorts. And when you turned round to thank them, they’d be gone. But the gardening business still rankled and it came to a head at the county flower show. The Pom Pon growers were out in force, preening their impressive blooms, wide grins on their faces. Inside the main tent the hub was bubbling. Clayton walked in and there was instant silence. Everyone waited for the ker to be well and truly fuffled! Now one thing we all know about Hydrageas is that they only come in three colours; white pink or blue. Those colours depend on how much acidity you have in the soil. In Albert Road, you will get a pinkish blue bloom. Such limited colour is one reason they are pooh-poohed by the Pom Pon brigade. Well Clayton only went and marched in carrying a display of orange Hydrangea! Unheard of! Years later Tom Tobe explained that when Clayton nurtured his young plants, before they bloomed he watered them with orange juice. The citirc acid in the juice gave the soil a rare acidity and an even rarer colour. The flower show judges were non-plussed. The blooms were gorgeous but orange. They had a conflab, listened to arguments from other growers and decided to disqualify the flowers. Clayton Moore stared at then stony faced. He turned in silence and walked into the sunset. He was never seen again.
A local reporter was heard to ask the judges, “Who was that masked man?” The judge replied, “That my friend was the Lone Hydragea. Now wash your hands.”