How much can you recall of the priorities of the past? I read of the recession of the ’80s, or the collapse of the ’70s, with only a dim recollection that there was trouble of some kind. The decades rumble past like goods wagons down the track. I take down the green bound volumes of The Garden that contain the first four decades of this diary (or most of them) without a clear idea of what I’m going to find.
1981, 1991, 2001 …… what was I writing about three, two and one decades ago? I can tell you. At this time of year in 1981 it was the remarkable success of
The Woodland Trust, then almost ten years old. It already had 15,000 members and had just bought Stour Wood, 134 acres in Constable country, for £70,000. I was also celebrating our new-built conservatory, and marvelling at how quickly its new plants were growing.
Ten years later I was preoccupied with our new property in the Auvergne, and with the murky water in the moat at home. Another ten years and the theme was a year of prodigious growth: 2001 went from a wet winter through a mild, frost-free spring (rather like 2011) to a summer weighed down with flowers, fruit and foliage. I measured a young oak that grew 14 inches in a single day.
That’s the joy of gardening: you could change the century, as well as the decade, and we’d be banging on about the same old things.