Today’s blog is written by Hazel, one of our volunteers, who, like many of the other volunteers, brings a rich, personal heritage of gardening experience to her work in the Fota Victorian Working Garden.
I must have been about five years old when I used to help my Uncle Harry in his garden. He was a tall man and weeding under the shrubs was not the easiest for him. I remember being able to walk in under the branches to do the weeding there. Harry was a great flower arranger. We always knew when the Cork Summer Show was imminent, as he would arrive in our garden with his secateurs to see if we had anything to add to his latest creation. The horticultural section in the 1950’s was fantastic with very keen competition and Harry won many of the trophies every year. He later became a founder member of the Cork Flower Club.
My father was good at growing vegetables and fruit. I never remember us buying onions, for instance, as he grew a years supply each season. My sisters and I would be roped in to help with the weeding and harvesting.
My brother Bruce was interested in growing things from a very early age. He was a “natural”. He was always building ponds. Each one bigger than the last, until he built one big enough for us to swim in till the cement lining was properly “seasoned”. He even built an observation chamber at the deep end where we could look through the window and watch the wild life and gold-fish at the bottom. Bruce taught me a great deal including the importance of feeding the soil. He made wonderful compost heaps.
The next gardening “tutors” were my parents in-law. By now, my husband, Jonathan and I had our own garden which was planted in 1952 by an elderly couple but which had grown very wild.
It took a lot of hard work to tame the wilderness but was very satisfying. My father-in-law was a keen rose grower and advised me on the varieties to order from Sam McGredy’s in the North of Ireland. I still have those roses today. Piccadilly, Whisky Mac, Uncle Walter. Elizabeth of Glamis, and Chinatown, among other. My mother-in-law was very knowledgeable about flowers and shrubs and showed me how to take cuttings etc.
Piccadilly, Whisky Mac and Uncle Walter
After a few years we had three little boys under three years of age so there was little time for gardening. However, as time passed the garden became more colourful as I collected more plants on the many visits to garden centres with my sisters and friends.
It is a great joy to share such a fulfilling interest with them and now that my sons ( soon there were 4) have their own gardens and are getting interested, it is even better.
Five years ago I retired and applied to Fota House and Gardens to become a volunteer in the Victorian Working Garden. Our time there is spent propagating plants and welcoming visitors to the beautiful walled garden where the restored Victorian glasshouses are situated.
I am still learning new things every week from Bernard the Head Gardener and other Volunteers who share their knowledge from a lifetime of gardening.
I consider myself very lucky to have been involved in gardens in a practical way from an early age and thankful for the knowledge I garnered from those around me without really realising it. I hope that I will be able to continue gardening for many years to come.
Sweet Pea and Glasshouse photographs copyright: Fotaframeyardblog
Logo of Cork Flower Club: https://www.facebook.com/CorkFlower/