5 November 2012

The Gardening Gene

I inherited my love of gardens from my maternal grandmother.  As small children we spent our summer holidays at Nowa Nowa in East Gippsland, setting out from Melbourne before dawn so that the car radiator wouldn’t boil in the summer heat.

Nana had a large rambling garden with a long winding driveway.  The air smelt of roses, especially the scent of the climbing Black Boy beside the kitchen window.   
Circa 1948
Nana hated housework, preferring instead the creative pursuits of cooking and gardening.  When cooking, she managed to get flour on her glasses, down her front and in her hair as she whipped up the most amazing scones and cakes.   

The kitchen had emerald green linoleum on the floor, with a bright coloured block pattern. When Nana did get around to housework, she would wash the kitchen floor, rub it with bees wax and get us to be the polishers.  We would don old socks and her huge bloomers and skid around on our bottoms till the floor gleamed.

One of our favourite spots in the garden was the raspberry patch.  We could climb under the brambles unseen, and pick the berries to our heart’s content.

One day we were caught.  Nana spied us there and with a roar, she descended on us, grey hair flying, laundry prop held high above her head, like Boadicea attacking the Romans.  Luckily we saw her in time to run for our lives and hide in the chook house.

Nana’s garden was ambitious - large, beautiful and untidy.  In a letter to my sister dated October 1965 she writes “For some weeks I have worked from 6am to 8.30pm to bring the garden to as near perfection as I can.  It has been the work for two men.”  Of course, she did have God on her side.   

She was a member of the CWA and the ladies were invited for lunch.  At age 85 she decided that the front garden needed a fishpond.  None of the males in her life would build her one, so in order to have a fishpond before the CWA ladies arrived, she started to dig one herself.  After suffering a mild stroke that day, she returned from hospital to a garden with a fishpond.  The males of the family had completed the task.

We have several plants in our family that have been handed down over the generations.  My favourite is Nana’s pink violet.  The wonderful thing is that the gardening gene seems to have been passed on to a couple more generations, as children and grandchildren, on arrival at Greenlion, embark on the family’s traditional stroll around the garden. 

Jill at Greenlion

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