I’ve been away from the garden and the blog for some months now, during which time my mum died, I got married and we’ve endured the hottest summer that I can remember. All that left little time or will to get out into the garden, but I’m looking forward to the cooler temperatures and rains to let me get back into the garden.
So, in the meantime, I thought I’d pay tribute to the long line of gardeners in my family who have inspired me.
This is my great grandfather, known as Granfrey John, who gardened a one acre plot in Hadleigh, Suffolk. In my memory it was given over almost entirely to vegetable and fruit growing as, probably, were the gardens of most rural households at the time.
Bessie Ermine Salmon, my great grandma, was called little grandma. You can see she wasn’t too tall, standing here with mum who was about 17 at the time. Little grandma was kind and gentle and took me up the garden to collect vegetables. I loved seeing all those serried ranks of produce – even at the age of about seven.
Here’s my grandfather, Albert Betts. Unfortunately he died when my mum was 16 so I didn’t meet him, but I have countless photos of him standing proudly by his vegetable plots – wearing a collar and tie.
When I bought my first house and garden in 1977 my grandmother, Vera Betts, and I exchanged many letters during which she taught me how to garden. She encouraged me to plant potatoes to break up the heavy clay soil. She told me which bushes to plant to create a beautiful hedge. In this photo, taken when she was in her 90s, she had become blind. This was a tragedy for someone who so loved flowers.
My great aunt Kath Steed had green fingers and was a stonkingly good cook. She baked the tallest victoria sandwich cakes and had a plum tree that bore so much fruit the branches had to be held up with props. I think I learned to make jam at her knee. She was certainly responsible for my love of celery and runner beans.
Here’s my mum, Margaret Powley, during the 1990’s – very proud of her floral border in the back garden of her house in Suffolk.
Whenever I sent mum flowers for her birthday she would send me photos for months afterwards showing how she had managed to keep them going for weeks by cutting the stems and changing the water. Tall stems would be down to an inch or two and kept in egg-cups by the time they eventually died.
This is my dad, Alec Gosling, who never gardened in his life. He was a great theorist who delighted in telling us how we could do it better. In this photo I was part way through mowing a biggish lawn with a push mower. He had clear ideas as to how I could make it easier to do, although he didn’t demonstrate.
Dad preferred reading Pictorial Gardening in the greenhouse that my brother (aged 10) and I built during the late 1960’s. Dad read widely and knew all the theories, but wasn’t the most hands-on of men.
As a young teacher I lived in a flat in Brighton that didn’t have a garden, so I was fortunate enough to bag an allotment. In this photo mum and I are sharing a flask of coffee on one of her rare visits ‘down south’ My dog, William, used to suck raspberries from canes on the neighbouring allotment using his lips very carefully to avoid the prickles.