Slow painting

Sunday 1 January 2012

Looking back - and forward

Looking back - at my overly optimistic promise of a post before Christmas and lots of blog-visiting. Where did the autumn go? Weekends were swallowed up, and for the most part the plot has been unvisited. A question of out of sight rather than out of mind: I've been very conscious of it just 10 minutes walk away, hibernating under its (patchy) covering of green manure. It will be quite a reunion when we do get along after the New Year.

Looking back also at these retro illustrations. They almost have the look of engravings from a Victorian gardening treatise.

In fact they're from the Reader's Digest 'The Gardening Year', 1968. Don't you love it? "rewarding but seldom grown vegetables". Courgettes, seldom grown??? But who grew courgettes in 1968, at least in Scotland? I remember my first taste of green pepper - in 1977. Incredibly exotic. I remember the first time my mother and I ventured to use garlic in a recipe, circa 1976. We asked the greengrocer (NB greengrocer) for two cloves of garlic, being wholly ignorant that garlic was sold in bulbs.

I've been sorting through boxes of books in my Dad's loft this week, and have been enthralled by the discovery of The Gardening Year. A first edition too. Perhaps it'll be really valuable in about 200 years time.

Among the lurid-hued photos of bedding plants and flowering shrubs, the instructions for pruning newly planted floribunda roses, and the never-ending list of 'general tasks' for each month, was this little global warming prickle of anxiety.

This December's temperatures have seldom dipped below 4 degrees, it seems. And taking as a yardstick the year of my son's birth, 21 years ago, I remember watching for the first spikes of crocus and daffodils in February. For the past few years, despite frigid December temperatures, the spikes have been showing before Christmas.

But the looking forward I'm doing just now is to carving out a bit of time for the allotment. Perhaps I'll use The Gardening Year as my guide. So, for January: "The coldest month is the time to plan ahead with seedsmen's (sic) catalogues and to send mowers and other equipment for servicing." And "General Tasks: order seeds, gladioli, onion sets and shallots, and garden sundries such as tree stakes, pea sticks, bean poles, string, canes, insecticides, fertilisers and weedkillers." How many different kinds of stakes and sticks and poles and canes were there in 1968?


Jacqui said...

Ah - I have that book too - I love the RD complete guides. They are so - complete! I also remember tasting a pepper for the first time - Charles and Di's wedding, and we went for a picnic. I used it in a salad. I can taste it now! I am sure you will be refreshed and raring to go after your allotment break. Happy New Year. xx

freerangegirl said...

Beautiful illustrations! I can't wait to get on with the growing year ahead- happy new year to you and yours x

Andrea said...

Sounds like fun sorting through piles of books, good luck with your planning and ordering for the new growing season. We are in the middle of our Summer 40C today and 42C tomorrow, up early to water veggies and then hide in the house all day reading/blogging!

Mark Willis said...

In our parents' time (and before) gardeners had to be more careful I think, because they couldn't just go onto the internet or just pop up to the garden centre to replace something that had failed or got damaged. They also had to be more ingenious, since lots of the "technology" we take for granted these days was just not available.
And the seasons have definitely slipped!

Mal's Allotment said...

"but it is much colder in Scotland" !!!

How much use is that information? Harrumph.

Another green pepper ingenu. Those dire warnings about indegestion. Some less used vegetables still have to catch on - Salsify anyone?

Sue Garrett said...

Lovely sketches.

To add to Mark's comment new varieties of plants have also been bred that are more tolerant of our conditions. Like the peach we got to fruit in our garden last year when it wasn't exactly peach growing weather!

Rainy Day Gardener said...

Hi Linda, I love the advice for January you found in that book. It's definitely on my list. You've had a busy year already and I remember you saying that it would be and looking forward to more time in the allotment down the road. That's the beauty of gardening, sometimes we have phases in life that don't allow us to be in the dirt as often, but it calls to us and when we can get back, it's such a refreshing and nurturing exercise. My best to you and your family for a happy and healthy 2012! Cheers, Jenni

Kelli said...

A great article, I love old gardening books. My grandparents were fantastic gardeners and I wish I had all their knowledge and books they used (back in the day) for guidance and inspiration.

Cally said...

Lovely illustrations. I'm on a mission to get more Scottish gardeners like you to join the online gardening site Folia because Scotland is embarrassingly under-represented. Here's a link to my Folia page so you can see how it works:

It lets you list your plants, photo's, journals, milestones, seed stashes and much more. Also they have seed swapping, plant wiki and tons of specialist groups. One new group is Scottish Kitchen Gardeners so it'd be great to have folk like you their sharing in the trail, tribulations and successes of gardening in our very particular climate.

I must read more about your garlic growing, every year I plan to grow it and every year space, weather or time stop me.

Sanand said...

Happy New Year wishes to you, Linda. Thanks for sharing these interesting illustrations! I've never seen them before and it was good to read the details too.

Gunilla said...

Hi Linda.

I hope that you have a nice start on the new year.

I´m longing for spring so that I can start with gardening.

Have a nice week.


Janet said...

The 60s and 70s were a whole different world. I certainly don't remember my mother growing anything like courgettes. The most exotic veg she grew were asparagus and then it was only one crown. She didn't wantto get carried away... I love old gardening books. The illustrations are very fine.