Hidden Talent

Reading time 3 minutes

I have always thought of my paternal grandfather as a practical, gentleman gardener. When I was a child he was head gardener on a country estate in Buckinghamshire, playing his part in the steady decline of a once great walled garden and its modest range of glasshouses. It was the end of an era, a glimpse of 400 years of history drawing to a close. I thought it was magical. Grandpa Cooper taught meΒ how to force rhubarb, thin grapes, pollinate peaches, maintain a rotary mower and grow asparagus, skills I’ve rarely had the opportunity to use, but which I hope might come in handy one day.

Like his attire, grandpa’s gardens were neat, tidy and structured, harking back to the Edwardian manner of doing things. Consequently I never considered him an artistic man, until this week. My dad had been looking through my late grandmother’s old photographs and found, at the bottom of a box, a few scraps of crumpled paper on which my grandfather had sketched spring flowers. My dad recalls these were once part of a larger collection of drawings which we assume is no more. We think they were sketched when Grandpa Cooper (Dennis) was at night school in the 1930s. Despite their age and condition I think they are rather good; naive perhaps, but full of colour and movement. I wish I had the time and patience to equal them.

I am delighted the sketches have reappeared. They’ve not only revealed a gift I didn’t know Grandpa Cooper possessed, but brought back many fond memories of the years when my love of gardening began to grow. Hopefully they will now be preserved as a reminder of my grandpa’s artistic talent, no longer hidden away from view.

We all have hidden talents. What are yours?

Grandpa Cooper's Sketches, Daffodil and Apple, 1930s


Categories: Flowers, Musings, Plants, Uncategorized

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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31 comments On "Hidden Talent"

  1. Whilst you may consider these drawings naive. They are more than good, they are wonderful! I wish I could record and paint the flowers in my garden as well as that!
    I was brought by my great grand parents who were both keen gardeners, GrandPa would tend the vegetables and Grand Ma the flowers and herbs. The little I know is thanks to them by observing and joining them in what was for them an enjoyable pastime.
    As for hidden talents. I am hoping to improve on a new hobby – photography and experimenting a lot more with planting in my garden. Will see…

    1. I am glad you like them Claudy. I meant naive in the best sense, probably because of the familiar and uncomplicated subjects. My grandparents’ house was surrounded by apple trees, under which thousands of daffodils would appear every spring. And the boundaries of the woods were thick with hawthorn and wild cherries.

      Good luck with nurturing your new talent. It sounds like a few of us wish to be more competent when it comes to photography – I certainly do! Happy experimenting.

  2. These are wonderful pieces of art that look like they might have accompanied a gardening journal. What treasures for sure. I hope someone in your family preserves and frames them for display to remember where the gardening gene came from. I don’t know if I have a hidden talent. I have several talents that need to be worked on and I’m busy doing that for sure. I also have a new camera I need to learn more about. πŸ™‚

    1. Well, I shall talk to my dad about what he’d like to do with the sketches. Framing them sounds like a good idea, so long as they don’t fade.

      From what I know I think you have a good many talents Judy and no reason to hide any of them! Did you have much snow or did it miss New England?

      1. It must make you smile to think how happy your Grandfather would be to see how you impact a global gardening community. πŸ™‚ We got very lucky and never saw any snow. We are surrounded by white, but it could be measured in inches and not feet right now. πŸ™‚

  3. Must have been so exciting for you to discover these. What wonderful things for your grandfather to leave behind.
    I envy people who are talented at sketching/painting; wish I had the skill!

  4. What wonderful treasures to find, your Grandpa sound like a fine man and clearly was an inspiration to you. Those shared times with other generations are precious indeed.

  5. Wow! What a treasure and pleasure to find your Grandpa’s sketches. It is a true “archeological jewel ” in your family. I think I would scan them first ( to keep in my e-records , something like family X-files ) and then I would frame and definitely display them in a special place at my house πŸ™‚ .
    Well, as for hidden talents – everyone has one or more …
    I can speak five languages ( English, German, French, Russian, Czech and Polish of course)- it’s always been easy for me to remember things, so foreign languages are a “natural” conseqence :-). My friends tell me I am a good listener and observer, that’s why I like taking photographs and make friends easily.
    I am sure your gardening and writing talents are closely connected with your Grandpa Dennis and other members of the family. I wish I could see your paintings and drwawings. Any chances for that in the nearest future?
    Another talent of yours is the influence on global gardening community, by writing the blog and sharing your thoughts, texts, photos and positive emotions ( contrary to the “frustrated” name of your blog) πŸ™‚
    Have a nice evening and next week.

    1. Thanks Paul! I am very impressed by your linguistic skills. Only German ever stuck with me, and now I have forgotten most of that. I am in Frankfurt later this week so will wish I had tried harder! And being a genuinely good listener is a rare and admirable quality.

      As for my drawings, they are all at home with my parents (yes, I stopped sketching that long ago) so I will ask my dad to scan them one rainy day and make a post if I think they are good enough. My forte was textile art, which is not so easily scanned!!

      I am very happy you feel I make an impression with my blog. It’s just a hobby for me, from which I gain great pleasure in learning more about plants and connecting with like-minded people wherever they may be. Seeing all the countries from which people access my blog is a constant source of childish wonder to me (but no one from Greenland yet πŸ˜‰)

      Wishing you a great week too Paul.

      1. As you are in Germany this week, I think you will be able to practice your German a little . “Also, ich wuensche dir eine gute Reise und viel Freude in Deutschland. Alles Gute 😊”. Have a nice stay in Frankfurt.
        Be patient, one day there must be a post for you from Greenland😏

  6. What a lovely find! It’s so special to find something from your family’s past, and being such a link to your gardening too. I really enjoy your posts, life’s just so busy and they really make me literally slow down, take a breath and spend five minutes appreciating nature. Hidden talents …. Spent today trying to draw up room plans for a renovation project in St Ives, and forgot how much I enjoy drawing, so I’d like to try to fit more creative time in! Any tips on seaside planting appreciated πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Adele. I am glad I give you a reason to slow down. We all need one from time to time. For me it’s going out in the garden, but even then it sometimes takes me a while to stop rushing about like a madman.

      St Ives is wonderful, one of our favourite places, so I envy you having a project there. Tip number one is to walk around and see what everyone else is growing – it’s so mild that you can get away with all sorts down there. Try some leptospermum, a pretty Australian plant, and aeoniums. Then go to Hardy Exotics at Whitecross or Burncoose and go crazy! There are often good plants to be had at the car boot at Hayle rugby ground on Sunday mornings and at Rosudgeon. Have picked up many bargains there, which is handy when you’re starting out or on a tight budget.

  7. That’s a very special link to have with your Grandpa….how lovely……..and so fortunate the sketches weren’t lost or thrown away……I was given an extremely sumptuous book for Christmas…… “Paradise and Plenty” by Mary Keen about the garden at Eythrope…….it too harks back to a golden age of gardening….one your grandpa would have known….if you haven’t already got it, it’s a treasure of a book…highly recommend

    1. It’s on my wish list! But I must pace myself – I have books coming out of my ears at the moment. My grandpa had amazing memories of the gardens at Shendish House, Ascott, Mentmore Towers and Waddesdon. He never wanted to write them down, so all that now exists is what family members can recall. I look forward to Paradise and Plenty!

  8. What a magnificent find! They are marvellous, you must keep them safe now. Will you get them framed, they would be perfect for the new library. As for hidden talents, still hidden I’m afraid πŸ™‚

  9. Oh no, you added another book to my wish list. You are very lucky to have found these family heirlooms. I think scanning them and then framing them is a fantastic idea.

  10. What a great find! Obviously a very talented observer and artist…They are lovely and would look good framed or copied and framed so as to preserve them…I do hope you find some more and if you do please share them!

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