Friday, 15 March 2013

Gardening Mentors

It is strange how thoughts and remembrances from the past suddenly jump to the forefront of your mind without any conscious effort. Perhaps it is just the random exercise of one's subconscious, or maybe something in the day jars somnamulant memories into life. I don't really know what caused today to be the day to remember the individuals who had fostered my childhood interest in gardening, an interest which has remained with me despite the inconvenience of non horticultural work. Whatever the reason, their names loomed large in my memory this afternoon.


They were all very different, but they all shared a love of growing plants. Joseph McLaughlin , ("Wee Joe) had been a commissioned officer in the Great War and subsequently became a farm manager. He was the Chairman of the local horticultural society. His passion was for heathers and conifers and season permitting he always had a sprig of heather in his buttonhole.


Sam Wilson was a retired police sergeant. He didn't have a garden of his own but he rented two allotments where he grew show winning vegetables year after year. I still have a gardening book and penknife that he gave me over forty five years ago. His allotments were taken for housing in I think 1968. He never really recovered from that.


Sam Magowan was the manager of a wholesale nursery where they grew various annuals and heathers. I had my first holiday job there, mainly taking heather cuttings. My target was twelve hundred cuttings per day.


There was then Ludwig Schenkel, a Jew who had escaped Austria just before the war. His great passion was for cacti and succulents. He had a large greenhouse crammed full of them and he had various sections of the greenhouse partitioned off so as to provide different climatic conditions. I dread to think what his electricity bill must have been.


The fifth of my mentors was an individual called Bill Porter. He was very patient with me and would explain exactly what he was doing in the garden and why. He supervised me carrying out simple tasks; sowing seeds, transplanting, potting on. He explained the niceities of double digging and made sure that I knew what were weeds and what weren't. It was he who helped me grow my first tomatoe plants when I was about seven years old. I remember having to use a short step ladder so as to rub out the higher side shoots and ,"stop," the lead growing shoots above the fifth or sixth trusses.


Strange the things that memory reminds you of.


No comments:

Post a Comment