As a minor family history project I've dug out all of my ancient black and white family photos, with the aim of scanning them, burning them to a disc and sending this off to the small band of family members here and there who might be interested. While doing this I came across a few snaps of the house where I grew up in the 1950s and 60s, and had a few thoughts about the garden there, and the contribution it made to my love of gardening now. It wasn't much of a contribution, mind you, as it wasn't much of a garden, but the seeds of my passion for plants and gardening were sown then.
Not entirely sure of the vintage of this one, but it looks like it might have been taken before my first-ever cricket match for the Lane Cove Under 12s, when I was about 10. They put the youngsters into the third under 12 team, named us the Lane Cove Colts, and it took the older lads about one minute to rename us the Lane Cove Clots. While cricket remains a great love of mine, I've chosen this photo because I'm standing in front of the hydrangea, about the only truly lovely plant in our very bare garden of mostly lawn and concrete footpaths. I loved watering the hydrangea and loved its big, generous blue flowers.
Classic Sydney suburbia of the early 1960s. We had a row of oleanders planted by the front fence. Dad's efforts at gardening amounted to grumpily agreeing to hack back the oleanders every year or so, immediately after the official notice from the local council arrived in the letterbox informing him that other residents had complained about how the oleanders had so overgrown the footpath that they found it difficult to get by. I also loved watering the oleanders and watching them grow so rapidly. I think Dad had a secret plan to kill the oleanders by over-pruning them, but that only seemed to make them grow and flower even more. I like to think that my watering helped them to bounce back each time.
Here's Dad and our family car, the Mark Five Jaguar. All the kids from the opposing cricket teams thought we were posh and had a Rolls Royce. We could and occasionally did fit all 12 members of the Lane Cove Colts team into the Jag, too. But this photo is here not only because the hydrangea is in bloom in the far right corner, but also because the Jag is parked near the cricket pitch. I know, having a slightly downhill sloping cricket pitch isn't ideal, but it didn't prevent countless memorable Test Matches between my brother, who is four years older than me and always got to be the Australians, and me, who being the junior chap always ended up being England, the West Indies or Pakistan etc. Each time I ever amazed us both and came close to a win, he'd just start bowling faster. I didn't have that option, I was already bowling flat out.
And so with the reminiscences dusted off, the thing that I remember so clearly from these photos was my love of watering the garden. We didn't actually DO any gardening so to speak. The hydrangeas and oleanders had been planted before I arrived, or when I was so young that I can't remember them being planted. So all the gardening there was to do was simply keeping it all alive with water.
Apparently my love of watering the garden started at an early age, so my older sisters tell me. Even by the time I was four years old I was outside watering the garden. A leading socialite of the time (well, she was both head of the Mothers' Club at the local primary school and had a hyphenated surname) used to walk past our house each day. Apparently, one day while watering the garden I called out a cheery "hello lady" and she ignored me. So I hosed her.
Her shrieks alerted my mother and sister, so I hosed them, too. Apparently it got totally out of hand and as my sisters retreated into the house, I followed them in, hosing away. At that point someone got brave and disarmed me, and presumably I got into trouble (but I don't remember a skerrick of this episode and am prepared to deny it ever happened, except here on this blog, which is on the internet and you know what they say about the internet).
And so that bare old patch of ground with a lot of lawn and concrete and just some tough old shrubs laid the seeds of my love of gardening. I really only got into gardening in recent decades, when I started sub-editing a homemaker magazine. That led to me moving to this house, with its modest patch of ground, about 17 years ago.
But still, to this day, one of my favourite things is watering the garden. With our current drought-induced water restrictions I can only unfurl the hose on Wednesdays and Sundays now, but it's always great fun to do, a childish pleasure of which I am sure I will never grow tired.