Young Promise Posted on March 28, 2012

Tidy people with orderly minds are excluded, I’m afraid, from the sort of pleasure I had the other day rummaging in the potting shed when I noticed, buried in old seed packets and balls of string, a thick little black book.

It is our garden diary for 1975, a year when we planned and planted with an energy I only half remember. The notes are half in my hand-writing, half in another, much neater and with more complete sentences and many references to nature, as well as this kind of thing: ‘April 25th. Made second sowings of lettuce, spinach, beetroot. Planted Helleborus corsicus behind cottage with R. rubrifolia, Hosta glauca, Asters, yellow foxglove, hebe, Viburnum fragrans. Piptanthus flowering’. (Most of which are still here).

Who was my co-diarist? His observations grow sharper: ‘Potted geraniums in greenhouse. There are more in flower every day, particularly Catford Belle, which seems more dwarf than miniature. The ferns are doing well, Adiantums especially fine and the effect in the shaded corner is almost sub-tropical. First strawberry flowers out; fed with liquid fertilizer’.

Then the penny dropped. This is the last volume to record our first proper gardener, Christopher Bailes. The entry for September 13 reads ‘Chris Bailes left today to go to Merrist Wood College. He has been here three years and three months’. We had suspicions then that this studious young man would go far, if not quite as far as Philip Miller’s old job at the Chelsea Physic Garden, which he now adorns.

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