Alan’s choice of gardening for this week's Sepia Saturday has coincided with National Gardening Week in UK. I just found out about it in today’s Times newspaper.The Royal Horticultural Society has just launched a ’Gardens of the Nation’ project, to create a resource of photographs and archive material. In due course they will be asking for old photos of gardens and allotments from wartime and the 1950s - this will be of interest to Sepia Saturday contributors I’m sure, who may want to bookmark the site. Now, follow me down the garden path to see my own old garden pictures. There were far too many and I had to do some pruning, but I hope you enjoy the tour.
Here is a photograph of a very new and very Little Nell. I’m making my first appearance in my grandparents’ garden aged about two weeks in 1952. The 'work in progress’ rockery behind me was where the Anderson Shelter had stood during the war and probably for a few years afterwards. Whenever there was a photo to be taken, people would go out into the garden with their Box Brownies, to make the most of the natural light.
That rabbit was made from a mould by my grandfather, using cement. He also made two birdbaths; one with a cylindrical plinth for his own garden, and one with a rectangular one, which was ‘ours’; both of these appear in so many photographs that they almost merit an album of their own.
The rectangular model is shown on the right, where my father is striking his 'David Niven’ pose. This was 1950 and I’ve no idea what colour the birdbath was then, but as it was in its first incarnation, probably a subtle cream or stone colour. Subsequently it was given a fresh coat whenever Dad had some paint left over from a decorating job; during the seventies I’m sure it was orange at one point.
Here is my brother with his model yacht, and once again the birdbath has a starring role, or is my father trying to bring the element of water in to the frame, to labour the point? No, my guess is they were off to the local park to sail that boat. There are dozens of pictures taken in front of, and beside this birdbath, including my christening picture, but I think that’s quite enough for anybody.
As a nice contrast, here’s one taken in the very same garden, but without the birdbath! This time the prop was a spade or a hoe. Mum was weeding in her glamorous 1949 two-piece - as you do. I remember ‘dressing-up’ in that costume as a child, and I can still recall the feel of the fabric.
Enough of iconic birdbaths and bathing beauties. Moving out of sepia now into the colourful seventies. We had been married for a short while and were proudly cultivating our first garden, when a devastating storm wreaked havoc across Lincolnshire. I think it was 1975, when most of England was hit by this freakish weather - the following year we had a heatwave, when the highest temperatures since records began were registered. Just when our garden was beginning to recover from the storms we had plants withering in severe heat. The storm smashed our garden fence and killed our lovely weeping willow. Here are the rather grainy before and after pictures.
After the storm it’s time to return to relative tranquillity. When we were children, those of us who were lucky enough to have a garden, would spend long summer days playing with our friends; making tents out of clothes airers, and disappearing with mounds of comics and lemonade. We may have had a patch of our own, or perhaps we’d lend a hand when the grown-ups were gardening. Here’s my daughter ‘helping’ daddy, in one of our RAF quarters. We always seemed to take over neglected gardens and leave them looking like an exhibit for the Chelsea Flower Show.You were luckier still if your garden had a swing. This one was in my parents-in-law’s garden in Lancaster and my children were happily enjoying the delights of Grandpa’s homemade swing.
Time to remove your gardening gloves now and put away the trug. Push your wheelbarrow over to Alan’s potting shed at Sepia Saturday, where you can meet other gardeners from across the world. Get the kettle on Alan!