Though people know George Harrison as a musician, he also loved gardening. When he wasn’t touring or working on new music, he was spending time in his expansive gardens at his home, Friar Park. His first wife, Pattie Boyd, said that he threw himself into gardening with an intensity that bordered on obsession. She felt that it put distance between them.
For George Harrison, gardening was an important part of his life
Friar Park was a mansion with extensive land that Harrison used for gardening. According to his family, he threw himself into the hobby.
“He’d be like, ‘Get that pond, put it over there, and move that hill. Don’t like that hill,'” his son Dhani Harrison said in the documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World. “And the next week, it would be pond over there, hill over there. And it would look better.”
Dhani explained that Harrison felt more connected to his spirituality while gardening.
“Being a gardener and not hanging out with anyone and just being home, that was pretty rock & roll, you know?” Dhani told Rolling Stone in 2011. “When you’re in a really beautiful garden, it reminds you constantly of God.”
George Harrison’s gardening made his wife feel left out
While Harrison gardened for much of his life, he first became interested in it while married to Boyd. The couple moved into Friar Park together.
“In Esher everything had been easy, relaxed, and fun, but in Friar Park it was different,” she wrote in the book Wonderful Tonight. “Maybe there was just too much to do, but the house and the garden became an obsession with George.”
His intense dedication to the garden made Boyd feel a growing distance from him.
“I can be obsessive, but then I get bored and need a change,” she wrote. “George stayed with it, and his obsession grew. Also it wasn’t me he wanted to discuss his ideas for the garden with: it was Terry [Doran, Harrison’s assistant]. He gave me a little area to work on where I did lots of planting, but I didn’t feel included in his thinking or his plans. I wasn’t his partner in anything anymore.”
Tom Petty said the former Beatle had the best garden he’d ever seen
Harrison’s hard work on his garden paid off. Those who visited, including his friend and collaborator Tom Petty, were stunned by the beauty of the grounds.
“He really worked on those gardens,” Petty said in the book Conversations With Tom Petty by Paul Zollo. “He loved his gardens. English gardens, traditionally, are pretty beautiful things. This was no exception. Really quite a place.”
Petty said he could have spent days wandering the grounds at Friar Park.
“It was this huge, huge compound,” he said. “I don’t know how many acres it was, but you could walk around for days. And just one beautiful garden after the other. And lakes. We used to take a rowboat, or a little boat with a little engine on it, and ride around the lakes. And there were underground caves, and we’d row the boat through the caves. There was plenty to do. Lots of neat little cabins and shacks and things to go into if it suddenly rained.”