Of flower shows in wartime and today …

A Titchmarsh before his time ... C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

“Money spent on flowers, in moderation, is never wasted”

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 26, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010) 

 “For the moment potatoes, onions, carrots and so on must receive our full attention: but we may look forward to the time when this nightmare will end, as end it must – and the morning will break with all our favourite flowers to greet us once more, and, who knows perhaps my next volume of talks will be of roses, mignonette, daffodils and lilies.” C.H.M, June 1941

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 5, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010) 

 Our local Spring village flower shows in our Village Hall in Cornwall is one of our last important surviving celebrations of community, now our village post office and shops have gone. It’s a riot of daffodils, carefully tended blooms, cakes, Lego models, vegetable animals, cups of tea, children’s art from the preschool, cubs, school and Sunday school … oh, and the entrance is guarded by scarecrows!

Some of the Mother's Day posies at Newquay Zoo's first flower show, April 3rd 2011

A similar riot of colour and festival of goodwill happened this weekend at  the first Newquay Zoo Mother’s Day flower show. This was only two weeks after a very busy £2 for Locals Weekend with thousands and thousands checking us out before the season starts. Not since the decorated Easter bonnet parades through our Zoo Dragon Maze of the mid 90s have we seen such a crafty variety of hand-made posies,  tissue and egg-box paper flowers. These were all made by both boys and girls keen to get themselves in free to Newquay Zoo alongside their half-price (but priceless) mums at this Mother’s Day 2011 event.

It helped the ‘feel good’ mood that it was a beautiful sunny Cornish spring day, so hopefully there weren’t too many disappointed children at judging time.  We had some difficulty choosing ‘winners’ amongst the 54 posies on the competition table. Apparently my limited experience of judging WI competitions was what qualified me for this role, reprised when I was the guest of the very friendly St Stephen in Brannel WI this week. It was equally as difficult as judging the WI posies or animal photos when I go out to talk about the World War Zoo project and the other varied work of Newquay Zoo. (I always fear that some of the militant wing of the WI will let my tires down if I get the wrong result. Tony Blair learned to his cost not to mess the WI around).

Four posies as a whole family effort at the Newquay Zoo Mother's Day flower show.

Many more than 54 posies were carried around the zoo and back home (to houses with the lingering smell of burnt breakfast toast) by proud mums. A few posies ended up (accidentally?) in the mouths and paws of our zoo animals. I’m sure it would have done them no harm. We already grow or harvest buckets of fallen cherry blossom, willow sticks with catkins and leaves, unsprayed flowers and sunflower heads, especially for our monkeys. This year, we’ve planted Borage in the World War Zoo gardens for its edible flowers (both blue and the white Alba variety), sourced along with some “Tiger Mint” for our lions (it’s really ‘Cat Thyme’) from Jekka McVicar’s amazing herb farm www.jekkasherbfarm.com  Richard our ‘proper’ zoo gardener was looking a bit concerned about Borage’s successful self-seeding habits.  

My own lovely mum is going to be appearing soon as an exhibit at Newquay Zoo. Admittedly, she will be seated on top of her wartime Anderson shelter in my Grandad’s back garden in 1939. It is a treasured family photo, scanned for inclusion on the new interpretation sign being designed by Michelle Turton of Studio71  alongside the newly fenced, sandbagged, paved and spruced up wartime zoo keeper’s garden. The photo will do one important job for now, as I haven’t yet found a suitable Anderson shelter to erect alongside the wartime garden, much to Stewart Muir the Zoo Director’s relief. 

We hope that the sign will be in place for  our wartime garden event from May 28 to June 5th  2011 , running alongside our BIAZA Love Your Zoo! week of events http://www.biaza.org.uk. You can come along and follow our wartime garden trail, visit our “dig for victory garden” and display cases, and take home your very own wildlife garden sunflower in a recycled paper pot.  

Hopefully our roaming Gnome Guard-ener (mentioned on recent blog posts) will be back on duty from his travels to London, Spain, Devon … who g-nows where!

Wartime Mother's Days would have been familiar with the hand-crafted posy. These two recycled blooms (straws and scraps of tissue paper) were made by children for our first zoo flower show at Newquay Zoo April 3rd 2011.

And not forgetting dads – we’re aiming to beat our “1000 bears picnicking in the zoo” record of last year. This year’s Father’s Day Teddy Bear’s Picnic is on Sunday 19th June 2011 at Newquay Zoo. Dads get in half price, bears can get their under-14 owners in to the Zoo for free that Sunday. So bring your picnic rug, tasty treats and of course, favourite  bear along to the zoo.

Our wartime evacuee “Blitz Bear” will be lurking on duty in the World War

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

Zoo garden that weekend …

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