Tuesday, 8 April 2014

From good gardening stock

Although not a great gardener myself, I do come from good gardening stock and have found a few photographs to prove it.  The first one shows my great grandfather Thomas Byles and his daughter Myrtle Cruickshank, displaying their abundant garden produce in the late 1940s. Thomas seems to have been an interesting character. I've related his story in an earlier blog which you can check out here.I believe he lived with Myrtle and her husband Oliver Cruickshank in his later years, so of course Oliver probably had a hand in this garden too. Myrtle must have been flat out making pumpkin soup or whatever with all that lot, or perhaps she sold or gave away a fair amount to friends and neighbours.

Thomas died in 1951 aged 88. Sad to say that despite all those healthy vegetables, Myrtle only survived her father by eight years, passing away at 65 from bowel or stomach cancer in 1959.


The next photo taken in 1958 shows Myrtle's son Ian and granddaughter Joanna admiring the very tall sunflower that I'd apparently grown at our Canberra home in about 1958. We can't see the colour of the sunflower so you'll just have to imagine it.  I assume it was yellow but it might not have been (see below). Ian didn't see his mother again after we left NZ in 1956. 

Jack and the beanstalk?
Ian's life's work was that of a scientist, specialising in research into plant diseases, and he was also a keen vegetable and fruit tree grower himself, when he wasn't off at work experimenting in his lab. Those experiments often called for late night lab visits, in order to give his numerous trays of pea specimens another drop each of the specially formulated test solution and graph the results.

Ian's wife Jean in the well-tended garden of our home in O'Connor Canberra, c. 1973. I think those flowers are chrysanthemums, not sunflowers.

Jean's father Jack Morrison also loved gardening.  I've previously featured photos of both Jack and Oliver Cruickshank weeding. Here's Jack sitting relaxing for a minute or two on a seat amongst his flowering shrubs, in February 1965, according to this helpfully dated snap.

and in the early 1970s, he's working away in his Christchurch garden with the help of two young grandchildren. Their father Peter was Jack's youngest son.

In 1976  we visited my husband's relatives on their property called Yew Tree Farm, near Hereford in England. Here are his uncle Cyril and grandmother Doris Olds {nee Newth) at work in the family apple orchard. We helped them to fill sacks with windfall apples, that would then be collected by Bulmers and made into scrumpy. The trees are still there but these days they don't really produce very much fruit. 

Doris's beautiful garden that you can catch glimpses of below provided an attractive park-like setting for the very English garden party celebration of her 100th birthday in 2003, which we were lucky enough to be able to attend. Here's Doris and her #100 balloon, with great granddaughter Claire and yours truly. The shawl over Doris's shoulders was our present to her, made by yours truly, of Tunisian crochet. I made several shawls around that time but have since totally forgotten how to do it! Claire's new baby Isabelle whom we are presently visiting in London is Doris's first great great grandchild. I'm sure Doris would have loved to meet her.

Doris's park-like garden as it is today, maintained by her son Cyril

We went back to NZ on holiday last year, and I took a couple of shots of the impressive greenhouse and garden cultivated by Cruickshank descendant Helen and her husband Frank at their farm in the South Island. Helen told me that she and her husband planted out over sixty tomato plants last summer, and as a result had large quantities of tomatoes to turn into sauce, pickles and chutney for family, friends and her church stall, plus plenty of other vegetables as well. 


My sister Louisa has definitely inherited the family green thumb from her father Ian, grandparents Oliver, Myrtle and Jack, and great grandfather Thomas. Here's a collage of her photos, showing scenes of bountiful produce at the community garden near Kerikeri in the far north of NZ, of which she is a member.

 In return for a morning's work each week, everyone gets a substantial weekly box of vegetables to take home.

Louisa's home garden is pretty impressive too. It probably helps that she works at a garden centre several days a week. Here are a just a few shots of it, including both red and yellow sunflowers loved by the bumblebees, and my daughter Laura admiring one of them on a visit from Australia. Louisa no doubt harvests the sunflower seeds. Beautiful Monarch butterflies are regular visitors to the swan plants in her garden, as seen below.

I'll finish with an appropriate garden song from the late great Pete Seeger:

Now flit on over to Sepia Saturday 224 for more Sepian takes on this week's gardening theme. 

Best wishes for a very happy Easter from the bilbies in my autumnal garden. Bilbies look a little like bunnies, but are a native Australian marsupial threatened with extinction, unlike rabbits that can quickly take over the countryside in plaque proportions, and in the process compete with the bilbie for food and habitat. For a little information about Bilbies and the campaign to 'ban the Easter Bunny', click here or alternatively go to  http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2014/04/14/3871404.htm?WT.mc_id=Innovation_News-Environment%7CEasterBunny,EasterSchmunny_FBP%7Cabc 

This bilbie toy and his chocolate bilbie friends have travelled over to England with us, and hopefully are enjoying some early spring weather.



Postcardy said...

Great collection of family garden photos. The first one is a real classic.

I never heard of bilbies before.

La Nightingail said...

You most certainly do come from a family of gardeners! Beautiful flowers (love your gigantic sunflower!), & lots of veggies!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely collection of gardens, I think this week's theme is going to give me trouble. I believe I have a brown thumb, the antonym of a green thumb !

Brett Payne said...

Well perhaps you will pass on the green genes, even if you don't garden yourself.

Anonymous said...

Your first photo taken in the 40's is a gem, how proud they must have been of their garden and all it had produced. I think the flowers in the O'Connor garden in 1973 might be Dahlias?

Wendy said...

Wow, the pressure is on in your family! Such wonderful gardens, both vegetable and flower! And I agree with genepenn, definitely dahlias.

Rosie said...

It had been a long time since I had heard that song, INCH BY INCH, Evans and Doughtery, an Irish Duo from Nova Scotia sings it too!

Little Nell said...

You weren’t kidding about the garden stock were you? How sad that Myrtle had an early death, and with such a noble floral name too.

Mike Brubaker said...

A very suitable post for spring. I think it is the joy of annual renewal that makes gardeners break out their shovels and gloves..

Kristin said...

What wonderful gardens. I never heard of bilbies either.

Alex Daw said...

You definitely get the prize for best photo this week. It's fantastic.

Karen S. said...

Nothing says togetherness better than gardening! Amazing photos, especially the greenery, what a magical spot that is!

Tattered and Lost said...

Okay, I have to ask, what is a scrumpy? I live in an apple orchard and the apples are used in a variety of things, depending on what the market needs. Juice, sauce, vinegar…but a scrumpy? I have to know.