My grandfather loved flowers and gardens, a love that my mother and her brothers and sisters all inherited. They would exchange cuttings and seeds, compare varieties for growth, strength and colour, and pass on tips and ideas. None of them could just sit and relax in a garden. Their pleasure came from their involvement in its creation and maintenance.
As a child, I enjoyed helping choose the new season’s plants from various catalogues and the local nursery – there were no garden centres in those days. I particularly remember a trip to the famous Baker’s lupin fields at Boningale, where an ancient George Russell was still developing new varieties. The lupin fields themselves were a blaze of colour, rivalling Dutch tulip fields, and one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. I simply stood and revelled in the tangible rainbow laid out before me. (This old video clip will give you an idea)http://www.britishpathe.com/video/lupins
And that, I am afraid, sums up my relationship with gardens. I truly enjoy the beauty and the appeal to all my senses in a garden, but I am not enamoured of the hard labour required for its upkeep, and it’s only when the lawn is full of golden-headed dandelions cheerily waving at me that I notice them, whereas my mother can spot any weed leaf and exterminate it before it opens.
I’ve touched on my sense of failure here a number of times on this blog. Looking at my mother’s garden in its present overgrown state, for which I am responsible. I feel guilty in spite of the kind voices telling me how pretty it is. It is a far cry from what it used to be, when she was in charge and able to manage the work herself. It responded to her love by its own loveliness.
A few photos have surfaced as evidence of this – what is missing from these is the wonderful fragrance that always pervaded the air and the buzzing of the bees as they harvested nectar and pollen.
In the back garden there are indeed still a few occasional flowering perennials, but the bullies have taken over: winter jasmine, rambling roses, campanula have strangled all the weaker flora as they spread like measles. The hydrangea is fighting back, emerging triumphant six feet tall through the roses, and a fuchsia has shown its toughness by secretly sending one shoot to climbi up under cover of the jasmine, thrusting its dainty ballerinas out in a joyful burst of crimson. But the lupins, delphiniums, poppies, iris, wallflowers, pinks, pansies and whatever else used to be there – have all gone.
I have chronicled the fate of the front garden, which had succumbed to too many weeds due to my inefficiency, illness and negligence, and although it now appears quite respectable, it bears no resemblance to its former self. In fact, so utterly different does it look that a number of visitors over the past year who hadn’t been here for some time have driven past the house, totally failing to recognise it!
It is some comfort to my mother that she has these pictures to remind her. My apologies for the quality of these: being unable to scan them, I have photographed the photographs and the resolution has suffered in the process. Oh dear, I seem to be failing on all fronts! Time to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea. Sitting in the garden, of course.