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November 2010

Are these Chrystabel Procter's thoughts on Gertrude Jekyll?

One of the pleasures of giving talks on Gardening Women is having the chance to talk to people afterwards and hear their own stories and memories. After a recent talk I gave at the Guildford Literary Festival, I was delighted when a lovely lady came up to me to say that she had a copy of The Hon. Frances Wolseley's Gardening for Women inscribed by Chrystabel Procter. Chrystabel went on from Wolseley's Glynde College to become Head Gardener at Girton College at Cambridge. I have written about her experiences there in the late 1930s and during the Second World War in Gardening Women, including her battles with the dons who insisted on stripping the garden for flower arrangements in their rooms.

So it was a double thrill when I received these photographs of the book showing not only Chrystabel's name inscribed at the front in ink, but also several comments that had been pencilled in to the text. While we can't be positive they were written by Chrystabel, the writing is similar enough to think we can be confident they are. Scroll down to read her comments on Gertrude Jekyll, women not having the strength to garden seriously alongside some pretty non-PC language on 'native gardeners' in South Africa, and the lack of holiday time for all gardeners.  Gail is lucky to own such a little treasure and I thank her for sharing it with us.

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Neat November gardening tips from Jane Loudon

Some timely advice from Gardening for Ladies by Jane Loudon (1840)



"The Dahlias, if not all killed by the frost the preceding month, should now be taken up; and the greenhouse plants being all removed, the ground should be dug over, having previously received a good dressing of vegetable mould. The half hardy plants are now closely covered up with furze, or baskets of wickerwork ; over which mats are thrown in severe frosts, and coal-ashes and moss are put over the roots of those plants which are only a little tender. The turf is mowed once during this month, if the weather should be open; and the gravel walks seldom require any attention."


What's 'furze' you may ask? It's another name for gorse - not something that many of us either have or want in our gardens. But wickerwork baskets! What a lovely idea for covering tender plants in the winter - and they are available. Here are some from Andrew Crace that could be easily covered with fleece on the coldest of days.



Coal ash is something that Jane would have had plenty of but it isn't such a good idea to put it straight on the garden soil. Wood ash is much better. And any handy moss would make a lovely warm coat for protecting anything slightly tender. Dare I try it with my Salvia patens?