My Grandfather was a professional gardener, who worked for a garden enthusiast and writer – Avery Tipping. Together they renovated several manor house gardens in the Chepstow area of Monmouthshire. At one time there were over 40 gardeners working for my Grandfather and their garden renovations included digging out large lakes constructing stone walled terraces and re-establishing extensive kitchen gardens, rose gardens, perenial flower beds and planting many trees. Mr Tipping was the Gardening Correspondent for the News Chronicle and many of his gardens were featured in the Illustrated London News.
I only knew my Grandfather after he had retired and although he had a spectacular garden of his own, I did not spend long talking to him about his life. I wish I had, because I am sure there was much he could have taught me. Luckily he did pass onto me a love of gardening.
As I sit in my garden at the end of June, I am left pondering what he would have told me and how much can my garden tell me now about growing old.
It’s late June and the bursting buds of May and their floriferous fanfare in early June are now past. There is a time for every season and May is surely the crescendo of spring. My Grandfather gave my Mother the middle name of “May” – I am sure it must have been his favourite month given to his first daughter.
Lesson —- Cherish the time you share with your Grandparents, it’s too late to ask questions later. That’s a lesson for Grandparents too. You have much to pass on – family values, fond memories, living history and a wealth of understanding. Better and more sociable than any computer game.
By late June the first flush of roses are over but individual blooms are still there to cherish.
Lesson —- Everyone’s an individual waiting to bloom, they all should be appreciated for what they are. It’s not their age you should see, just the colour of their unique life. Old age is a time to sparkle and shine, that image paints memories in your mind for much longer than a lifetime.
The foxgloves are bent over slightly, but still beautiful in their country cottage memories. The delphiniums at their very best – standing proudly upright to attention, like guardsmen – Royal in their blues. The lupins in their yellow, white and pink dresses – ladies out in their Sunday best.
Lesson — Sundays, high days and holidays are always a time for dressing up. It reminds you and everyone else of who you are. I was always laughed at for getting dressed up at every opportunity. Top hat and tails for a day at the races; straw hats and blazers for garden shows; union jacks and jazzy waistcoats for promenade concerts at Symphony Hall and fancy dress at every opportunity – a cowboy on an umbrella walk in the park; Bill or Ben for a garden quiz; King Henry VIII for a banquet; a white suited sailor to go dancing.
Dressing down is not half as much fun, and many old people followed suit in dressing up and were younger for the day.
It’s good to have horizons. Now I’m looking forward to all the memories and lessons in the garden in the months ahead.