I wonder how many people listened to the moving tribute on Radio 4 on 10 April from a woman who had just lost her sister to Covid-19? She listed a range of qualities for which Billie, her sister, would be remembered. If I were to write a tribute to my parents, gardening would be one of them. They were both growers. Brought up on the land, their year revolved around growing, cultivating and then preserving the fruit and vegetables produced. For me, gardening at certain times of year strongly evokes memories. I still have some sacks which, when they gave them to me, were full of potatoes; I have plant labels from the plants they gave me to grow on myself with the names of varieties like Moneymaker, Gardener’s Delight, Scarlet Emperor, Winter King. Their handwriting is still clearly visible. The varieties I grow myself is often informed by what they used to grow; tried and trusted varieties. Sometimes, it is the smell of fresh tomatoes on my hands, or hot sun on grass. The song of birds on my allotment and the quiet created by these strange times evokes memories of childhood with my father on his plot.
Gardens are, of course, places of remembrance and memories. In many cultures they have been created as oases of peace. A few years ago I drove around Normandy with a friend, visiting the gardens in the region. Jardin de Sericourt tells the story or war and peace and contains symbols of a once war-torn-landscape. One area (the garden is designed into ‘compartments’) has a series of topiary symbolising fallen soldiers, for example. This does not, however, create a sombre atmosphere. Rather it is a garden full of joy and hope.
This page on Jardin de Sericourt’s website is well worth a look for the videos giving virtual tours. https://www.jardindesericourt.com/newpage