Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Seed Once Sown

“The love of gardening is a seed, once sown, that never dies.” Gertrude Jekyll
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.

Of course my blogger icon is me, taken in this garden, aged about two, but by 1958 the birdbath was beginning to make an appearance. My hand is resting on a bird, modelled by granddad, and painted. This is the cylindrical model which was to feature in many more snaps over the years. Here’s my great aunt, Gran’s sister, a few years later, by which time the bird had flown, and flowers had been planted at the base, making it look like a memorial in a municipal park.

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.

 Here’s a plot with a lovely aspect to finish off this gardening tour. It’s my brother-in-law’s old house in Bangor, North Wales. Not only did it have a well-tended and productive garden, but also wonderful views across the Menai Straits to Anglesey. It’s the sort of place you can imagine spending many happy hours.

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!


  1. Hello:
    We have much enjoyed this post both for the fact that we are always fascinated with old photographs and did, for over twenty-five years, garden in a serious way in Herefordshire.

    Quite by chance we have discovered you through the comment which you have left on Jenny's most recent post. We are intrigued to see that you have left England for the Canary Islands. We too live abroad, in Budapest, making only very infrequent visits to Brighton where we also have a home.

    Your blog is both interesting and eclectic and we have joined as Followers.

  2. The kettle is on for the others - I have just made myself a brew and settled down with a mug of tea and a digestive bicky in order to read your post. I have to say you write in such a way that it is like sitting next to you whilst you flick through an old photograph album and point out people and places. A most enjoyable way to spend a few minutes. As for the news that it is National Gardens Week - I had no idea! Now there's serendipity for you!

  3. Hi Nell, today's post is such a treat! I enjoyed every bit of it, from the time that you were born. That birdbath has seen it all, hasn't it? I think of the coats of paint and it reminds me of the courtyard at my high school that had a huge rock in it had about 2' of paint on in over the years.

    That is too bad that your yard was ruined by the storm and heat wave, but I know that you guys worked through it and made things better even though you lost your tree.

    Thanks for sharing, I know that this took a long time to put together. I'm off to visit your other blog now!

    Kathy M.

  4. It's funny, isn't it, how we can intensely remember things from early childhood. Like you and your mum's outfit (wow she is glamorous!). I also remember grandparents' gardens with great intensity, and they have remained an inspiration, not that it has helped me be a good gardener, but at least I try!!

  5. Oh I have to agree with Alan, and what a delightful time it is to sit back and live through such a wonderful life! Without any commercial breaks too. I do like how you led us through such happiness! I too, have my mother's beloved bird bath (she bought when I was sixteen! (seriously she used to keep it in her bedroom) the years she lived briefly in a townhouse without private grounds. It has seen a post or two of mine!

  6. Such a nice post. I love the fact that your grandfather's handmade birdbaths, bunny and bird were in so many family photos. He must have been so proud of them and the family must have cherished them also.
    Oh, your poor garden, and the weeping willow tree. It's enough to make anyone weep.
    Nancy Javier

  7. I love how the birdbath is featured in photos over the years. Oh, but I love the photo of your children in the swing the best.

  8. A blooming wonderful post, Little Nell. Shame you lost that beautiful weeping willow, but so many positive memories and photographs.

  9. Great photos as usual, I love seeing what you dig out from the archives (pun not really intended). Your mum - such a glamourpuss! And the kids on the swing is a wonderful shot - the joy of childhood captured in a single image x

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  10. Thanks for the tour of your gardens through the years. Somehow we don't seem to have photos of many although we do have a birdbath or two. Or is it three? Our one and only swing survived two houses before it fell to pieces. I'd swap a dry spell now after almost a week of rain.

  11. It is amusing to see the birdbath "starring" in so many pictures.

  12. With the wonderful pictures you share, and the detailed, lyrical descriptions you add, we're able to share your family history in such a vivid way. It's clear your creativity and your hard-working nature have been passed down from as many generations as you're able to trace. Quite remarkable.

    Have a lovely weekend,

    Lucy x

  13. Well shoot -- it's Garden Week in Virginia this week too. I hadn't thought about that until you mentioned it. I enjoyed relaxing in your garden.

  14. I always enjoy your post Miz Nell. I have just begun to gather old photos and it is a good thing. My family of origin is all gone but one. Like your Mom's outfit.

  15. Oh, that is so sad - the damage to your poor garden. I wonder if it's gardening week here in Georgia too. Beautiful photo of your brother-in-laws old garden. They don't get much better views than that.

  16. A great selection on theme, and the one with the swing is my definite favorite. A magical moment, I'm sure!!

  17. Great post and lovely pictures!

  18. Love your father's David Niven pose! How fun to have the birdbaths as a running theme in so many family photos. I commiserate with the ups and downs of gardening. I lost a couple of trees out back in recent years. Miss the shade and shape they gave to the backyard and plantings I had out there.

  19. Those birdbaths are wonderful. And you've brought back memories of how important backyard gardens have been in my life. Whole wild and exotic worlds right outside my door.

  20. I remember from visiting England that people were always very busy with, and proud of, their gardens. And indeed their gardens looked beautiful! I'm sorry for the weeping willow, that's such a nice kind of trees.


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