My Grandmother Madge and her gardens.
Flowers are some of the good things in life
Her name was Magdalene Jane, born in 1887 in Valparaiso, Chile
My Granny Madge was the daughter of that adventurous Scot, John Robert Stewart, who spent part of his adult life as an Engineer in the Chilean Navy. My mother was her only surviving daughter, and as Granny was a widow, she lived with us as part of our small family group. The garden was her territory wherever we happened to be living, and she was good at it!
A fellow writer on Hubpages asked me a question about what my grandmother planted in the garden, and that set me off down memory lane. Unfortunately I no longer have the original photos, of which there were many, but I do have my memories, and I have searched out similar photos, which I include here.
I start my various life stages.
My father was rather nomadic, so as I was growing up, we lived in various towns and in various houses within these towns
My life started out in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. Granny Madge did not live with us at that time, as she was working as a teacher in Santiago. There were no schools in the desert for her to transfer to, so she stayed in Santiago, and only came for a visit. There was no garden at the time! The desert is not a place for gardens!
The front lawn
We move to the capital, Santiago, about 1942.
My first memory of Santiago was a second floor apartment. No garden there either!
Our second abode was a really nice house, two stories high, with a very big front garden, and really big back yard. The front garden had a lawn, and some trees and large bushes round the edges. I remember a Broom Tree, some Wisteria and a beautiful deep purple Bougainvillea that covered a part of the house wall. This garden had been installed by the owner of the house, I think, so Granny Madge only looked after it and kept it trim. She did plant pansies round the edge of the lawn.
The back yard was a different story. There were two large trees in the middle, I forget what kind they were, but I do remember I had a swing between these trees. Nice and shady in summer! Between the swing and the back of the house, my father installed a trellis, as a divider, and that was the place for the sweet peas. While I played on my swing I watched the vines and the flowers growing, and also helped to pick them for the flower vases. There was also a great variety of snapdragons, and nasturtiums. These last were one of Granny Madge’s favorites she always tried to have a bed of them.
Behind my swing, was the vegetable garden, where Granny Madge planted tomatoes, string beans, pumpkins, and other assorted greens. This was not what interested me, so I only remember the tomatoes, because they had to be tied up on stalks.
The back yard
The Flowers in our Garden in Santiago
Were you familiar with the flowers that grew in our garden in Santiago?
Some of the flowers I learnt to plant in Concepcion
We move to Concepcion, about 1946
The next house had a medium sized garden surrounding a two-story house on three sides of it. The garden was a mess, so Granny Madge started to improve it. She tried to enroll me, but I was not too taken with this idea. I did learn about hydrangeas, pelargoniums (or geraniums) and dianthus (carnations). All three can be multiplied by sticking a piece of stalk into the ground and watering it carefully. I also learnt that the color of the hydrangea can be darkened by providing the plant with more iron.
I also learnt about Hydrangeas
A Garden with Geraniums, Carnations and Hydrangeas
Have you ever planted Geraniums, Carnations and Hydrangeas?
A beautiful, big garden with Camellia Trees
Another house in Concepcion
The second house in Concepcion was a beauty! It was the property of the British General Manager of one of the big British Trading Companies, and he owned three houses in a row, out on the outskirts of the town. My father was his second in command, so we rented one of these houses. They were really enormous places, the back area alone, with the kitchen, three pantries, the laundry room and several storerooms, could have easily housed a family of five persons with plenty of space to spare!
The gardens (more than one) were quite another story. They were already grown, so it was just a question of keeping them up.
The back garden held about five fruit trees, I remember the apricots, they just never seemed to finish. And to one side there was a large circle of adult Camellia trees with all shades of flowers, from white to pink to red and all sorts of mixes in between! Part of my duties included climbing the ladder to pick the apricots, and also to pick the camellias. They were really something! My mother set up the Camellias as ornamental flower arrangements, by floating them in a shallow crystal bowl half full of water.
The front had some pine trees and was a bit gloomy, the idea was not to be too attractive, as it faced the street, and the area was a bit lonely, more like farmland than an urban neighborhood. The only flowers of note in the front, were the irises and the roses. It was a really comfortable living place, with a swing for me and a small area for miniature golf. The back gallery was so long and wide, I used to roller skate along it!
Some flowers in the front garden
A Garden with Camellias and Iris Germanica
Have you ever owned a garden with Camellias and Iris Germanica?
We move to Osorno about 1951
This town is in the Lake District in the South of Chile, and we were only there for two years. There was hardly any garden activity, as Granny Madge did not come with us, because there was no British School in this town, being a mix of German immigrants and Chileans. So she stayed on in Concepcion, teaching at the St. John’s British School.
We move back to Concepcion in 1953
We lived in two more houses before we finally settled in our own home, where Granny Madge duly created the garden.
There was a small area at the back, with the barbecue and some plots with vegetables, similar to the Santiago plots. All the rest was a flower garden.
Once again, we planted dianthus, snapdragons, pansies, pelargoniums or geraniums, hydrangeas, roses, a few irises, a big bed of nasturtiums. But the flowers that won all the prizes were the dahlias. Some of the heads were about the size of a large dinner plate, and once again my mother floated them on a small quantity of water in a shallow crystal bowl. Sometimes it would be just one enormous dahlia, which covered the entire surface. Sometimes it would be two or three smaller heads, of different colors. These arrangements made a great impact on the center coffee table in the living room and were greatly admired!
This was also the last of the gardens! Granny Madge passed away while we were living in this house, and shortly after my father sold up and went back to Liverpool. I stayed in Chile, where my professional degree was valid, and the joke is that my father could not get used to living in the UK once again! So they came back to Chile to live with me, but our standard of living was greatly reduced, and this was not helped by the fact that the state of the Chilean economy was a mess.
We then lived through the Pinochet military coup, but no more gardens at all. Fortunately we lived really close to the big University Campus, which is a show place full of gardens, so it was easy to go there for a walk.
My mother's Dahlia arrangements were always greatly admired!
A Garden with Dahlias
Have you ever grown your own Dahlias
In recent years
After both my parents also passed away, I lived alone for some years, as my ex husband (I’m divorced) did not keep up any contacts with me. Now I live with my godson, his wife and small daughter. Once again there is the possibility to create a garden, but I have very little say in the matter. Another factor is that the property is partly residential, and partly a storage place for construction material, belonging to the small store my godson runs. The garden area is slowly taking shape, we have a small camellia bush, really tiny, and that at the moment is covered in buds, so there is still hope!
Granny Madge also enjoyed the Pansies, and so did I.
Flowers are an important part of Life's enjoyment! To have a garden to admire, is to be very fortunate!
© 2012 joanveronica (Joan Robertson)