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Ode to Giant Shells

My Garden Clam Shells


Remember Pete Seeger’s haunting 1960’s song ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone?’

This week it’s been playing in my mind as I wonder, where have all the giant shells gone?

The song became a musical icon of the 1960s and in the same way giant clam shells were icons of 1960’s garden decoration.

Sadly they have simply disappeared, a long time ago.

Often the shells were collected from the sea but sometimes they were cement copies. Either way, I always loved them.

Other garden icons from the era such as white swan planters and garden gnomes were kitsch and lacking the simplicity of the giant shells.

The shells usually sat under garden taps catching excess water, creating somewhere for wildlife to drink and bath. Sunlight reflected on the water creating a tranquil but modest focal point in a garden.

I remember two giant clam shells from my childhood, both siting under garden taps.

The first was in a temperate garden of majestic trees with birds bathing in the clam shell and fallen leaves floating on the water’s shimmering surface.

The second was in a hot seaside garden and the shell was real. It sat in sand and the sight of water in the shell gave welcome respite from the summer heat.

Imagine my delight when I spotted these two beauties at the Melbourne International Garden Show earlier this year.

Now I have my very own giant clam shells and it’s been a long time coming.

Pete Seeger sang ‘Oh when will we ever learn?’ Sometimes gardeners need to disregard current fashion and refocus on the charm of the past.



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Violet Elliott’s Violets

Violet Elliotts Violets

When I was a girl Violet was an old fashioned name. It brought to mind elderly women in sensible shoes who attended church every Sunday and Garden Club once a month.

My Grandmother, Violet Elliott was such a woman.

She tended a lovely country garden under majestic oak trees.

Below her kitchen window Violet Elliott grew lily of the valley, and in spring happy daffodils popped up in her front garden. She kept a fine collection of delicate ferns at her back door and was proud of her large walnut tree.

The plants Violet Elliott loved to grow the most was her namesake, violets.

This photo shows violets in my garden with their late winter flowers. I grew them from a cutting taken from my mother’s garden, who was given the original cutting by her mother, Violet Elliott.

My violets amaze me. They survived a ten-year drought, the heat of a record summer and this winter’s deep cold. But here they are as bright as can be.

I am proud to grow these resilient violets cultivated from Violet Elliott’s original plants and naturally they remind me of her.

Farmers’ wives of Violet Elliott’s vintage endured husbands at war and usually had lots of children to raise. They took challenges and hardships in their stride.

In the same way, my hardy violets seem to take everything the weather can throw at them.

The name Violet has recently become popular again. In years to come, when these young Violets of today are grown women, perhaps they will also grow violets in their gardens as my Grandmother did.

But most of all, I hope these little girls will grow into resilient women like Violet Elliott.