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GINGER GAIRDNER: In my garden, memories grow

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If not already, then on the back of COP26 we are all becoming increasingly aware just how important plants are for the good health of our planet.

They are critical in balanced eco systems that help keep the earth cool, provide food and shelter to the insects that pollinate our food crops and clean the air we breathe.

Plants are also good for our mental well-being, encouraging us to spend more time out of doors.

Growing nurturing them from seeds gives us a sense of purpose that helps distract us from our troubles and alleviate any stress and anxiety we may be feeling.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, the same results can also be achieved listening to the birdsong during a walk in one of our many wonderful parks and gardens.

Plants help centre us in our world.

They also have a hidden power, to evoke emotions and memories of family, friends and places we’ve been to along the way.

I’ve lost times the number of people who have said to me that the smell of sweet peas remind them of their grandparents.

Every summer the scent coming from a frame growing in the garden or a bunch picked for a vase instantly reminds them fondly of their childhood days.

Sweet peas conjure up childhood memories.

Trees are popular choices for remembering loved ones or marking special occasions, the plaques at their base giving us the story behind their planting.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday and I’ll be joining the nation to think about the sacrifice made and service given by men and women,  so I can live a safe and free life.

My first thoughts will be with my own family members but I’ll also be heading into the grounds of Scone Palace where I work, and to a memorial walk of oak trees planted  in 2018 to honour 11 foresters and gardeners who worked on the estate during the time of their service.

Remembering our own

This is only a small part of the ‘Scone Remembers’ project researched by a small group who have done such wonderful work to remember the 72 men from the village who gave their lives in the Great War.

Each commemorative plaque has a QR code, allowing you to hear their life stories.

I was privileged to record the story of Private Gordon John MacNaughton of the 1st Battalion Black Watch.

Trees as living memorial

It brought the ultimate sacrifice he made very much to life.

As time goes on and memories fade, these men will still be remembered for the next 600 years or more through the trees that were planted for them.

Although they lost their lives over 100 years ago, they’ll continue to look after us and future generations,  as their commemorative trees now live on to help protect our planet.

The Queen must be the most prolific tree planter in the world.

To celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 we’re being encouraged to plant a tree to create The Queens Green Canopy. What a way that is to create a legacy for someone!

We’re doing this to honour The Queen’s leadership of the nation, but for me this is more to honour  one of the greatest tree planters of all time.

Almost everywhere she’s gone in the last 70 years she’s planted a tree. Now that’s something!

Our family’s trees

When I walk around my own garden at home there are many plants I have that hold personal memories.

In the front garden at the centre of my no-mow lawn is a family apple tree.

It’s called this as it has three different apple varieties growing on the one tree.

More meaningfully for me is that it was the first plant my wife and I, with our two children, put in the ground, when we made this our new home 10 years ago.

It felt symbolic at the time and every year since, on the kids first day back at school, we’ve taken a picture of them in front of that tree, looking all smart in their uniforms.

When we look back on the photographs now we’re amazed just how quickly all three have grown in this short time.

White blossoms and autumn colours

At this time of year the autumn foliage of the Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’ at the bottom of my garden stands out.

It  was given to me by my head gardener when I worked at my very first gardening job.

It’s actually been in three homes with me now.

It has white flowers on zig-zagging branches, giving all-year round interest and so a constant reminder to me the gardeners who set me off to where I am today.

There are also trilliums gifted from old work colleagues, Primula and snowdrops from two great alpine plant nurseryman – Graeme Butler at Rumbling Bridge and Ian Christie from Kirriemuir .

There’s also a Scottish whitbeam Sorbus arranensis only found on the Isle of Arran a memory of one of our favourite family holidays to name but a few.

My garden really is a treasure trove of happy memories.