Memories of Gardening with my Mother

In our March newsletter Potpourri 2, we ran a competition asking people to send us a short piece entitled "Memories of Gardening with my Mother".  The prizes are a pair of Genus Gardening Trousers for the two best essays.

We received a huge number of entries and we were amazed at the quality of the writing and the depth and range of emotion that was expressed in those memories.  We had a very interesting time reading them even though it proved a difficult task to choose the two winners. 

Congratulations to Anne Maddox and Tiffeny Findlay who each win a pair of trousers.  Here are their memories:

From Anne Maddox: "My mother and I had a difficult relationship:  she was reclusive and afraid of people but she had a place of refuge in our allotment.  Here she could enjoy fresh air, away from domestic chores, and concentrate on growing fresh food and the flowers that delighted her, and here we could work happily together.  There was even a tiny lawn where my little brother could be safely corralled to kick his ball about.  Some archaeologist of the future might be puzzled to unearth the short row of tiny bones, where our several budgies were laid to rest with great ceremony at the edge of the lawn.

Digging new potatoes or picking peas for the family’s tea was always a treat, a reward for the earlier work of soil preparation.  Pausing for a rest, we would sit companionably on the bench outside the shed and share some tea from the thermos, while watching the robin dart about the compost heap, picking up worms for his young ones.  We both loved sweet Williams for their varied colours and scent; besides, they were so easy to grow from seed, but it was a struggle to remember to put in enough each time in to overcome the timelag of these biennial beauties.   I still grow them and I place them on her and Dad’s grave in season.  A robin often perches on the bench nearby, looking at me with bright beady eye and I remember, sigh, and pass on."

From Tiffeny Findlay: "It was only a few weeks from the end I think.  Living far away, I had never taken an interest in this garden but I was suddenly desperate to learn the stories of every plant and pot and her vision for them after she had gone.  It was a warm and sunny spring day, the clematis wafted around us and the laburnum’s yellow blooms were as bright as the sun. She sat still, looking at the courtyard oasis she and her love had created and cherished for a decade, but there was little joy behind her eyes, only sickness. Her advice was half hearted, her enthusiasm tempered by a deep sadness about leaving too soon.

Some time later, when that courtyard came to be my garden, I listened hard to try and catch the memory of her advice.  Little was forthcoming save the names of a few plants, but as I looked around on the edge of despair, a robin landed on her favourite rose.  This bright eyed feathered friend seemed to have come to lift me from my lowest point, as my mother always would. In the years since then, I have come to love all the plants in that courtyard garden plus hundreds of others as my work is now in gardens of every kind.  Almost every day, I come face to face with a friendly robin, and I choose to believe that every day, I am gardening with my Mother."