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 me 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?