Paste text hereHis house was a plant factory. Each window sill held pots and dishes, some covered with slips of glass, some with ingenious wicks leading from bowls of water to below the flower pots, so that the plants did not dry out. As the seedlings grew they were potted on in ever larger pots until it was their season for planting out. Thus Mr Dalgleish's garden was unlike that of anyone else. It was a nursery and flower shop which happened not to sell flowers but to show them to all those who chose to look.

But it was Mr Lawrence who first amazed us. In the first week he took some twigs of privet from the Isolation Hospital hedge and made them grow. We watched as he took out a shallow trench along the front edge of his garden. Then he walked across the pavement to the edge of the road and swept the sand and gravel which had washed into the gutter into a heap. He carried this ponderously to the trench and mixed in a little soil. With a large clasp knife he trimmed his privet stems and carefully pressed them in a double row across the garden. We had done this many times, making gardens of stones and twigs. Clearly Mr Lawrence was playing, although he seemed a little old for it. In a few days' time the twigs would die, but instead Mr Lawrence's cuttings thrived. He watered them regularly: in a year there was a dense little hedge which grew and flourished till well after he himself was dead.

Watching this transformation of mere cuttings into sturdy plants was a formative experience, especially for Phyllis who became a very keen gardener. In later years she took cuttings of all kinds. It was a game to produce a bed created entirely from cuttings taken from other people's front hedges: a source of pleasure and fun. One of the oddest sights years later was to see a party of middle-aged women from the Co-op Guild on a visit to a stately home. Enthusiastic gardeners, they came with a battle plan. These upright people, who would have walked half way across the parish to return a penny undercharged, were marauders who gloried in their wickedness. They had strict rules. Only one cutting from any plant. Never touch a plant which was too small to suffer it. Only one cutting for each person per visit. They concealed small paper bags in their pockets and, on seeing a likely quarry, descended in a chattering flock. Then, with them all crowding round so that nobody else could see, the robber secured the cutting and dropped it in her bag. The group dispersed, leaving the guilty one ostentatiously writing down the Latin name in a notebook, as any other plant lover would do. The cuttings, mature and carefully tended, became a source of never ending conversation and memories of their riotous middle age. Today, when far greater numbers visit stately homes, this would be frowned upon but then there was less pressure on the plants and the sin was venial.


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