How Did Your Love Of Gardening Begin?

I was asked recently to write a piece on where my personal gardening passion came from. The origins of inspiration is a subject which interests me in both my work with children and my writing. This is what emerged when I put pen to paper…

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All it takes is someone to sow the seeds                                     Thank you Granny xxx

As a child scrambling though the scrubby heather on Conwy mountain, a world of sensations stretched out in every direction. Buzzards and herring gulls calling, the honey scent of gorse: a back note behind the salty warm air, bilberry foliage leading to the ripe, tight capsules, each a burst, a sharp tang, hidden treasure on the wild slopes.

Nature was a constant thread in my life, from my two year old self in red wellies gardening with my dad, to a teenager walking the Welsh lanes with Granny, who loved nothing better than knocking hazelnuts down with a long stick, teaching me about wild flowers and scrumping in nature reserves, much to the horror of my father.

When I look back to where this connection with nature began, how it evolved, the end of the thread eludes me. It is woven into my past by inspiring individuals, my father and grandmother who spoke the language of the natural world, biology teachers who revealed the minutiae of plants and my English professor pointing out the spots where Wordsworth saw the Borrowdale Yews and the ‘host of golden daffodils’. My first garden gave me space to experiment with blackberries, daffodils, pelargoniums and mallow; each an exciting foray into new botanical worlds. Twenty years since this first garden and my love of working with plants and making garden spaces has grown far beyond the reach of secateurs or loppers.

The family allotment often sees three generations enjoying planting, sowing, harvesting or simply watching as the red kites and green woodpeckers fly overheard, or the wild poppies and purple salsify attracting bees in the verges. We share our astonishment at the immense size of our sweet tromboncinos and I wonder if the teachers will be concerned when my children tell them that raspberries are yellow or carrots purple.

Our garden is a place of fascination, experimentation and happiness. A modest space where edible and ornamental plants lovingly cohabit. Flowers for cutting are welcome residents in the vegetable beds and our front garden, ostensibly suburban in style, conceals a hidden allotment in its Chilean guava hedge, thyme path and green-roofed binstore. The side strip of garden, a blue drift of drought-tolerant planting with globe thistles, lavender, Russian sage and morning glory, is all the more satisfying for its communal nature as we garden it with next door who own half of the border.

There’s so much joy in reaching out to others through gardening. My adventitious roots are now firmly buried in my local community garden, I design outdoor spaces for local families, often surrounding areas for play and relaxation with edible, wildlife-friendly and scented planting. Engaging others through language, design and the sheer exhilaration of feeling your hands in the soil completes the growing cycle, this tapestry of intertwining natural threads that teaches, nourishes and inspires.

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We always had a bag or pot in hand!

This piece was one of three written for a Gardeners’ World magazine competition which I was fortunate enough to win. The feedback from the Gardeners’ World panel really made my summer:

‘stand-out winner of the writing competition: it’s Nic Wilson. Lovely writer, lyrical and reflective but also showed the strongest appreciation of style – general journalistic tone and magazine voice.’

It’s so interesting to consider how people first become engaged with the natural world. As a teacher, it has been fascinating to see the different responses from my students – some are inspired by their reading, their peers or their teachers, others by childhood experiences or learning new skills as young adults.

I’m keen to know how other gardeners first became engaged with the natural world. Please leave me a comment – I’d love to collate responses for a follow-up blog post (if respondees don’t mind). The answers will also be helpful to inform my work with children and my writing – I’m currently working on the chapter of a book considering how our relationship with nature begins. Many thanks and happy gardening!

Quick update: the response to my question about where our gardening inspiration comes from has been overwhelming. There have been stories about RAF gardens and air raid shelters, Victorian coal cellars, memorial gardens, knowledgeable friends and family members, and wonderful pictures of gardens and the people who inspired them. I’ve spent the past few days reading and responding to over 200 gardeners who have shared their stories about the origin of their love of gardening and nature.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to over 25,000 words about a love of plants and where it began. I’ll be reviewing the material in more detail over the next few weeks for a follow-up post and working it into a book on our relationship with the natural world. But in the meantime, the most common ways gardeners have been inspired are: through friends and family, individual plants or gardens, smells, tastes and textures, for gardening’s healing properties, through childhood experiences at school, through a desire to interact with nature and attract/protect it and through an early reading of the fabulous I-Spy books!

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Happy times!

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70 thoughts on “How Did Your Love Of Gardening Begin?

  1. cavershamjj says:

    My mother gardens, and her dad, my grandfather had a nice garden with a greenhouse. If I had an inspiration guess that’s where it’s from. But mostly I feel like I’ve just slid into it in my 40s.

    Like

  2. Endija O'Donoghue says:

    My mother loves flowers and gardening. My grandmother was the same and my great-grandmother as well. I grew up seeing wonderful flowers and their smell I will never forget. Now I like to grow the same flowers as my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother as they remind me of my childhood. My kids see and smell them now. I hope they will love the same flowers too.

    Like

    • dogwooddays says:

      How lovely that, like me, you can trace your inspiration back over several generations! I think smell is a key element in creating memories which encourage us to garden. I too, hope my own children will be inspired to pass their love of the natural world on to the next generation. Have a happy weekend 🙂

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  3. Eileen Garner says:

    Earliest garden memory. As a small child, playing in the big back garden of our council house. Smelling the catmint bordering the path and picking gooseberries from the prickly bushes at the end.
    Then helping my Nanna weed her garden, and learning to leave the groundsel and chickweed to pick for her budgie.
    And as a teenager, going on WEA trips to country houses with my mum, and seeing amazing topiary and exotic plants in the gardens, and writing these experiences into my weekly school English essay.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you! Interesting that sight, smell and touch all form part of your early natural memories. I’m interested your writing influenced you. As you translated these experiences into language, did it create more profound influences and memories? Do you still have any of these essays?

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      • Eileen Garner says:

        I am sure writing about what I saw and did in gardens and the countryside generally strengthened the positive effect of my experience. And I find there is an extra dimension to the satisfaction I feel when I read my thoughts and memories. Having other people read my writing when young and giving positive comments gave me a sense of security in who I was in the natural world.
        I kept one book of essays. Powerful memories!

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        • dogwooddays says:

          Really interesting to hear about the relationship between nature and the written word in your childhood. Your written pieces must be a lovely way to remember those early natural experiences. I also remember the impact of writing poetry about the countryside when I was young – it helped me to interpret what I was seeing and its importance in my life. Words still have that powerful effect on me – both writing my own and reading inspiring work by other writers. 🙂

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  4. Jan says:

    Such a lovely article about childhood experiences. I think my childhood held an implicit belief in the fact that nature would provide. Grandparents knew where we could go foraging for mushrooms and knew which ones were safe to eat, even if it did involve tiptoeing across a field that turned out to have an untethered bull in it. Blackberrying was another family adventure , with sandwiches that tasted of Tupperware – we had to eat them all so we could bring home the berries. Where did we get the apples from for the crumbles and jam?no recollection of growing them, so maybe we scrumped them down a country lane somewhere too. Damsons were treasures to find at an allotment where the only shelter was in a shed made from old doors, very confusing to a child as they all seemed to have doorknobs! Wine that tasted like whisky made from parsnips; elderberry wine became one of the first things I made in my own home- the sound of the bottle that exploded one night, crashing against a wall and painting the floor red was terrifying but also a sign that I had joined the family saga of culinary experts. Picking all of my Dads tomatoes when they were green didn’t bode well, but he showed me how to grow enough vegetables to feed an army, let alone a small family. Grandad who exhibited his prize dahlias and chrysanthemums would take me to the show tents and glow with pride when he found his certificates, but woe betide me if I stepped on his soil ! Grandma would make everything taste delicious, even sour green gooseberries in her pies and jams. Pickling onions was a family competition to see whose were sweetest or crunchiest…somehow it is in my blood, I can’t stop growing, tasting, trying new ways and experimenting with new crops- long may it continue.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Your response itself is a treasure Jan – thank you for it. I love the way taste and the way the crops were transformed in to all sorts of different flavours is such a part of your memories. Interesting how often grandparents are part of people’s early nature memories. I’m so glad it’s in your blood and enthusiasm like yours will help us to make it part of other people’s blood too. Thank you!

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  5. oldhouseintheshires says:

    Lovely post! I can trace back my love of gardening and nature on being outside most of my childhood; up a tree, looking for fairies in the woods, playing ‘war’ with my 4 brothers and wading in the pond looking for tadpoles……no adults in sight (well there may have been but I don’t remember them being there!) It was a countryside existence of often being covered in mud and loving every minute of it. My parents were not gardeners and nor were my grandparents as they loved in London and didn’t have a garden. My parents moved to the countryside when they married for work and I think it was all a shock to them! But for us children, it was a wonderful, happy childhood. As a teen I was very into environmental issues and I think this led to my love of gardening. x

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you for your memories! I also developed an early love of nature which led me, later, to gardening. What impact do you think the lack of free-roaming has on today’s kids? Do you think it affects their experience and relationship with the natural world?

      Liked by 1 person

      • oldhouseintheshires says:

        I really do, yes. I teach so I see this with my own eyes. I have to teach the children the names of trees such as the oak tree (!). We do have The Forest School movement which is helping a little but the risk taking we did as children is not happening. Sad really. We must teach our children about the natural world if we have any chance of protecting it.

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  6. Mrs B says:

    Great article! As a child I hated tomatoes until I tried my Grandad’s homegrown. Then we moved house and my mum decided to dig up a corner of the lawn to make a veg patch. This was truly radical to me, I’d never been allowed to dig up a lawn before but I’ve never looked back 😊

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you! How lovely that homegrown produce gave you that early experience. Taste is so important in my early gardening memories too. And then sharing the practical element with your mum – gardening is such a great adventure! 🙂

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  7. Mrs M says:

    All inspiration came from my Maternal side, Mum was a great gardener and likewise her Mum and on and on. I remember the cold frames and a big vegetable plot. Down at the end of the garden was an orchard with fruit a plenty. A great place for a den too!. And roses …… lots and lots of roses, a plant I absolutely adore but am still rubbish at growing! 😄

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    • dogwooddays says:

      That’s great that you can trace back the gardening inspiration so far! It’s lovely when childhood gardens have space for explore and create private spaces. I also used to love climbing our huge Scot’s Pine with an apple and a book. My young kids have a much smaller garden than I had – that’s why I planted the willow den to try and give them a natural space. But I do think as gardens get smaller and kids roam free less, it’s hard for them to engage with nature…

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  8. Carol Foster says:

    Earliest memories are of picking and tasting wood sorrel, and breathing in narcissus in our Southern California backyard. To be outdoors was to feel free, a release from indoor constraints.
    When I was a little older, in the 1980s, we were paid $.25 per 5 gallon bucket filled with weeds we’d picked (southern Utah this time). I didn’t enjoy it, but it was worth the money! It was satisfying to learn how to get the weeds out by the root, and to clear a plot.
    Our dad took bets on which day the seeded grass lawn would sprout- I won!
    Gardening in England for 10 years was so rewarding- trying to capture the essence of the cottage garden of my dreams, and being amazed at the ease of growing with all that moisture. When we finally got our allotment, we spent hours working together or doing our own thing there- tackling the knotweed and rhubarb, digging rows, the youngest collecting runner beans.
    Good luck with your project!

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you Carol. It’s interesting how many people are citing taste, smell and touch as vivid childhood memories of nature. Also interesting to hear about your different experiences in different climates of the world. Thanks for your support and have a great evening!

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  9. Cathy Coulthard says:

    My mum says she knew I’d be a gardener when she found me, aged two, enthusiastically deadheading every daffodil in the garden. As they’d only been in flower since the previous afternoon, I don’t think she was too impressed!!
    My grandparents (mum’s side) also inspired me. They each had their own section of their garden. Grandpa grew runnerbeans and sweetness. Grandma grew roses and scented geraniums. You never saw them without gardening gloves and rather dubious cardigans, doing something with twine or secateurs. If I look at my garden and think “Grandma would have liked that,” then I know I’ve achieved something to be proud of.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Made me chuckle!! I think we all know enthusiastic children like that! It’s lovely that your garden brings back memories of your grandparents and what they would have thought had they been there. It’s wonderful how connected people feel to their family history when they garden. I’ve had over 40 responses so far this evening on the blog and Facebook – and the vast proportion of gardeners have highlighted how they have inherited their love of plants from parents/grandparents, and many have commented on the way they feel connected to the past when they garden. Hopefully these natural enthusiasms will pass to the next generation who might make a better job of respecting the natural world than previous generations!

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  10. Mark Bevis says:

    My dad used to grow food in the garden, but at the time I didn’t think much of it, other than eating peas straight out of the pod. I’ve never had a house with a garden, so hadn’t been able to grow anything.
    I now grow potatoes and flowers in milk cartons and tubs in my front yard, and work at Incredible Edible Burnley as a volunteer.

    I think getting into growing came from a doctor’s prescription to get out walking in nature after a mental health episode. I was then able to move to a house with a front yard space that is a sun trap. That, coupled with joining the Green Party, following climate change, observing DWP sanction regimes, and reading about soil degredation internationally, convinced me that I needed to get back in touch with nature as much as possible, and this includes growing, well anything.
    I worked for a year at a local community farm, and am now watching as our district gets more and more community growing plots (there’s an 8 year waiting list for allotments). From May to November last year I didn’t have to buy any potatoes, what with growing in my tubs and community plots. Not done quite as well this year, but have a hefty crop of peas on the way.

    Growing your own food is an act of rebellion, fighting the ever-pervading neo-liberal assault on our environment. It is also an act of survival. By 2040 the communities that are not growing their own food will be the ones that disappear. Gardening, as apposed to growing food, comes into it via companion planting. I just like to mix in flowers with my veg, and this contributes to a more balanced eco-system, and makes the places look nicer.

    On reflection the need to connect with nature has always been there, and is I think in everybody’s subsconscious. In my case I wasn’t able to enact on it until 7 years ago.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting response. I love the fact that you are growing so much in tubs and working with others to grow in community spaces. From my own work in community gardens I know how important it is to enable people to grow whatever their home situation – either in community gardens, containers or even on windowsills. It teaches a key life skill and the more we learn to value where our food comes from as communities, the more likelihood we will solve some of the essential environmental challenges facing us in the future. Best wishes for the community growing Mark 🙂

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  11. Jane Harper says:

    My experience in my early years must have been pretty much like your own although I don’t remember much before I was 6. We emigrated to Australia and lived in the Adelaide foothills.
    Initially I remember collecting caterpillars on the way to and from school only to find them squashed in my ‘muff’ later. I graduated to taking lizards home and penning them ……. don’t worry, they were always gone the next morning.
    There was a particular branch down by the creek which was always covered in butterflies in the evening and another beautifully curved close to the ground which acted as a ‘dreaming’ place. As I was a pretty solitary child I would find my pleasure in the outdoors, I tanned like an Aboriginal, – the other girls didn’t – it was as though there was only me, the flora and fauna. The poor flora was often pulled up and taken home in an effort to make my own wildlife garden, of course the plants died. Then my grandparents came to join us and my grandfather turned a section of land into a veritable food store with a few chickens to join in. Grandad gave me seeds to plant, they never grew but I kept trying, of course rain was sparse and watering was forgotten.
    My favorite book was ‘The Observers Guide to British Birds’, in Australia but we had Starlings and Sparrows.
    Several years later and back in Britain my Grandmother was an inspiration with her jams, chutneys, freshly backed bread and pies. My Grandfather with his veg and prize Chrysanthemums. I would help my father build a rockery and spend hours in the shed getting a birds box just right.
    When I owned my first home I filled it with house plants, all begged cuttings and made jam with what were then cheap PYO strawberries.
    A husband, 3 children and a smallholding later much of our food was home produced.
    This brings me to a Chronic Pain condition and needing a wheelchair friendly garden though plans for food are afoot.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you Jane – what a lot of wonderful responses everyone is sharing this evening. It’s like reading a book full of inspiring stories of lives intertwined with nature. I feel really priviledged to be able to read these accounts and yours made me smile – what lovely memories! I too, have a childhood filled with memories of birds and animals and would love a small holding if we can ever afford one. Sorry to hear you are suffering, but hopefully with a wheelchair-friendly garden you’ll be able to get out among the plants once again. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Nic 🙂

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  12. Jonathan Dean says:

    My mother is a keen gardener and started me aged four. Both sets of grandparents gardened, one for a living. Gardening was just what people do

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  13. Linday says:

    I love my garden although I wouldn’t class myself as a keen gardener and I think my family are similar. However, we have a shared love of the outdoors, gardening and my garden is part of thatc

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Lindsay – I think a love of the outdoors and nature often goes hand in hand with a love of garden spaces, even if people don’t necessarily see themselves as ‘gardeners’ per se. Being in the garden, seeing the plants and the wildlife, is as much part of the joy for me, as the plants themselves 🙂

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  14. Marc Fiedler says:

    as a child a)my dad did veg gardening. b) i spent a lot of time with my aunt who had a loganberry bush – sweet ! c) as a toddler a very old lady looked after me all day as parents at work .she asked me to cut her overgrown lawn with her sowing shears and i found a hiddden pond with live fish. also various plants and insects. as an adult i grew veg for food and did flowers and trees when we moved to large /house mature garden . got lost in magical world of nature . got involved deeper when my daughter got her phd in nature conservation .

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Fabulous memories – thank you! You’ve reminded me of a loganberry bush I used to raid in a house belonging to one of my grandparents’ friends in North Wales – the berries were one of the sweetest, most delicious fruits I’d tasted – to the extent that all loganberries tasted as an adult have only the merest hint of those childhood berries! Great that your daughter has been inspired too and no doubt is making a difference to nature and the lives of others through her work. Have a great evening Marc!

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  15. Alan Garner says:

    My earliest gardening memory also dates back to childhood. Despite having a tiny garden, my dad was always very keen on his summer bedding plants and his greenhouse tomatoes. I can still remember the smell of the various fertilisers stored in his garage sanctuary. Despite this, I took little interest in gardening through my adolescent and early adult years. What really fired my enthusiasm was when we bought our first house and found we had a small allotment at the bottom of the garden! Consequently, I developed a love of growing fruit and vegetables, but with little interest in anything that could not be eaten. As the years have gone by, my interests have moved from the functional more towards the decorative, but I feel sure that my horticultural exploits owe their origin to my dad’s love of gardening all those years ago.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      That’s a great story of how a love of gardening can grow and develop over the years – thank you for sharing. I think quite often finding a plot which needs caring for can be a catalyst, especially if the seeds were sown in childhood 🌱😊

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  16. humanbutkind says:

    As a child I had to help my dad cultivate his vegetable patch and I hated it. It involved doing repetitive tasks that he had set out for us to do, under his strict instructions.
    I liked nature and plants a lot but it’s not gardening that made me appreciate them; rather, it was playing. Rolling on the grass, hide and seek, tree climbing… I also liked picking fruits: cherries, blackberries, hazelnuts…I was lucky to have access to a large garden and I smelled of grass most evenings by the time I went to bed. I still love that smell.

    Most of my favourite flowers where weeds to the grownups. You can make fantastic flower crowns from bind weed, if you want to be a princess in a natural castle. In French (my native language) weeds are called “bad herbs” and I thought it was unfair to call them “bad”.

    The first time I’ve had a go at gardening of my own initiative was at secondary school. I’d spotted a weed (with a pretty flower) growing in a place where it would get trampled very quickly. I got it out of the ground and replanted it in a safer place on the edge of the school playground. Soon, I found a couple more pretty weeds to plant next to the first one. And that’s about it. I don’t pretend this ever became anything more than 3 weeds relocated to a new spot. But it was my idea, my design, my first deliberate gardening experience.

    Fast forward many years, and I became a busy grown-up. I missed the open spaces I got to enjoy as a child but found walks in the park boring. So I got an allotment on a very nice site surrounded by trees and with plenty of lawns and space. I think I now understand what my dad liked about vegetable gardening. The planning. The business of being outside. The seasons. The attempt at taming nature. Most of all it’s the connection to the natural world I enjoy, the contact with the soil. I have gardening gloves, but I don’t use them often…

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you for this – made me smile as I read it. I also love gardening most for the connection to nature, the smells, sounds, sights, tastes, texture and memories. I love that you saw value in the weeds – often as I walk in the countryside it’s the ‘weeds’ which give me most pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to respond to the post – I feel privileged to be able to see though little windows into people’s lives and the source of their gardening inspiration. Best wishes with your allotment 😊

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  17. JudyB says:

    This is a lovely piece Nic. I do so hope you’ve gone in for a certain other competition this year, as I feel sure you should win it. And well deserve to.
    Having enjoyed your company at Hampton Court earlier in the summer, and appreciated your great knowledge and passion for all things flora, I know first hand that your garden media journey is thorough, authentic and can only go in one direction x

    Like

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you Judy, that’s such a lovely comment. I love taking and writing about my love of plants and nature – sharing that joy with others is why I blog. The gardening world is a generous and fun one, and I’ve learnt so much from meeting other gardeners over the past few years. I also very much enjoyed your company at Hampton Court – talking about plants with knowledgeable gardeners in such a splendid setting – what a treat! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Denis Cannon says:

    For me the magic of gardening comes from my 1950’s childhood in Kent at a time when the country had far fewer people and nature was allowed to develop without interference. The smells and sights of those days are still with me and gave me a passion for nature which has increased with each year. I decided some forty plus years ago that I would one day have a large plot of land all to myself and that ambition never wavered. I now live in a 100 year old farmhouse with three acres of land, including a half acre of woodland.
    With this passion for nature came an intention to assist nature in any way possible which is where gardening became so important to me. Quite simply I garden for nature. Every tree, shrub or flower that is planted or sown is one that is beneficial to insects or animals and mostly, but not always, a uk native. The result of this is that I have seven ponds all teeming with wildlife, an abundance of poppies, cornflowers, corn marigolds, wild carrot and knapweed filling the borders I’ve dug, all interspersed with insect friendly shrubs such as Buddleia, St John’s Wort and a variety of grasses. Gardening is now the main part of my life and I love every second of it.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you Denis – I really enjoyed reading your account of how your love of nature and gardening came about. Interesting that one stemmed from the other. I think that’s the way round it happened for me too. Best wishes with what sounds like a rich and wonderful garden 😊

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  19. Flighty says:

    My mum was a passionate gardener so I suppose it was inevitable that I would be too. She had a large informal garden where children played, pets roamed and wildlife encouraged. I always enjoyed helping her until she died and the house sold. I then moved into a flat, where I still live, which has no garden which I’ve always regretted. Ten years ago, when I was approaching sixty and starting to work part-time, I took on a half-plot allotment just a few minutes walk away. I grow lots of flowers as well as soft fruit and vegetables, and happy to see wildlife from bees to the robin and a fox on the plot, Plotting, and blogging about it, has been good for my head, heart and soul. It’s been a part of my life that mum would definitely have approved of. xx

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Such a great way to garden – for plants, children and wildlife! And how lovely that you have created an allotment which mixes ornamentals and edibles with spaces for nature. This is the kind of gardening which excites me and which I love writing about and sharing! Thank you for your comment 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Stephen says:

    My love of gardening came from my father, he was in the RAF and in every house (married quarters) he would set up a massive vegetable garden and we always had fresh vegetables to eat. When I moved away from home I missed the drama of the vegetable garden and fresh vegetables and this inspired me to grow my own.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      I love the idea of the drama of the vegetable garden – it is just like that! The sowing, tending and waiting, all for that final performance when you harvest, cook and eat the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour! Thanks Stephen 🙂

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  21. chronickillerinstinct says:

    We always grew peas in our garden when we were children but I never took an interest in gardening until I was much older. It started when my grandmother passed away and I wanted to buy her a plant that could stay by her grave as she was fond if gardening. I bought her a hardy hibiscus and tended it with my limited knowledge and watched as it withered. I spent a lot of time researching and trying silly techniques out to keep it thriving, often doing more harm than good. The hibiscus never did make it to her grave (yet) and is still in my possession. Anyway, I took an interest to houseplants and now have them scattered all over the place, constantly challenging my knowledge and forcing me to learn more. This turned onto a hobby and I now grow a lot of outdoor flowers, have a few maple trees and eventually took on 2 allotment plots. I spend most of my spare time there now and really enjoy it! Hopefully my grandma will approve and one day maybe I’ll take her hibiscus to her and have the courage to leave it there!

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  22. Jack says:

    Lovely post, I feel inspired to get involved, so, I’ll try keep it short:

    My earliest memory of ‘gardening’ ( sort of ) is when I was about 6 or 7 in primary school ( maybe younger) when everyone else were just starting to join the schools football teams and so on and I had no interest whatsoever. But I did feel left out. Then, an advert for an after school ‘Gardening Club’ was advertised, ran by the school caretaker (Doubling as Santa in the grotto at Christmas) : I was over the moon; I was finally going to be in a ‘club’. A part of something. Anyway I turned up for it and There was only one other person attending. I remember we sowed some sunflower seeds. Never knew what happened with them as that was the both the first and the last session. I was gutted. How sad !

    A few years afterwards, my love for gardening dwindled a bit after A) I tried to help out by sowing some more grass seed on the new lawn my dad was making ( but actually scattering most of the seed into the borders – and as punishment I had to pick out as many as the seeds as I could find- harsh.)
    And B) A few months later I mowed over the grass cutters cable.

    As a teenager my interest compelely dipped.

    Then, aged about 20, mid-way through uni on a course I didn’t enjoy with a Job that was… ok, but not what I wanted to do. And not knowing what I wanted to do, it found me again. It got me:

    My Dad’s a Head Gardener you see, his Dad gardener for the council. His brother is now the head of that same councils horticultural department.

    I know it sounds cliche, but I think it’s engrained in me. In the blood.

    It was a slow process, falling back in love with it, doing a bit here, a bit there. Then realising the amazing effect it can have on the body and mind, doing the weeding or pruning with not a care in the world, not a thought in mind.

    I can’t imagine not having an interest now, and I am now currently in the process of trying to switch careers into the Horticulture sector.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Jack – thank you so much for contributing. I enjoyed reading your gardening memories and also visiting your blog – can’t believe I’ve not found it before! Even more so as you’re gardening in one of the best places in the world. I studied and taught in Durham for a decade and met my husband there. I’ve not been back for 14 years (a fact which makes me sad and which I must remedy soon), so reading your posts about favourite gardens such as Alnwick gives me great pleasure. Have you visited Durham Botanical Gardens? One of my early inspirations – interesting how few people have cited a specific garden (except their own) as an inspiration to garden – more often it’s a friend, family member, particular plant, flower, smell or taste… I know I will enjoy following your horticultural journey (I’m also having a great time retraining) – very best wishes. (ps. I loved your picture of the nuthatch 🙂 )

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      • Jack says:

        Do you know I don’t think I’ve seen a nuthatch since I took that picture, they’ve become quite elusive around here. Yes, I feel the north east is a misunderstood part of the country; often for the wrong reasons. Your right, it’s a brilliant place. With some great gardens: And I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t visited Durham Botanic Gardens, in fact I forgot they even existed till you mentioned them. Shall have to add them to the list. Where in Durham did you live? Thanks for the kind comments about my blog. I Shall also enjoy following yours! Yes that’s a good point ; I suppose if I had to pick a specific garden it would be the one where my Dad is gardener ( I’ve wrote about the gardens on my blog before see ‘ photo gallery – testing a new garden trail.’ But in terms of popular public gardens I think I’d really struggle; like being asked ‘what’s your favourite song’ I suppose. Anyway , I hope you can get back up for a visit to Durham soon. Best Wishes, Jack.

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        • dogwooddays says:

          I’ve not seen one for a while either, although I’ve heard them around… I was in the centre (right opposite the botanic gardens) and then in Crossgate Moor for several years – teaching at Framwellgate School. We also loved going to Washington WWT, although not a garden as such. Happy days 🙂

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          • Jack says:

            Ah the actual city itself, how lovely! Don’t get there nearly as often as I’d like to. I live a little further south on the county border of Durham and Yorkshire ( on the Durham side) but as York city is actually closer ( not much in it really- just easier on the train) I’ll tend to go there. Although my local town, just over the bridge , Yarm-on-Tees ( you might have heard of Yarm?) usually has everything I need. Ideal location for seeing the best of both counties too. I shall definitely try to make a day out to Durham and it’s Botanic garden soon 😊👍. Thanks again for the recommendation. Best Wishes,

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  23. Jessica Foley (@ModernMomsLife) says:

    My parents were avid gardeners during my entire childhood. They had small flower beds around the house, and quite a large vegetable garden at the back of our yard. I remember taking our Barbies and other toys outside to play in the “jungle” that was the garden by our back door. My mom made lots of canned items from her garden to last us through the winter. It’s a great skill to have, but I didn’t learn along with her. Now I regret that a bit, but I did inherit a somewhat green thumb. Growing my own vegetables is so rewarding!
    ~Jess

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Jess, I guess you’re picking up a lot of the knowledge yourself though and then you’ll be able to pass it to others and keep the gardening and cooking skills alive. Rewarding is exactly the word for growing your own – in so many ways 😊

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  24. Alison says:

    Hi Nic, I hope you’re not fed up with stories of people’s early gardening experiences because I’ve got around to sharing mine at last. Your post chimed with me because I’d recently been watching old cine films of my family when we were young. Most of the filming was done when we were playing in the garden and right from early toddling days, out of four siblings I am the one to be seen messing with the flower beds – far more than the other three! Where does that spring from so early in life? Beyond that I just remember a string of strong impressions and experiences that I feel were influential. My father encouraging us to collect worms from the soil (probably to keep us occupied!), then buying them from us and tipping them back into the garden. An African violet I nursed back to health on my bedroom windowsill and my mother being generous with praise and saying I had ‘green fingers’ (I found that flattering and I think made it part of my idea of myself). The cress and carrot tops we grew in the kitchen (and the damp bread we kept in plastic bags to grow mould gardens – moaned about by my mother but tolerated!) And a faint, possibly imaginary, but compelling impression of the backyard of my grandparents’ guesthouse in Hove. I think it was a damp, ugly spot, bounded by concrete walls (maybe even topped with jagged pieces of glass), mostly ignored by my grandparents and just prowled by their two Siamese cats – except that my grandfather grew some pretty fantastic tomatoes out there. Much later – an elderly lady who let me look around her very long and low wooden greenhouse and showed me her succulent and cacti collection and, what really took my eye, avocado stones sprouting in jam jars. Then there was ‘The Good Life’ on the telly, (an vital antidote to school) and reading my dad’s copy of Seymour’s ‘Self-Sufficiency’. I suppose these moments we remember are mostly those when we feel most alive – anyway I ended up a true and life-long addict – even borrowing a little garden when I was a university student and growing curly kale absolutely smothered with whitefly! Alison.

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Alison, no not fed up at all – it’s has been a privilege and really interesting to hear everyone’s stories, all so different but equally strongly felt. Thank you for sharing your memories – really outlines how important those early experiences with nature are. I love the idea of mould gardens – something I missed out on, unless that was what my mother was cultivating at the back of the fridge!! I’m hoping to write about the responses in a few weeks when I’ve finished reading and compiling them – so I’ll definitely include your stories. Have a great evening, Nic ☺

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