Elizabeth thought that her garden would be ‘a great delight’ and wanted to make sure her garden was enjoyed by her four daughters, who were each given areas of the garden to look after.
In one letter she writes ‘Meta’s garden is so pretty & she works in it morning, noon and night. I can hardly get her out’, ‘Baby and Florence delight‘ in the garden and that ‘every new plant that peeps up is a treasure.’
Having a space to grow plants, whether big or small, on a windowsill or balcony, is a good way to connect with the natural world. Gardens and green spaces have all sorts of benefits that include improving how we feel and helping to reduce pollution.
Pollution and environmental damage isn’t just something we want to change today. In nineteenth century Manchester coal was the main source of energy for powering factories and mills. Although people at the time didn’t understand the long-term environmental effects of burning fossil fuels, many Victorians noticed the effect that poor air had on people’s health.
#activity – Hop all the way to the gate – perhaps you could have a race with your grown-up?
What does Holly symbolise?
In the Victorian language of flowers, holly symbolises domestic happiness. We know from Elizabeth’s letters that the Gaskells’ home was very happy, and that the family shared jokes, enjoyed music and played together, so this plant is very apt to have at the front of the house.
The holly plant would also have been able to survive in the polluted city environment of Victorian Manchester. We now have several different varieties of holly growing in the flower bed at the front of the house.
Try this at home
There are lots of small things we can all do to help reduce our own impact on the environment.
Reduce, reuse and recycle. Cut down on what you throw away. Follow the three “Rs” to conserve natural resources and landfill space.
Here are some more ideas.