The first draft of my About page for The Honest Florist was about three times as long as it is now. It was dotted with family photos, anecdotes and quotes telling the story of how I came to be so in love with flowers – I’d basically written a full blog post! As lovely as it may have been, it didn’t really get to the nitty gritty of why this blog exists, so I scrapped it and decided that I’d write a full post another time.
So here we are…
Yesterday I made a scented wreath for my Grandma’s grave to give it a bit of colour as the headstone has been recently set in. It included all of her favourites; freesias, rosemary, mint and a sprig of lemon verbena which she always ran her hands through whenever she walked past it in the garden, plus hydrangea, lisianthus and leather leaf for foliage.
The fragrance coming from the herbs as I snipped and poked took me back to Grandma’s roast lamb dinners with the best roast potatoes in the world – my cousin Samantha and I refuse to accept otherwise! In fact, whenever I’m flower arranging I often find myself thinking back to weekends spent at Grandma and Grandad Green’s house in Bexhill. I think it’s because so much of my time there revolved around the garden.
My Grandad was not only Green by name, he was Green by nature too. If ever I wondered where he was, I could almost guarantee I’d either find him working his way through a bag of licorice sweets or rustling among some sort of shrub or tree in the garden. Particularly in summer, he’d be pottering and pruning until the sun went down, finally forcing him to retire indoors – he couldn’t get enough of the garden, and it’s easy to see why…
The front garden alone was stunning. Full of almost every flower you could imagine, it caught the eye of everyone who walked past. I remember it had little pathways weaving in between each of the flower beds which provided hours of fun for running around. Sometimes Grandad would give me my own little watering can to join in whenever he tended to it. He was very patient as I trickled water onto the flower heads instead of in the soil – I definitely had some learning to do!
While the front garden bloomed with a kaleidoscope of colour for passers by to enjoy, the back garden was a luscious allotment of vegetables, fruit and herbs. In the summer, it thrived so much that we were virtually self sufficient for meal times.
While new shoots began to show in spring, slowly bringing the garden to life from its twiggy wintery slumber, summer saw the garden explode in shades of green. Raspberries popped into colour along the rows of bamboo sticks, little spherical greengages appeared on the trees, along with apples, plums and pears. Strawberries, gooseberries and tayberries burst into life, while potatoes, marrows, onions, carrots and runner beans were ripe for picking. We even had peaches one year, and Grandad managed to graft apples and plums to grow from the same tree another year!
Summer really was a magical time in my grandparents’ garden, as was meal time! Not to mention when we’d go ‘scrumping’ for a few raspberries and grapes here and there too – there were definitely a few times when I’d come to the dinner table already full up, much to my Grandma’s dismay!
By the time the season had finished each year, I don’t think any of us wanted to see another bean, plum or pear ever again! They had crops coming out of their ears, and would often gift bags of fresh fruit and veg to friends, neighbours and anyone who would take them.
To many, it came as no surprise that my Grandparents’ garden was so impressive. Many moons ago when my mum and her sister were only children, my Grandma and Grandad would enter local fayres and shows with competitions for fruit, vegetables, flowers and cakes. In typical Green fashion, they didn’t do things by halves and would present carrots the length and width of my arm and dahlias bigger than my head. Needless to say, they won countless awards for ‘Best in Show’ year upon year.
My Grandad passed away in 2012, but left behind a lasting legacy in not only his winning medals and the fruits of the garden, but in his practice of herbal medicine. His understanding of agriculture and botany wasn’t just limited to flowers, fruit and vegetables, he spent decades improving the health and even saving the lives of extremely unwell people across the globe.
Using alternative medicines and promoting an organic, largely sugar-free diet, my Grandad has demonstrated the healing power of natural produce in our everyday lives. His knowledge lives on in his book and life’s work, Breaking Through the Untouchable Diseases, which I am so proud exists for more people to appreciate his unique understanding of natural remedies and treatments.
In the four years between his and my Grandma’s passing, we made sure to continue with his efforts in the garden and raked in crops of fruit and veg every year as always. My Grandma loved the garden just as much as he did, and once I began my floristry courses I’d practice my hand-ties with cuttings from the flowerbeds for her to enjoy. A service fit for a Queen!
Although we no longer have the garden to enjoy, I’m so glad we have these lovely photos to remember it by, plus tonnes of mildly embarrassing home videos which I won’t be sharing! But I’m also pleased I can pass on my Grandparents’ love of the garden in my floristry – which has and always will be thanks to them.
All of those patient hours watching me attempt to water the front garden, and catching me eating all of the juiciest raspberries before lunch has culminated in this, a hobby and skill I wouldn’t trade for anything, except perhaps to have them back for one more summer of scrumping.