Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend

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What show-offs – the lot of them. But what a joyous display and just at the moment when most of the other tulips are fading. I spotted these yesterday on a chance visit to The Dingle, in the Quarry, Shrewsbury town’s lovely riverside park. This place was a popular haunt in my teenage years – for meeting up with friends and for the covert smoking of cigarettes. (Naughty us, polluting the place with Consulate smoke).

The Dingle was made out of an old stone quarry, and in many ways is very much a municipal garden with its regimental planting of bulbs and bedding plants. The bosky-dell setting works its magic though, and there was certainly no denying the cheeriness of the colour-scape under yesterday’s gloomy sky. BTW that’s St. Chad’s church in the background – in case you’re wondering. It is notable for having the country’s largest circular nave. Also Charles Darwin was christened there in 1809. Less notably, my Priory Girls Grammar School, along with the Priory Boys, used to traipse here every November for our founder’s day service. It goes without saying that the most exciting thing about the event to us girls was BOYS.

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But back to the gardens.

The Dingle’s formal layout was created by Britain’s first TV celebrity gardener, Percy Thrower. He was Shrewsbury Parks Superintendent from 1946-1974 and very much associated with the famous annual Shrewsbury Flower Show which is still held in the Quarry every August. As a fifties child I remember watching Percy on the BBC. My father was a great admirer, so I followed suit and held Mr. Thrower in high regard even if I didn’t need the gardening advice. At that stage I was into growing oak trees from acorns, and he didn’t seem to cover that particular topic. Mostly I learned to associate gardening with kindliness and a genial practicality, qualities that the sculpture in the next photo captures too. I was touched to find him smiling out over his creation. And that his collar and tie were just as I remembered them.

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I think he would be pleased that there has been no attempt to veer from  his original concept and ‘update’ the planting scheme. And although, in the main, this is not my style of gardening, I can still admire it. I could also see how much pleasure it was giving to people of all ages – a truly hidden haven since there is no view of the interior from the surrounding park. You have to step inside one of several gateways to ‘discover’ it.

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It makes me think: every person on the planet needs access to a garden – whether it be untouched wilderness, manicured parkland, cultivated arbour or even a window box. We need to keep in touch with the growing world that heals, soothes, inspires and nourishes us. Which also makes me think that good old Percy Thrower, who did so much to encourage everyone to garden and to appreciate plants was truly a bit of a hero. Please go and say hello to him if ever you are in Shrewsbury.

Jo’s Monday Walk If you haven’t yet joined Jo on one of her fabulous walks (and you never do know where she’ll be going next), then please put on your hiking boots and follow the link.

47 thoughts on “Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend

  1. A beautiful garden, and another lovely glimpse of the child-Tish seeing oak trees in acorns. How strange to meet a statue you recognise from your personal past. A lot more colourful and profuse than my recently replanted deck herb-garden, but indeed the pleasure’s the same.

    1. It was a chance encounter, and all the more resonant for it. I hadn’t intended to walk through the Dingle. I was on a mundane shopping outing, but it didn’t quite turn out that way to begin with. More of which anon 🙂

      1. Very real! 6 am, and my son’s just about to bring in coffee and orange juice and a B something pill that’s supposed to deter mosquitoes. And it’s your late-for-me evening. The world is a strange place.

      2. B1 ? We’ve just finished supper and G is washing up, and we’re about to watch an episode of PD James on YouTube to wrap up Sunday having done the Observer crossword – after much swearing. Have a good day 🙂

  2. One of the things I love about where we live now is that there are lots of wonderful parks, our city has a river walk and lots of flowers, and even the “Big City”, Chicago, has green spaces, a river, and lots of plantings. I’d also like to see every school having a garden and classes where students learn about various foods, try them, learn at an age-appropriate level how to fix/cook food, and invite parents in for the same. In cities, allow people to garden in empty lots (free soil testing), etc.

    Enjoyed those tulips, too, Tish.

    janet

  3. There was a small wood in Chester which was also called The Dingle. It is probably still there – must ask my folks. It is on the south side of the Racecourse before the Dee. It’s simply a small wood, but it has some cracking dirt tracks down extremely steep hills where as kids we would drive/race/hurtle our carts!

    I consider the garden an essential part of ”me” these days. Even though it is nothing like the Dingle in your post, and often leans to overgrown, to not have this mini-refuge where I can potter, photograph or simply walk around with the dogs traipsing along would drive me dilly.

    Smashing post and lovely photographs as always.
    Nice one!

    1. I remember reading about some remote South American tribe (i.e. people whom most of the world would consider primitive) who believed that people grew quite ill – mentally and physically – if they did not have a garden to tend. Very wise I thought at the time – and indeed, ever since. I like the sound of your Chester Dingle. Those kinds of places are embedded in the psyche – along with all the bruises from tree collisions and falling off one’s bike.

  4. Hi Tish, what a beautiful place! I absolutely would love to go there in August to the flower show! It is so beautiful this time of year without a flower show. Your post made me remember I used to be a die hard listener of “Gardener’s Question Time” on BBC Radio 4, life got in the way and I got away from listening to it, but thanks to you it is now book marked once again! 🙂

  5. yes please Tish – can I have a garden! Thoroughly enjoyed this post – the nostalgia of secret boys and crafty fags (no wonder I did not make prefect for a while) and most of all the TV moments watching the (nicely put) “genial practicality”of Percy Thrower. I still prefer his style of presentation -collar and tie and double digging.
    p.s. the tulips were a sensational sight – they seem to need mass planting otherwise look somewhat lost

    1. I didn’t make prefect either. Love the way you put that: ‘collar and tie and double digging’. Despite being a no dig convert in my head, my spade hands want to get right down to a good old delve. I can see it might be Percy’s influence.

  6. simplement magnifiques… ❤ bonus: 🙂

    ”Bel astre à qui je dois mon être et ma beauté,
    Ajoute l’immortalité à l’éclat non pareil dont je suis embellie;
    Empêche que le temps n’efface mes couleurs:
    Pour trône donne-moi le beau front de Julie;
    Et, si cet heureux sort à ma gloire s’allie,
    Je serai la reine des fleurs…”(La tulipe – Pierre Corneille)
    * * *
    ”Wonderful star to whom I owe my being and my beauty,
    Add immortality to my unequal splendor that embellishes me;
    Stop the weather from wiping up my colors:
    Give me Julie’s lovely forehead for a throne;
    and if this lucky fate rejoins my glory,
    I’ll simply be the queen of flowers…”(The Tulip – Pierre Corneille)

  7. Very late to the party, Tish! So sorry but I was away celebrating an 80th. More riotous than you might expect 🙂 Absolutely delighted to find you in my Inbox with such treasured memories. I don’t know which to beam at more- the tulips or Percy. 🙂 🙂 (Note to self- Shrewsbury Flower Show in August). We have a quarry garden at Belsay in Northumberland and it should be full of exquisite rhodies, if I can but find time to go. Not municipal and highly expensive 😦 Thank you so much for the mention and the memories of flowers on black and white TV.

  8. What a delightful place. The access to a garden, no matter how small, can make such a difference on a mood. But I’m shocked that you smoked as a teenager! 😉

  9. 🙂 What a beautiful post, Tish. That first image is stunningly vivid and playful. Really lovely. Jolly Percy sculpture is beautiful too, as well as a little cyclamen girl 🙂

  10. Municipal planting it may be, but it is very colourful all the same. I don’t remember tulips when I last visited in the spring, but I do recall riotous azaleas and a very pretty Judas tree. And I agree, we all need plants and flowers and open spaces in our lives to feel whole.

  11. My parents lived in Shrewsbury in the 60s and my sister was born here. They were always talking about The Dingle! Fabulous park – thank you so much for sharing.

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