I remember seeing Wendy tearing open a pile of little brown envelopes and money tumbling out. These were her winnings from the Harrogate Flower Show, where her daffodils and tulips had come first, second and third. There was even a trophy to add to the other trophies she’s had over the years.
Her flowers were always amazing, but she was quite modest about it, as if anyone could cultivate such perfection and beauty. She not only grew flowers, she knew them, Latin or common names, show her a plant and she could tell you what it was, give her a palette and a brush and she could paint it for you too.
Wendy, who passed away on Saturday, was my mother-in-law, she was also my friend. I’ve known her for about 18 years and the more I got to know her, the more I admired her.
We’d regularly turn up at their Wakefield home to find it full of their friends and family, eating something delicious that she would whip up, just like that. She was used to mass catering with five children and their families. Though more often than not they were not at home, usually not in the country, gallivanting off to foreign parts in pursuit of something horticultural. We’d find out where they were when we got a postcard.
They’d head for the mountains, seeking out rare daffodils and tulips in their native habitat. With James, her husband, not being that keen on heights, she’d trot off up something scary to investigate and report back. Or they’d be at the Chelsea Flower Show, or giving talks just about anywhere in the country, or visiting friends, or having yet another adventure.
She was a voracious reader and writer, penning many articles particularly for horticultural publications. She was interested in everything, with eclectic tastes, including classical and rock music and old Mr Chuckletrousers himself Leonard Cohen.
We’d regularly get an envelope through the mail, addressed in her beautiful flowing hand, inside would be a newspaper clipping, or recipe, or article she thought we’d be interested in, we always were.
She also delighted in the world around her. I remember us taking the pair of them to the French Alps via the beautiful floral town of Yvoire. She walked around smiling serenely at the blaze of colours and heady perfumes of the flowers.
They have lived in the Wakefield house for nearly 50 years, spending thousands of hours on the massive, sloping garden, it was hard work. I remember once seeing Wendy yank up something with a huge tap root, it took some doing, but came up twisted through a dog’s skull. Ah yes, she said, it was a neighbour’s dog buried there many years ago, adding matter-of-factly that it was good for the soil.
The last time I saw Wendy, it was a couple of weeks ago, we’d called in to help with the gardening, which she always found amusing as the gardening gene certainly missed Noel, he says it brings him out in hives, I think it’s just an excuse. She was sitting reading, making plans, looking forward to yet more adventures.
Yes, she was my mother-in-law, but she was always my friend. I can’t believe she’s gone, I’ll miss her terribly.