Sunday, 10 May 2020

Suttons seeds.

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day the Sutton's Seed Company asked people to send in photos and stories relating to the 2nd World War 'Dig for Victory' campaign and to say who or what inspires them to garden today.
This is the introduction to their 1941 catalogue.
It is the bounden duty of those who have even the smallest space to cultivate, to do so intensively, that the brave may be fed and that the lifeline of the Atlantic be not unduly strained.

I sent in a photo of this scruffy little book. It looks very dull, but it is a book that I treasure greatly because it maps out the orchard and garden that I watched evolve and where I played throughout my childhood.
 
My father bought the book while he was serving in the army and he covered the end papers with a plan of the trees that he intended to plant once he returned home. He started planting in 1945 and continued doing so for a number of years. He laid out a formal rose garden and the central bed was filled with 'Peace' roses, a rather ugly scentless cabbage of a rose, bred in France in 1945 and extremely popular because of it's name.

My love of gardening stems from the enthusiasm of my father and his elder brother, William. After visits to Uncle Will I would return home with large posies of sweet peas or luscious black grapes from his greenhouse. My mother was completely disinterested, her head stuck in a book or the daily crossword. When I had grown up and moved away from home, phone calls, usually on a Sunday morning, would keep me up to date - the clematis is looking good, the peonies are flowering and so forth. I miss those conversations still, but  happily they continue in a similar pattern with our daughters. Sometimes I long to pick up the phone and say, "Hi, Dad, Mr Pick's iris are looking wonderful!"
Talk of problems in the food chain, due to the virus, has prompted me to give careful consideration as to what to grow in the veg plot this year. The weather, until today, has been kind and most things have been planted out. Have I been too hasty? There is a bitter wind out there, I'm skulking inside, but my plants are getting hammered!




11 comments:

  1. That bitter wind is giving me second thoughts too...plants have been returned to the polytunnel, hardening off paused!

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    1. Aah, a polytunnel, quite the most sensible thing for any gardener in the British Isles! Some of my plants, foolishly planted out, have taken quite a battering from the wind.

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  2. What wonderful memories! I was listening to a podcast by the book people Slightly Foxed and there was a discussion around the Dig For Victory campaign, where I was surprised to hear that rather less gardens were actually made than we are led to believe today. It may open up a can of worms around these parts to suggest such a thing but Propaganda was the word bandied about!

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    1. People talk very nostalgically about the war years, everybody pulling together, blah blah. I know that my father's time in the army was not always so positive.

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  3. That little book with your Dad's garden plan must be so precious to you, how wonderful that you still have it!
    We've had way too little rain all of April and (so far) in May, but finally, rain is here - just in time for the end of my 1 1/2 week off work.

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    1. I hope you have had a lovely holiday - in spite of being unable to visit the spa.
      It is very dry here, but yesterday so cold and a really vicious wind, not at all pleasant. I am missing being in Yorkshire, who knows when we shall be able to return. Whenever our diaries are free of commitments we usually head north. Now, of course, our diaries are blank, but travel is out of the question!

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  4. Recently my daughter bought some geraniums and hanging lobelia which she selflessly planted in beds and troughs I had previously cleared and from which experience I was lying proostrate, the curtains drawn.

    My antipathy toward gardening may burn with a hard gem-like flame (Eng. lit. quote; I forget who) but I find gardeners themselves fascinating. I used to watch Gardeners World mainly because I admire those who expertly communicate their enthusiasms and the TV camera clearly loved Monty Don.

    Also, having started this comment I found my mind drawn back to a novel I wrote while I worked in the USA: a couple were breaking up and one reason she (the heroine) detested her spouse was because he insisted on planting flowers rigidly, as if they were soldiers on parade. Ah Wendy, where are you now? She became a librarian because I believed - perhaps erroneously - that women librarians were more remote, more thrilling than most men give them credit for.

    Great God! I've just remembered; I set the novel in Garden City on Long Island, NY. My sub-conscious appears to have been more active than I imagined.

    The question is you list writing as one of your interests. But my experience of echt gardeners is that their gardens enfold them. There is time for little else, to the point that taking a holiday beyond a long weekend represents a logistics nightmare. I'd speculate that you only write in winter if Monty Don hadn't demonstrated that there's plenty to occupy the real fan even when the lawn and beds have been reduced to a tundra.

    Short stories, I see. I've scattered them through my blog, some deliberately limited to a thousand words, intended mainly as character studies. Others close to five thousand words, which Blogspot doesn't like, forcing me to split them in two. Kingsley Amis referred to his short stories as woodshavings, gathered from underneath his workbench on which he carved his novels. A bit silly really.

    I'm old enough to have seen Dig for Victory in action. Football pitches ploughed up to accommodate cabbage. Once - can this really be true? - a bowling green.

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    1. Walter Pater, being a whole lot more positive than you!
      You are right in saying that the camera loves Monty Don but I think that Monty loves the camera just as much. Sick to death of those two boring mutts that follow him sheepishly about the place. My garden is a space where I experience joy and surprise, it isn't disciplined, it doesn't rule me. If I feel like writing then I'll write. Good weather, however, always pulls me outside. We both write and are members of a writing group. I like to think that it is keeping our brains alert. (But I may be wrong.)

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  5. Possibly the only words of Walter Pater that are still read.

    Sure, writing keeps my brain alert. But with terror. I made a vow centuries ago that whereas my fiction would incorporate my life's experience it would always be more than the mere recycling of those events. That the stories I told would be works of imagination. Fine during my sixties and seventies but imagination is no respecter of age, a shocking flirt and recently went on a long holiday. It came back but my hold on it is now far more tenuous. I fear it may opt to stay at home, refuse to go to work - and there's the germ of short story idea which I shall never write. The novel has crept beyond 50,000 words and this may embolden me to take a whip to Mlle. Imagination.

    Good luck with the group. The Bradford Writers Circle helped my mother in her comparative old age (she died at 66). Not so much with her fiction but in managing to publish several of her poems.

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  6. Twenty-four hours later. Oh dear! Did you bring the wrath of the Gods on Nige's placid, virtually comatose head?

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