The Book of Nature (Object 106)

1953 RHS medal

Auntie's 1953 RHS medal

Auntie’s 1953 RHS medal

Following on from my previous post, here’s another family badge of honour. This one was awarded to Auntie in 1953 by the Churt Horticultural Society (which still exists today), for her entry in “Section 2.” I don’t know what Section 2 was, but I do know that Auntie was an enthusiastic gardener. The gardens at Derwen were exquisite, partly due to the efforts of George Larby the gardener, but also due to Auntie’s own hard work: I can still remember her diligently weeding her lawn every day. And here, in the archives, is her 1930s gardening diary:

1930s Gardening diary DSC02402She notes work done and flowers picked, for church harvest festivals and sick friends. On the “Autumn” pages, a printed verse by Thomas Hood perfectly describes the weather outside my window today:

“Boughs are daily rifled
By the gusty thieves,
And the Book of Nature
Getteth short of leaves.”

In this section in 1937, Auntie has written:

“Larby pruned rasp. about end of Aug or 1st week Sept: rather too early, as he cut out canes which were fruity. He also tipped all canes?
Mid-Oct about 100-150 daffodils planted in new piece beyond wall – v. best (to 200) near gate. Winter jasmine moved.
Roses in round bed – 2 near bird bath – top dressed mushroom manure Oct. 30th.”

This is a lovey snapshot of Auntie’s life, instantly conjuring up my childhood memories of people and place. I remember George Larby, the taciturn gardener who was still tending her fruit and veg 30 years later when we used visit, but who was still only allowed to enter the house by the back door and even then confined to the scullery. I also remember his rosy  wife (Betty I think), Auntie’s housekeeper, and her home baking.  When they were threatened with eviction from their cottage in the lane around the corner, Auntie simply bought it for them.

I remember both the”roses in round bed” (a circular rose bed in the centre of her perfect lawn) and the bird bath, well. Brother 1 lent on the latter once, and snapped the delicate stem. Dad repaired it, but the crack always showed after that. This photograph must have been taken long before that episode:

Auntie by birdbath Derwen

Auntie by the birdbath at Derwen

…but the bird bath is in the same spot where I remember it, just outside the lounge window, where it would often be visited by Auntie’s friends Henry and Henrietta Chaffinch. I sometimes think of them, and of Auntie, when I watch the  chaffinches and other birds in my own south London garden, over 40 years later.

Weeding the lawn

Auntie tending her round rose bed, 1960s

With special thanks to Owen Llewellyn for the close-up medal photographs.


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in "Auntie" (Mabel Zoe Watson, Grandad Lane's cousin), Books, Diaries and journals and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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