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Dee's Diary


Dee is the name given to my grandmother by my children. She adored gardening, and worked hard at it until she eventually had to give up. I “gave” her my garden when my sons were very young. She would make two bus journeys and then walk to get here. She was about 76 when she began to do that. After about 3/4 years she started a gardening diary. It was not secret, and I saw some entries, but I didn’t have them to study until after she died, aged 89. I have them beside me now. They are in four exercise books, covered with fablon. They record facts about plants, the weather, politics, my family, sayings and doings of my young sons and her feelings about all those things. They are illustrated with her paintings of the plants in the garden – also those of my mother and sister, for she did not limit herself to working in my garden! She constantly bemoaned her inability to depict plants, but although a dispassionate reader might rightly point out that her paintings were no match for an Edwardian Lady, I love them just because they are there – she wanted to paint them. I realise now how frustrating it must have been to leave “her” garden at the end of a hard day’s work, and not be able to gaze on it. Her passion for plants and gardening in general shouts out from the pages and some of her trials and tribulations would make a fellow gardener weep – just as her delight in successes would raise a cheer.

I have uploaded some of her illustrated pages, but am typing out the extracts because her handwriting is not always easy to decipher!

The extracts are not necessarily in chronological order.

“S. has just phoned me to say how much she enjoyed reading the 1981 gardening diary – and she had got as far as March! How sweet of her – I do appreciate it – specially as it was written really only so that I can compare garden progress or otherwise from year to year. I really DO love her garden – and I don’t know what my life would be like without it. When gardening I am enjoying every second, and when away from it, it is constantly in my thoughts. As tonight, for instance, when in my mind’s eye I see the clumps of snowdrops (so much BETTER than last year) the wonderful blue of the iris -and the different colours from vivid to pale of the crocuses. Unfortunately more of the wall has collapsed. This last bit looks like vandalism to me.
[After bad frost, all the walls – ours and our neighbours’ collapsed that year. More of that later.]
I am off to G’s [my mother’s sister, living in Co.Durham] on Sunday, and am looking forward to it – but not wanting to miss any bit of the garden. Today I did as much as possible by clearing some of the damage caused by snow and frost.”

“The fact that England is at war has affected me badly. I can’t concentrate on anything. So useless and unnecessary. … Have ordered 6cwt of soil and 10 of compost – am not looking forward to putting it down but it is a MUST! Weary muscles will follow.”

[At this point I feel I must – in my own defence – point out that I DID offer to help!]

“Oh – Woe is me! I could just let myself go and have a furious and frustrated weep over the state of the garden. It seems all the things I have cared for for years are doomed. That man is really the limit [the unfortunate bricklayer employed to fix next door’s wall, which had entirely collapsed into our garden. The rest of the entry is a heart-rending rant about the ruined plants – not by the collapse, but by the] “bricks, planks, pickaxes, mixed concrete and muck all over the shrubs that were undamaged by the frost. M [my elder son, aged 7] felt the same. His beautiful little plants – Wandas, tulips daffs and pansies came under the same brutal feet. He was inconsolable and in a real FURY!” [ouch!]

But see -

GREAT! Have really ‘broken the back’ of the work in the new wall border! It begins to look nice. Started off in the shops at 9am and bought sweet peas, netting and pegs – went to S’s and started! Firstly nearly ‘broke MY back’ digging up a carpet of lily of the valley roots which had been crushed [they’re still there, Granny!]. Then I re-dug all 24 feet of the border and then topped it with 6 bags of topsoil and 7 bags of compost [she was 80 that August…]I had before this fixed the net -20 feet which I stretched to 24 feet. Planted 24 sweet peas. Then I re-raked and planted 2 doz pansies which A had given me.”

It wasn’t all gloom and doom – here are some of her pictures.

These are the sweet peas planted as described in the above diary entry.

Thought I’d finish with this telling extract:

“Yesterday was my 81st birthday – had a lovely day. Lunch with S and family, and tea with A. M and A [grandson and wife ] gave me a BEAUTIFUL border fork – just what I wanted – thrilled!”

More to follow…

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What a wonderful record to have. I am sure you will cherish it and look after it, it is priceless.

6 May, 2012


I so enjoyed reading that mel, and what lovely paintings. She was clearly a very interesting and talented lady.

6 May, 2012


How lovely to read that. Those books are wonderful family documents, and I hope they will be treasured.

6 May, 2012


this is just beautiful, what a treasure!!! and what a privilege for us to be able to share it, thank you so much melchi.
The pictures are just lovely.

6 May, 2012


Wonderful memoirs to have ... I share my birthday with her ... :o)

6 May, 2012


A privilege to read - thank you for giving us the chance to share with you - something you will treasure for always. Those paintings a beautiful.

6 May, 2012


Many thanks for your comments. I have been enjoying re-reading the diaries. I had forgotten how strongly her personality shone through the writing! Glad you enjoyed it.
"Priceless" was one of her words, Cinderella, usually to mean something amusing. And she certainly was! She was very interesting, Ginellie, because she was so interested in everything. She always asked qustions about anything that was new to her. The books will definitely continue to be cherished, Hywel. The paintings are even nicer than I remember, Steragram - I hadn't looked at them for ages. I shall have to remember birthday greetings on the day, Shirley tulip! Many thanks to Stickitoffee for the suggestion to "publish" them - I don't think it would have occurred to me otherwise.

7 May, 2012


The book is very special and must be wonderful to keep and her paintings are really pretty, so delicate. She seemed to be such a gifted lady and I believe gardening is one of the best things you can do, its very theraputic and keeps you young! It certainly worked for your Gran.

7 May, 2012


They are just wonderful. What a memory to have of her & your garden.

7 May, 2012


Your mother was a talented woman, Melchi. What a beautiful message "from the other world" you have got from her! She probably wrote it for this purpose. To stay with you, in your memories until your family is living. Thank you for these nice memories.

7 May, 2012


Thank you Rose, Willinilli and Katarina. The books and memories are very special to me for all the reasons you mention , and more. I only wish I could show her the garden and let her see what she started so beautifully. I know she would be flabbergasted at the idea of so many people enjoying her work. But she would be (and is, I hope) really thrilled!!!

7 May, 2012


I have only just found this, I started to read the second blog first,and I was a bit puzzled,till I saw you had posted this one...I have enjoyed it so much,and what a very special lady.with a tremendous love of life and for her garden..She was proud you must be,to have all these wonderful diaries and paintings...I hope I feel the same if I reach the eighties ...eight and a half years to you never this space,but sorry,I can't paint ! Lol...and thank you for sharing..:o)

11 May, 2012


Thank you, Bloomer! It has been quite an experience re-reading these now that I am such a keen gardener myself. She was a very special person, and left a lasting inheritance. through her gardening and so much more!!!

11 May, 2012


Oh isn't that wonderful! And such lovely paintings, too. She must have been a fantastically energetic and special lady - she certainly puts me to shame! You are very lucky, M.

22 May, 2012

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