Dad’s old spade……

I ended up in garden design later in life and in a roundabout way, but really the seeds were sown when I was very young.  I can remember my dad working quietly away at his drawing board, Rotring pen in hand, indecipherable circles and lines appearing on the paper with all those obscure latin names. I never imagined I’d be doing the same thing 50 years later.

Some of dad’s many garden plans

Dad had trained at art school and spent heady days living the beatnik life before settling down with my mum who told him in no uncertain terms to ‘get a job’. And so he did, starting with the Peabody Trust in 1960’s London as a gardener.

David Meacham, 2020

Somehow his artistic muse found an outlet alongside the horticultural work and using his drawing skills, he created architectural plans to convince the powers that be to re-think some of the existing tired planting. Eyebrows were raised by the Works Department, who weren’t too sure about being told what to do by an art school chap.  But the gardens were built, and eventually Dad became Head Gardener for the Trust, managing the gardens for over 50 estates which housed upwards of 23,000 people. During his tenure there, Dad upgraded and designed many of the landscapes around the housing blocks, roads and walkways, parkland and communal gardens that surrounded the estates.

Of course time has passed, and many of these schemes have since been upgraded or replaced, but there are still some gardens today that bear his signature. A glance at Google Earth shows the footprint of legacy layouts and trees from his plans.

Tachbrook Street Peabody Estate in Pimlico

As a family we left London in the 1980’s to move to Devon, where dad set up his own landscaping practice ‘Greenmantle Landscapes’, and then after retirement, worked as a consultant on a natural filtration system, using reeds for industrial pollutants.

Now that I’m based in the West Country, I find I’m often passing one or other of his old sites. And while looking through his plans recently, I discovered designs for sites ranging from Yorkshire down to Devon, some commissioned over 60 years ago. I imagine that by now they have been upgraded, replaced, enjoyed, demolished or just been allowed to mature.  It all puts a perspective on the meaning of patience….

Spade E low resLast year, while helping my dad to move into sheltered housing I came across this small, worn but rather lovely spade. ‘That spade of mine’s over 50 years old!’ he claimed. Apparently it’s blade used to be twice as long, like a fencepost spade. All those years of gardening have simply worn down the metal. And as I found out, it’s perfect for digging small holes for the young plants that make up a new garden.

12 thoughts on “Dad’s old spade……

  1. You clearly have inherited your flair for design from your lovely Dad.

    1. That’s so nice of you to say! I’d like to be able to draw as well as he could…

  2. What a lovely post Alice and wonderful to hear your Dad’s story – such beautiful drawings

    1. Thank you Vanessa – they are rather lovely aren’t they? I’ve got something to aim for!

  3. What a lovely connection to have in your family. Now it’s obvious where you get your talent from. Your dad must be as proud of you as you clearly are of him. Hayley

    1. Thank you Hayley – well I realise I do owe alot to him!

  4. Fantastic story and beautiful content Alice! Lovely to share thank you Lucy

    1. I really enjoyed writing it! Thanks for your lovely comment.

  5. Wow, Alice, a fascinating piece. What an interesting life you’re Dad led!! I used to visit Peabody Estates, wonder if I saw any of his work? Lovely photos as well. Hope you’re Dad is well xx

    1. Thank you so much Jan, yes I’m sure you must have seen something of his work there – although a lot has changed now of course..

  6. What a fantastic post and a lovely hommage to a father that has clearly passed his talent on to his even lovelier daughter !

    1. Aww shucks! Thanks for your kind words – always appreciated!

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