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Gardening Memories of Autumn

Posted in This months highlight on 12 Oct 2021

October has arrived, along with the certainty that autumn is here. Whilst many of us may be thinking about the delights of staying inside with a blanket and a good book, for the horticulturalists out there, the work doesn’t stop when the seasons change.

A recently catalogued collection is a good example of that. Bill Baker was a dentist based in Tidmarsh from 1957. Whilst looking after teeth may have been his day job, one of his main passions was his garden. With the help of his wife Joan, he set about transforming the Old Rectory Garden.

A large part of the collection is comprised of diaries, many of them detailing activities that took place in the garden throughout the year, alongside more general activities. Joan and Bill both wrote entries, allowing us to glimpse what life was like in the various Baker gardens during the month of October in years gone by.

On Thursday 27 October 1949, in a garden in Wells, you would have been able to see the following flowers “asturtiums. Dianthus sweetness. Tobacco plants. Begonias (dug them up to store, also geraniums). All chrysanthemums, dahlias…Petunias, sunflower, white scabious, salvia (blue & red), lobelia, anemones, pansies, hollyhock, heaths’ and others. Despite the chill in the air the Baker’s garden was still very much alive. Even the ‘slight frost’ that came two days later was not enough to ‘completely wilt the nasturtiums”.

Work in the garden did not stop. On Thursday 2nd October 1952, Bill “Planted sternburgia lutea and some crocus and daffs.” Whilst a year later in Wallingford, on Sunday 25 October 1953, Joan recorded that “Bill planted the many forget-me-nots from Aunts garden, whilst I had to clear a space for them from the weeds at the end of the garden.” Even more forget-me-nots were planted the next day, creating what we’re sure would have been an unforgettable sight.

Whilst Bill appears to have had the main passion for gardening, Joan was clearly involved too with many of the diary entries being in her hand. On October 19th, 1986, she recorded that “The beautiful Juniperus virginiana “Grey Owl” looks so good that I pruned out the variegated holly in front, so that it could be seen better”.

Not all the diary entries are gardening related, many record general aspects of daily life such as going out to the theatre or having friends round for tea. A set of entries in October 1997 chart the arrival of a new addition to the Baker household. On Thursday 2nd they “Went to near Swindon to see Boston Terrier pups” and two weeks later they “went to fetch puppy near Swindon”. We can only assume that the pup must have enjoyed exploring the Baker’s garden during the autumn and indeed, at any time of the year.