Philip Roots – an obituary by Melanie Oxley
We are sad to record the death of Philip Roots, a valuable volunteer at Petersfield Physic Garden. With his daughter Melanie Oxley, he inherited our vegetable patch from Laurie Woods and managed it with diligence and enthusiasm. He took pride in growing beans and leafy vegetables known in the C17, growing many from seed in his own greenhouse.
Philip was born in 1926, in the village of Gonda, near Lucknow, then in the United Provinces, and was the second of four children and the only boy. The family lived in a railway colony, complete with clubroom and staff. His father was a guard on the Northeastern broad-guage network and was away from home for long periods. His Mother left them when he was six, so, when at home, Philip was essentially brought up by his sisters and Muslim servants. He spoke Urdu well and learned to cook all kinds of Indian food from scratch.
In truth, his school was his real home, where he spent nine months of every year for 12 years. Wynberg Allen School in Mussoorie, a Hill Station established by the British, and known as “Queen of the Hills’, is some 500 miles from his home. This meant a journey of over 15 hours.
Philip left India amid the upheavals of Independence and came to England in 1949 at the age of 24. He entered a career in refrigeration, a fascination that started years before, when, as a boy, he witnessed the monthly journey of enormous blocks of ice wrapped in straw, on the backs of railway carriages, making their way from Madras in the South, to the Hill Stations of the Himalaya.
Philip had a life-long love of gardening. For him this recalled the tree dahlias, daphne’s, rhododendrons and Himalayan poppies of his youth. He would grow tiger lilies and mop-headed chrysanthemums, azaleas and roses. He brought all this with him to the end of his life. In 2016 he entered his communal garden, Ramscote, on behalf of all the residents, into the Petersfield in Bloom competition and won for them first prize.
Philip enjoyed excellent health for almost all his 93 years, when only at the beginning of July, heart failure took him over. He was gardening until the end of June. The Physic Garden has lost a true plantsman.