By Kay Moore
Before I start writing articles about my garden and offer advice to other gardeners, I decided to look back and reflect on what influenced my love of gardening and nature. I am not a professional gardener by any means but have "learned my skill" over the years by discussion, reading and "know how", handed down to me by my dear mother. I grew up in Cambridge which was a wonderful city - lots of open parks, colleges and the river Cam flowing through it.
Thinking back to my childhood years, I was the youngest of three girls. We lived in a semi-detached house which had a front and back garden. At the bottom of the garden was a fruit orchard and at the end of the road were open fields of corn, poppies and cornflowers. Opposite the house was another road which lead to another field with a pathway taking you down to the river. Play time was always outside in garden or the fields and when mum wasn't looking we'd sneak through a hole in the hedge to "scrump" for the apples or plums that grew there.
As the youngest child, I spent a lot of time with mum in the garden. I can remember it in great detail. The front garden had a central lawn with borders on all sides. The path lead up to the front door. Under the front room window were Bearded Irises and Red Hot Pokers which we would pick the petals from to suck to sweet nectar contained within. A Forsythia hedge bordered one side and a Privet hedge at the end of the garden. The borders contained Roses, London's Pride, Violets, Grannies Bonnets, Antirrhinums (we used to call these bunny rabbits) and Lupins.
The lady opposite had a hedge of Lavender on which butterflies flew all around in the summer. As children, we picked the petals of the roses to make "rose petal scent" - a disgusting putrid liquid which we would dab behind our ears!
In the back garden we had a Laburnum tree with gorgeous yellow flowers. I remember picking up and opening the seed pods but thankfully I was never tempted to eat them. Years later as a nurse, I remember two young boys being brought into A & E having eaten one seed each, they both had their stomachs pumped as a result. The back garden had a trellis fence down one side, on which grew Honeysuckle and Everlasting Sweet Peas ( mother used to curse these). She also took issue with Celandines and I recollect her sieving the soil to try to eradicate the corms of these - she explained how they grew in great detail and stressed how difficult they were to get rid of! We also had a Lilac Tree, which I loved. The beautiful delicate perfume and gentle mauve colour always delighted me. We also had a Spiraea which mum called "bridal bouquet". I loved the delicate little white flowers on the slim branches.
Another favourite was the Japonica with charming dusky pink flowers at Easter time. One year mum was thrilled with the beauty of discovering the flowers opened and icicles hanging from the branches. Our next door neighbour had their garden divided into two, with a fruit and vegetable plot in the back. As children, we used to go and pick the blackcurrants and gooseberries to eat raw and a special delight was raw rhubarb dipped in sugar!
So, as you can see, I spent a lot of my childhood in the garden. The names of flowers or shrubs were all learned by their common names and to this day I struggle with Latin names but my love for nature, plants and gardening has been instilled in me from a very early age and I do wonder if the lack of gardens and green areas for children, along side mothers busy working lives these days has had an effect on young peoples interest in gardening. My own nieces and nephews say they don't won't the bother of managing a garden and say that gardens are for old people. What can we do to reverse this trend? Our gardens give us great joy, peace of mind, exercise and are essential places for nature and wild life.
Recently, I went back to Cambridge and my sisters and I went back to look at the old family home. The orchard is now a housing estate. The field is an industrial estate and the field leading to the river is a school and a medical centre. The house we lived in no longer has a front garden but has been turned into a car port. I came away feeling very sad indeed.
So, now I fully understand why gardening is so important to me personally but also to the creatures that live in it and why it is vital we all try to preserve these special places before all are lost to concrete!
I would love to hear about your memories of childhood influences concerning gardening. It will build a picture of how gardening has changed - and hopefully we can together encourage younger people to join the campaign to "save our gardens".
If you don't have access to email and would like your "reflections" of gardening to be put on the website, give a written copy to me and I will type it up for you.
Written for Meavy Garden Society by Kay Moore, March 2014
by Derek Hall
Just after the war, when my family were re-united, the house we lived in had about a 100 foot long garden. My father was a keen gardener and when I was about 10 years old, I followed him in his wellies. He grew vegetables and kept chickens.
We moved from there when I was about 16 years old and moved into a flat, which as you know, had no garden. I took on an allotment which I ran until I was called up for National service. One thing you were always told was "never volunteer" but one day they asked for any gardeners and I, with others put our hands up. Good for us, because the others went on a route march!
When I came out of service, I didn't do any gardening until I married Marian and we had our own place. The rest is history!
Written for Meavy Garden Society by Derek Hall, March 2014
by Martin Burt
If starting on a new or fresh garden, do concentrate on TREES. Look very hard at any you have now and imagine them in twenty years. Now think of the trees you want:- what, where, how big, what flowers, what fruit, which season, what soil, light, or moisture do they need? Otherwise you may be like us, twenty years we have lived in this house but the apple & plum trees are only two years old!
When moving the fruit cage I discarded the plastic twine netting, hateful stuff that catches on everything and was already ageing. I decided to use wire netting and choose something with about a one-inch mesh, often sold as “chicken wire”. Now I keep a peanut-feeder going all the year round inside the cage, which attracts the Tits, Robins, Chaffinches, etc. which are insect-eaters small enough to get through the wire safely. while the fruit-eating Blackbirds & Thrushes cannot get in. My idea that while awaiting their turn on the peanuts the birds would check the bushes for bugs and caterpillars seems to work, as I find virtually none at harvest time. Don’t forget to bury or peg down the wire at the edges or the blackbirds may dig a way in. And add a dish of water as well.
Are you one of the lucky few without Ground Elder? Then I beg you, be vigilant! The great asset of GE is that it is green. It blends in with almost anything else – until it has established enough roots to produce a flower spike. Then by golly, you are already well behind in the race. Once GE is established in any sizable area there seems little that will stop it. Black plastic held down for many months will clear that area but all around the edges the massed troops will be waiting. Paraquat kills what it touches but there are so many overlapping roots. So. be vigilant! Check every plant that comes into your garden, whatever the source – neighbour, friend or shop – tease out the roots looking thoroughly for thin white roots or green root nodes, anything that is not attached to a root of the plant. Quarantine plants or anyone else’s compost.There is something to try.
Written for Meavy Garden Society by Martin Burt, April 2014