Updated: Nov 3
In 2019 I was facing saying goodbye to a place I dearly loved - the mill house that had been my family home for 40 years. It was almost derelict when I moved there as a small child - I found an old diary of my mothers in which she described coming downstairs one morning to find the ceiling had fallen in. It was a huge amount of work and the whole house and garden was in desperate need of TLC.
Transformation of the mill and garden over the years
The garden was beautiful in a wild kind of way but didn't contain much in the way of plants - lots of long grass and weeds, rambling roses and trees, but my parents were both keen gardeners and over many years the neglected space - featuring a mill pond and streams - grew into a garden the whole family cherished and enjoyed.
In 2019 I faced having to say goodbye to the place. My mother was ill and we had to sell the house to pay for her care. For so many years it had been a sanctuary, a retreat, and I knew every nook and cranny of that place intimately. I simply couldn't imagine it not being mine any more, never being able to come here again.
So I set about drawing flowers that came and went that last summer to keep hold of something of the place I loved. I would go there and spend days clearing and sorting through years of family things in the house, and often leave with a bunch of flowers which I would bring home and draw in my studio. I had a sketchbook in which some of the garden was recorded in drawings.
On top of this though, I also took seeds and cuttings. Having been a keen gardener - I worked as a garden designer and gardener in London for many years - I soon realised I was not so accomplished in horticulture. Growing from seed and taking cuttings was not something I knew how to do. I soon realised that you took a cutting of plant in a very different way to that of another plant. There was a lovely Daphne in the garden that my brother and I had both attempted to take cuttings of and failed. Then an antiques specialist came to give a valuation of some of the things in the house and also told me how to take Daphne cuttings. It was much more successful, however sadly, having lasted a couple of years, the final cutting passed away.
I'm pleased to say, though, that while I still miss that garden terribly, I am constantly comforted by the plants I brought to my new garden from the old one. Every season brings new delights as I see familiar flowers that remind me of a much loved place, and also of the people who lived there who are no longer with us. The hellebores in winter, mums white Camellia in spring. I am currently watching with happy anticipation as an Iris - which I took a cutting of in 2019 - has tall stems and buds ready to burst into flower for the first time. I have realised that quite by accident, it is growing alongside the Campanula and Phlox plants I grew from seed, as well as a Peony and Lilac grown from cuttings - all of which are due to flower for the first time in my garden very soon.
Just in this one little corner of my garden, here are some of the plants I've grown from seeds and cuttings from my old family home. I can't wait to see them flower here.
It really has been a wonderful way to keep hold of a special place and keep memories alive - not only of the place itself but of the people I loved who lived there.
The products I now sell as part of my business are, to me, an extension of that place - another way of keeping the flowers and plants of that garden alive, just like those I have grown from seeds and cuttings.