Irene Waters has posted some beautiful and awe inspiring photos of the garden she lovingly created with her husband for the Sunday Stills challenge. Without Irene’s versatile blogging I’d not have come across this and would have missed the opportunity to remember the way in which my parents lovingly crafted their garden out of pretty much nothing over twenty five years. I don’t think I have quite followed the rules but then this wouldn’t be TanGental if I did.
Mum was always a gardener and had ambition and energy. She was inspired by the likes of Major Lawrence Johnston and his garden at Hidcote. If you haven’t been and are in the UK, go there, especially when the lavender is flowering.
We moved to deepest, if not darkest, Hampshire in 1970, to a jerry built New Forest Cottage (Dad’s words). The garden was about a third of an acre, laid to grass apart from three non fruiting plum trees about fifteen feet from the back door and some equally sterile apples down one side The hedges had been their since woad was the mode of formal dress for the residents (and hadn’t been trimmed much in the interim). The concept of topsoil had also passed the New Forest by. Let’s face it; if it had been any good for growing crops that’s what Ancient Britons would have done. This excited Mum to a ridiculous degree. Here are some pictures of the garden back then.
To understand the changes note the telephone lines to the right. That and the plums (in the foreground) and the apple tree half way down on the left are pretty much the only constants.
Back towards the house…
The weeping willow wasn’t a great idea; it was planted right next to the illegal overflow from the cesspit and no doubt thrived after each bath. I learnt, years later, that Dad knew full well of the existence of the overflow (and that it wasn’t legal – it flowed into the ditch next to the hedge – yuk!) He admitted that, every time the council came to cut the verge that ran next to the ditch he’d pop out (if he was home) for a chat and to try and ensure they never spotted the overflow! It worked for twenty yeas until one hot summer the smell gave him away and he had to pay for the installation of a septic tank.
The Archaeologist and I were often involved in Mum’s various garden crimes. She had various euphemisms for them. Take ‘hint buckets’. Because the soil was so bad, Mum’s long term plan was to dig out a large amount and replace it with compost and pony manure (the car always had two plastic sacks in the boot; if driving anywhere we came across pony droppings, we stopped, filled a sack and stuck it in the boot – Mum would never countenance paying for well rotted horse manure from the many stables around where we lived if she could get stuff for free, however much the car stank). The hint buckets were left by the side gate, which was only used by the postman and the Archaeologist and me when we cycled to school. If we found one blocking our way we were expected to pick it up, stagger across the road to the verge opposite (it was very wide before the fence to the fields behind) and dump it as far back as we could. Today that’s fly tipping. When the fields changed hands some fifteen years later the owners, with whom Mum and Dad were very friendly, wondered who had been dumping clay. Mum sympathised.
Mum spent an unconscionable amount of time in the garden with her bucket, her trowel and her transistor radio. She listened avidly to what was originally the Home Service before it became Radio 4. A radio was always on in our house, burbling away, from the Today programme in the morning until the evening episode of the Archers (probably the longest running radio soap in the world – it started in the 1940s and is still going, god forbid). After that she switched to the TV and her sewing basket. When Dad retired in the late 80s and was at home full time he would try and turn the radio off but had to give up. He started arguing with it, much to Mum’s frustration (she liked to listen to the opinions of others, not Dad’s scratched record). So frustrated was she that eventually she bought a pair of pink fluffy ears and tied them to the radio. ‘What are they for?’ ‘To remind you that my radio is a sensitive girl and doesn’t like being shouted at’. ‘Humpf.’ But he did stop the haranguing.
While the garden was Mum’s project, don’t go away witH the notion the Archaeologist and Me weren’t heavily involved beyond the tipping.
And so, over twenty five years, Mum with the help of some willing fools, created a delight out of a bare canvas.
When Dad died in 2005, Mum gave me an envelope filled with his poems. He was a shy man, hating to expose his emotions and feelings – he was better in his latter years – and had told her he didn’t want the Archaeologist and me to see his more personal poems. What he was referring to were the poems that he wrote for each of Mum’s birthdays every year for about thirty years. Inevitably some were about her passion for her garden and the ones below, from the beginning of the 90s, were some of the loveliest. If you have a chance take a look.