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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

The sanctuary of gardens

During this lock-down period, those of us lucky enough to have a garden are extremely fortunate. Perhaps some have realised the value of their outside space for the first time and are using it to full advantage. One online seed supplier announced on their website last week that demand had increased ten-fold.

Gardens have played a key part in my family's history and I have several ancestors who worked as gardeners. My sister and I were brought up with stories about the games Mum used to play in her garden in Wolverhampton during WWII. There was an apple orchard at the end and Mum would use the windfalls in her games, such as chopping them up to make "chips" in her imaginary Fish & Chip shop.

As children, we loved playing in the garden when we visited my gran. Although by then the orchard had been sold, the garden still had plenty of space, with a couple of remaining apple trees, two sizeable lawns, flower beds, a vegetable patch and brick paths to run up and down.

My paternal granddad, (Ernest) George Shelley was a gardener by trade. My grandparents had a greenhouse in their garden and whenever I smell home grown tomatoes, it takes me back to the wonderful scent of tomato plants growing in granddad's greenhouse, along with pelargoniums and coleus plants.

When my dad was born in 1929, Granddad worked for the Martin family (associated with the famous Tarmac road surface manufacturer) in a large house called The Foxhills. My grandparents, my dad and his brother lived in the lodge at the end of the drive.

The photo on the left below was taken on the lawn at The Foxhills, the rest in two other gardens my granddad worked in.

It was interesting to note that before the First World War, granddad was an apprentice gunsmith. When he married in 1921 he was still working in the gun trade but shortly afterwards he changed careers and spent the rest of his working life - and his semi-retirement - as a gardener. I wonder if his switch was influenced by his wartime experiences?



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