Nothing is quite the same as the feeling you get when you discover an old photograph. Most of the time, the memory is something that you had completely forgotten about; the memory was not lost, but filed away for safe-keeping. Photographs, like memories, evoke such a strong sense of nostalgia for a number of reasons. Both of my parents took millions of photographs of me and my siblings when we were children, but it was only recently that I started to see a common factor; so many photographs that I am in as a child are in beautiful gardens and parks. At first glance, they make me smile because I can see myself so much younger and smaller (and much cuter!) in clothes that I remember having a particular fondness for.
My Mum regularly writes about gardens in articles and in her books. In her talks about her books, she explores the power of nostalgia in gardening, and why gardeners seem to gravitate towards elements from their childhoods when designing their own spaces. I was lucky enough to have parents and step-parents who were passionate about the outdoors in more ways than one, so I wanted to ask my Mum her thoughts about her own garden and her relationship with her childhood memories.
Me: What memories do you have of gardening/gardens from your childhood?
Mum: When I was little, our garden had a wisteria at one end that had grown into a sort of heap (it wasn't on a wall or any sort of support). It made a little den, where I used to go and play house.
We had self-seeded Shirley poppies in the garden, and someone showed me how to fold back the petals and tie them with a piece of grass around the stalk, so that the poppy seed head became like a little doll's face, and the petals looked like a little dress.
Me: Why do you think our memories of gardens are so powerful when it comes to to our own likes and dislikes?
Mum: Smell and memory are very strongly linked in mammals because it's how we distinguish our mothers from other females. Humans are just like any other animals: they can be conditioned, or trained, by personal experience. The smell of lavender, for example, or the scent of new-mown grass can evoke happy memories of childhood summers. Some people dislike the smell of particular plants because they associate that smell with an unhappy experience.
Me: Is it possible to take elements from the past and keep them current?
Mum: I think some elements are such classics that they never go out of date, such as roses, or yew topiary. However, I'm a bit allergic to the idea that all gardens have to look professional, and I think we are seeing a real flowering (if you'll excuse the pun) of contemporary garden design in Britain and the rest of the world, and have done for the past 30 years. I think that part of the secret is to use things in a different way, to keep things unexpected and not clichéd. I love conifers, for example, which were hugely popular in the Seventies, but I don't grow them in the way people grew them then.
Hi there, my name is Nevada and I'm a twenty-five year old music teacher. The Little Green blog centres around wildlife, gardening and lifestyle photography. All photos are my own and represent the portfolio of an amateur photographer!