This page includes some short articles written by Society members on their Garden Memories and favourite gardens.
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My Garden Memories, Ros Needham, October 2020
My garden memories go back to my childhood in the 1960s, when my mother, grandmother and I regularly visited my great aunt and uncle, who lived at Linslade, on the outskirts of Leighton Buzzard. I was allowed to escape the adult chat by going out into the garden which was full of interesting things to discover. Their house was built in the 1930s when it was considered normal for people to want a decent sized garden. My uncle and aunt’s back garden was huge and extended to the open farmland of Bedfordshire beyond, so despite being in a town, the garden had a very rural feeling to it.
At the back of the house my uncle had an aviary where he kept a couple of colourful pheasants. I loved gazing through the wire netting and marvelling at their bright markings. From here the first part of the garden was laid out to a good sized lawn, with a well-stocked herbaceous border on the right and a tall laurel hedge on the left, screening them from the neighbours. Two neatly trimmed privet bushes flanked steps which lead down to the next part of the garden. One year my uncle found a spotted flycatcher’s nest in one of these bushes and took an egg for me; he would be prosecuted today. To one side was a small fish pond with goldfish and frogs and was one of the first things I always headed for. On one occasion, predictably, I fell in! To the other side were several home-made cold frames each topped with an old window frame. I used to love peering inside at the seedlings waiting to be planted out.
The middle part of the garden was given over to vegetables and fruit. The soil was light and sandy but each year my uncle worked in copious amounts of manure from his chickens, and the yields of his crops were impressive. He grew everything….. potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swedes, cabbages, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, lettuces, beetroot and others I’ve forgotten. There were also apple trees, a Victoria plum, a pear tree and many currant bushes, as well as strawberries and raspberries. We always came home laden with produce. Uncle grew far more than he and my aunt could use and undoubtedly gave most of it away. He had grown up on a farm and growing things was so much in his blood that he just couldn’t not do it.
A little stream made a natural boundary from the vegetable beds to the last part of the garden. A wooden bridge, made from a couple of old railway sleepers, lead on to where two poultry houses and chicken runs stood. I loved that stream. I couldn’t wait to slither down its bank and splash about in my wellies trying to catch minnows in a jam jar. The chickens produced far more eggs than uncle and auntie could use so again the neighbours were kept well supplied. This was another example of how my uncle could not shake off his farming background.
The whole garden had a vibrancy about it. It was colourful, interesting and something was always going on in it. My uncle was a good gardener; he nurtured and tended his plants with a knowledge and experience that did not come from books. Sadly, when I was in my early twenties, he died after a short illness. My aunt found someone to help keep the flower garden tidy, but the rest was left to go wild. It did not take long for brambles and nettles to take over where the once magnificent vegetables had been, and soon the poultry houses needed attention and started to fall down.
After a few years my aunt was approached by a property developer who was building houses in the fields at the end of her garden. She sold most of the garden to him and estate houses were built over it. Now there is nothing left of the lovely garden that once was. I sometimes wonder if the gardens of the new houses grow lush plants. If so it might be because the soil still has some of uncle’s chicken manure in it!