Saturday, January 3, 2009


Do you ever wonder if you inherited your love of gardening? When I look back at my grandfather I know he planted the seeds of his love of gardening in me. This is a photo of my grandfather and my father in 1914. As you can see the garden, in the city of Manchester, England, is quite modest but the important thing is that my grandfather is teaching my father to tend his plants. When my grandfather retired he moved to the coast where he built a house with a beautiful garden which he tended until the day he died.
After my grandparents passed away we moved into that house and became the guardians of their roses, fruit trees, lawns, sunken garden, rockery and greenhouse with grape vine. I loved that house and garden. My memory still carries the scent of roses wafting through the window on a summer's day. Now, far away from that English garden, I have my own garden to take care of.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit my grandparents' garden once again. The house was empty and there was a for sale sign in the front garden. I snuck down the driveway into the back garden. I was saddened to find a neglected and derelict garden. The only remnant of the garden I remembered was the bird bath in the center of what had once been the lawn. My father had built the birdbath just before Word War 2. There was a little stone rabbit, ears missing, sitting on the edge. Here I am at the age of 3 with the little rabbit.

The little rabbit was still on the bird bath. I rather wish I had brought him home with me

The visit reminded me of the lyrics of a song by Judy Collins, Secret Gardens. It has always been a favorite of mine. Take a moment to listen to Judy singing this moving song.

My grandmother's house is still there

But it isn't the same

A plain wooden cottage

A patch of brown lawn

And a fence that hangs standing

And sighing in the Seattle rain

I drive by with strangers

And wish they could see what I see

A tangle of summer birds 
Flying in sunlight

A forest of lilies

An orchard of apricot trees

Secret Gardens of the heart

Where the flowers bloom forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter

Great grandfather's farm is still there

But it isn't the same

The barn is torn down

And the fences are gone

The Idaho wind blows

The topsoil away every Spring

I still see the ghosts

Of the people I knew long ago

Inside the old kitchen

They bend and sigh

My life passed them up

And the world passed them by

Secret Gardens of the heart

Where the old stay young forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter

But most of all

It is me that has changed

And yet I'm still the same

That's me at the weddings

That's me at the graves

Dressed like the people

Who once looked so grown-up and brave

I look in the mirror

Through the eyes of the child that was me

I see willows bending

The season is Spring

And the silver blue sailing birds

Fly with the sun on their wings

Secret Gardens of the heart

Where dreams live on forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter

The memory of their garden will always have a special place in my heart.


  1. How bittersweet such memories are. Thank you for sharing yours, Jenny. Those pictures, as well as the memories, are priceless.

  2. Jenny, fly back to England now and get that bunny! Good grief--that would be wonderful.
    Thank you for sharing these incredible stories.
    Also, your photography in all your blogs is magnificent and your garden glorious, despite your travels. Linda

  3. Your blog is a delight to discover. And that picture of your father and grandfather just about brought tears to my eyes since I recognized the title of the post from the song. I have never visited my grandparents' house (the one that is my favorite from childhood and very strong in my memory) because I am afraid it would be similar to your experience. I prefer the memory to the reality.

    Your design of repeating circles is just lovely. And I am very impressed with the lattice wall and door in your grandfather's garden — not something you see today unless you can DIY!

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Jenny - the photos are wonderful and the song beautiful but so sad, quite unlike the song I've written about a secret garden!

    Wouldn't it be fun if someone with vision moves into the house of your childhood and turns what remains of the garden into a new place where flowers bloom? If there is someone in Manchester who can let you know what happens, you could write the new people and maybe make a real visit there someday.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. Annie. The house in in St Annes, which is where they built their new house and garden when they retired. There is a sequel to the story. My visit happened 3 years ago and shortly after my mother told me the house sold. I wrote to the new owners, wishing them happiness there, and telling them the history of the house and sending photographs. I was delighted to hear back from them. Two years ago when we were back there I was passing by and saw one of the owners. They invited me in to see all they were doing. They were redoing all the rooms- removing the original oak paneling and knocking the dining room wall down between it and the kitchen to make on large room- quite modern. Wooden floors etc. I'm afraid it was not in keeping with the style of house. Then the garden- it is now full of planters and gnomes and hanging baskets and trellises which positioned well would not be a problem but--I'll leave it there- Also the house in back on the market as the two ladies have parted ways. I will go over there when next I am home and see if they would be willing to let me have the rabbit.
    Lindalynn-do you have a garden blog? Couldn't get past your profile. Thanks for visiting.

  6. Such a sweet post.
    You do have comments. Or did you mean a different post?

    Always sad to go back to your memories. But lovely that they are taking care of the garden again.
    You've still got the same smile ...