When I indulge in some Family History I realize that it is not just about old musty papers, and record offices. Not even about the genetics and world events. I remind those who come to the Living History group I host that the small seemingly insignificant aspects show facets of a life also. The books read, the music enjoyed, the everyday past-times. It is so with my mother.
Many think of her fondly in relation to the splendid cooking and hospitality she offered. A shy person, ill at ease in company, hospitality was her way of making friends. She was a homemaker. My memories of her place her in the garden, where she was happiest. Sometimes even on a scaffold decorating ridiculously high Victorian ceilings. Dressed in her navy boiler suit for both.
I have the photographs.
I have the recipes.
I also have her plants. Well offspring of offspring of some.
Forget-me-knots. They flourish here as if they were 'weeds'. Popping up here, there and anywhere I allow. I have a huge allowance tolerance:) they are many generations old now. The original plants date back to my childhood, the first move we ever made started them on their journey. Generations of self seeded plants have subsequently traveled with us, via the earth around the various pot plants we have taken with us.
I have ancestors who followed the railway routes to new homes and jobs, they can be tracked, these tiny, perky, tough fragilities have an invisible track, but here they are still within my sight. Declaring to me firmly it is spring again and ‘hey look we are still here.’
They come with the daffodils which are in every garden and another of her flowers, some of these may be offspring of the first but Mum would plant every garden full to bursting with them. She hated the winter with a passion to an extent that when she began to refuse to celebrate her winter birthday because of the cold and threat of snow, I moved it to a spring date. Informing everyone of the new birthday. She enjoyed it so much more.
There were plants she discovered in new gardens, such as the grape vine, that she wanted here, so we now, years after she has left us, could gather grapes. I tend to leave them for the birds. There was an sweet scented Azalea in one garden, 30 years ago, we both liked, I had been experimenting with various methods of propagation, book in one hand.
'Try it' she encouraged me,
'If it takes. . .'
We potted it up and it has traveled through 5 house moves to sit quietly here in our last garden. Still sweetly smelling, still delighting.
We moved roses which had been gifts or favourites of both Mum and Dad, one which has come from over 20 years ago; it is I think, soon to expire. I allow dandelions to seen where they will because Dad liked them so much. They have to be contained of course, I don’t want just them and nothing else! They make me smile though when I see them. The colour is what attracted Dad; the clocks are what I like, with reminders of my childhood counting the time with every puff:)
When we moved here Mum was with us for a few years but could no longer garden, only sit and enjoy, so I gave her fee rein to help with the planning of plants. She wanted a flower garden with soft fruit (for the tarts) I dug the ponds! Wall flowers were her delight and against all my principles I went of to purchase these annual delights - they are not annuals - why do we persist in planting out bundles of bare rooted, soggy plants, which may or may not take and flower. I tried an experiment. They are perennials I told her firmly, wait and see. We waited, they did not die during the winter -why would they? - they flowered the next year and the next. All the time she was alive, outside her window flowered the ‘annual’ wallflower.
The wallflowers are still here reminding me of her, they have seeded themselves to places that suit them better, the walls, the paviours; they discovered their new custodian actually liked having plants pop up in any old place. These plants flower earlier than the soggy bundles, I will turn a corner one morning to be met by a glorious riot of gold and bronze streaked with red. I will sit down with a coffee and contemplate.
The garden in our family is as good as any record office. It might not be traceable for generations after me; I am no noble house with elaborate garden plans ready for restoration. However I am content with this part of my history.