MY GARDEN

‘The Intimate Magazine for Garden Lovers’

Edited by Theo. A. Stephens

Featuring articles by W. E. Johns

 

 

A Roger Harris web site

 

Above is a photograph of a complete bound set of all 43 volumes of “My Garden”.  This ran for 18 years from January 1934 until December 1951 - a total of 216 monthly issues

 

 

W.E. JOHNS FIRST WROTE FOR “MY GARDEN” MAGAZINE IN THE MAY 1936 EDITION.  BY FEBRUARY 1937, HE HAD A REGULAR COLUMN CALLED “THE PASSING SHOW” WHICH COULD BE TWO PAGES OR EIGHT OR MORE PAGES.  JOHNS MONTHLY COLUMN RAN UNTIL AUGUST 1944.  AFTER MISSING THE SEPTEMBER 1944 ISSUE, HE HAD A FINAL “PASSING SHOW” COLUMN IN THE OCTOBER 1944 ISSUE.  A FEW YEARS LATER, IN FEBRUARY 1947, HE WROTE ANOTHER ARTICLE CALLED “THE SHOW HAS PASSED” WHICH EXPLAINED WHY HE LEFT.  HE HAD MOVED TO SCOTLAND TO AVOID THE INCESSANT BOMBING.  JOHNS WROTE ARTICLES FOR EXACTLY 100 ISSUES.  JOHNS WOULD NOT WRITE FOR THE MAGAZINE AGAIN, UNTIL THE VERY LAST ISSUE, DECEMBER 1951 WHEN HE WROTE A SHORT FAREWELL PIECE.  THIS WOULD BE HIS 101st  CONTRIBUTION.  THESE ARTICLES PROVIDE A FASCINATING INSIGHT INTO JOHNS’ LIFE.

 

 

YOU CAN VIEW DETAILS OF W.E. JOHNS’ 1937 BOOK “THE PASSING SHOW  BY CLICKING HERE  YOU CAN ALSO SEE THEO STEPHENS FORWARD SETTING OUT HOW HE GOT W.E. JOHNS TO WRITE FOR HIM

 

THERE ARE NUMEROUS SIGNED COPIES OF W.E. JOHNS’ 1937 BOOK “THE PASSING SHOW” – YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THESE – AND OTHER SIGNED BOOKS - BY CLICKING HERE

 

 

Issue 1

January 1934

 

Published in Volume 1

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 2

February 1934

 

Published in Volume 1

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 3

March 1934

 

Published in Volume 1

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 4

April 1934

 

Published in Volume 1

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 5

May 1934

 

Published in Volume 2

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 6

June 1934

 

Published in Volume 2

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 7

July 1934

 

Published in Volume 2

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 8

August 1934

 

Published in Volume 2

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 9

September 1934

 

Published in Volume 3

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 10

October 1934

 

Published in Volume 3

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 11

November 1934

 

Published in Volume 3

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 12

December 1934

 

Published in Volume 3

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 13

January 1935

 

Published in Volume 4

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 14

February 1935

 

Published in Volume 4

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 15

March 1935

 

Published in Volume 4

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 16

April 1935

 

Published in Volume 4

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 17

May 1935

 

Published in Volume 5

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 18

June 1935

 

Published in Volume 5

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 19

July 1935

 

Published in Volume 5

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 20

August 1935

 

Published in Volume 5

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 21

September 1935

 

Published in Volume 6

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 22

October 1935

 

Published in Volume 6

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 23

November 1935

 

Published in Volume 6

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 24

December 1935

 

Published in Volume 6

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 25

January 1936

 

Published in Volume 7

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 26

February 1936

 

Published in Volume 7

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 27

March 1936

 

Published in Volume 7

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 28

April 1936

 

Published in Volume 7

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 29

May 1936

 

Published in Volume 8

 

 

An Early Foray

by W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about his garden in winter and going to Majorca with his wife.  He talks about the amazing variety of flowers and the ‘Puig Major’ (a mountain).  He gives his opinion on the best hotel - the ‘Calamayor’, 5 km from Palma.

 

 

 

Issue 30

June 1936

 

Published in Volume 8

 

 

These Rock-Gardens

by W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how different rock gardens are, from the Alpine rock gardens they are supposed to represent.  He talks about the beauty of the real thing and the size of rocks they grow on.  But “one can’t go plant-hunting with a crane”.

Issue 31

July 1936

 

Published in Volume 8

 

 

The Tribulations of a Tyro

by W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about being a novice or a beginner (as that is what a ‘Tyro’ is).  He talks about buying plants and things going wrong.  He talks about buying old sinks to keep plants in and he mentions that “Gravetye” is within 5 miles of his home (referring no doubt to Lingfield).

Issue 32

August 1936

 

Published in Volume 8

 

 

The Tribulations of a Tyro  II

by W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the poor quality of garden catalogues, considering the prices of what is being sold.  He talks of beginners mistakes such as buying two dozen plants at two shillings each when a few coppers would buy enough seeds to fill a meadow,

Issue 33

September 1936

 

Published in Volume 9

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 34

October 1936

 

Published in Volume 9

 

 

Adventures with Primulas I

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about, as the title suggests, Primulas and their high prices.  He says there is no art in germinating seeds.  You plant them.  They grow.

 

These Alpine Houses

by John Earlie

Jon Early was a pseudonym for W. E. Johns when he wrote the book BLUE BLOOD RUNS RED.  This different spelling of the pseudonym is clearly Johns’ work but may have been missed by aficionados.  In this article Johns talks about his Alpine House and there are four photos of the pans and troughs he uses.

 

Issue 35

November 1936

 

Published in Volume 9

 

 

Adventures with Primulas II

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about buying Primula seeds and waiting eighteen months for them to germinate.  Johns explains all of his efforts to grow Primulas and the secret of his success.

 

Issue 36

December 1936

 

Published in Volume 9

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 37

January 1937

 

Published in Volume 10

 

 

On Birthdays and Presents

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the birth month of ‘My Garden’ adding “in a day or two it will be my birthday too”.  He suggests that rather than having the usual unwanted items he gets, he would much prefer things for his garden and suggests other people would as well.  There is an amusing line about “the usual orgy of falling stock prices and blood and thunder served up in the morning paper”.

 

 

 

Issue 38

February 1937

 

Published in Volume 10

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about, in this, his first “Passing Show” column, how few things are more gratifying than success in the face of scepticism.  Johns introduces a gardening character called “Judkins” – to whom he will often refer.  Johns also introduces his neighbour “Groglace” (nicknamed “Frogface”).  Again this is a character Johns will regularly refer to.

 

High Adventure

In which Johns proposes that an aeroplane be used to go to a remote part of the world to collect specimens of rare plants not seen in this country.  He mentions his aviation career and being shot down and incarcerated.

 

 

Issue 39

March 1937

 

Published in Volume 10

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks for the first time about “my friend Capt. W. E. Johns” and says that soon they will be in the brilliant sunshine of the Mediterranean “drinking a bottle of wine which he knows so well how to choose”.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the ‘Principality as Les Jardins Exotiques’ in Monaco as well as getting into ‘La Mortola’, which Johns calls ‘the Garden of Sweet Vistas’, on a day when it was closed.  He also talks about having a lot of glass in his garden but suffering significant damage in the gales.

Issue 40

April 1937

 

Published in Volume 10

 

 

The Passing Show

 by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how strange the human species is.  Every other creature is satisfied with what it has – but not humans.  “If a flower is by nature blue, he must have it red”.  Johns bemoans the sparrows ruining his plants.  The solution – black cotton.  He also refers to the fact that he is going to move his abode.

Issue 41

May 1937

 

Published in Volume 11

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the lure of mountains, plant hunting, gardens in dingy places and the urge to possess things.  He talks about the battle against slugs and tells the story of "Brinkypoo".

 

 

 

Issue 42

June 1937

 

Published in Volume 11

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the RHS show and how a good salesman sold him carnations he didn’t really want that then suffered all sorts of diseases but wouldn’t die.  There is a photograph of Johns’ herbaceous rockery.  Johns tells of his battle with customs when trying to bring a plant back from Barcelona.

 

Issue 43

July 1937

 

Published in Volume 11

 

 

Coronation Chelsea 1937

In which Johns sets out his views on the Chelsea flower show and praises the stand attendants for standing ten hours or more in the heat.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how a cow got into his garden at the break of dawn and ate his flowers and about trying to shoot a rabbit in his garden but hitting his rake.  He also wonders how tad-poles got into his water tank outside his greenhouse.  Johns says he is allowed to talk about different growers when ethics normally demand they advertise before any mention.

 

 

Issue 44

August 1937

 

Published in Volume 11

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks for the first time about the planned publication of  The Passing Show” book by Capt. W. E. Johns.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how a house without a garden is like a ship without an anchor.  Johns says he has bought a piece of land on which the previous house was demolished and he intends to build a house.  Johns makes reference to having a maid.  Johns talks about rushing out of the office (presumably of Popular Flying) to go to the RHS Hall at Westminster to buy lupins.

 

 

Issue 45

September 1937

 

Published in Volume 12

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens mentions briefly the price on publication of W. E. Johns’ book, the title of which is not referred to.

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the flowers asking for gas masks and discusses why a war is looming.  Johns talks about his four dogs – three Sealyhams and a Scottie - chasing a rat in his garden and ruining two years’ work.

 

 

 

Issue 46

October 1937

 

Published in Volume 12

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about the publication of W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show” and persuading him to sign copies.

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about two fine old stone troughs at Whipsnade and buying a bunch of flowers to leave at Cleopatra’s Needle.  Johns states that gardening costs only as much as you care to spend.  Johns counts the seeds in a seed pod from a foxglove and finds 1128.  He works out there could be 17,998 million offspring from all his foxgloves.  “So now I know why seed merchants ride in Rolls-Royce”.  Johns talks about Japan causing death and destruction.

 

Issue 47

November 1937

 

Published in Volume 12

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens mentions the success of W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show” and how soon the first edition will be sold out and a second edition will be necessary.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how lovely the word “garden” is, he talks about visiting a friend at the KLG factory that makes spark plugs and finding loads of flowers on the window ledges.  He talks at length about spending 16 days in France and covering 2000 miles by road, from Dieppe, through Paris to the Rhone.  Onwards to Cap Martin, Monte Carlo, then to Avignon and Cevennes, a place so lovely he could have wept.

Issue 48

December 1937

 

Published in Volume 12

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks of the sales of

 W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show” and how Capt. Johns is signing so many but the royalty cheques compensate(!)

 

On Christmas Gifts – Say it with Flowers

In which Johns talks about how flowers make excellent gifts and remind you of the friends who gave them.  He talks about his Uncle Harry who was killed in the Boer War and how the crocus bulbs he gave flowered every year and reminded them all of him

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about living for ten years in a house that was built 600 years ago.  Now he is going to a brand new house.  Johns talks about hunting the end of a rainbow in an aeroplane – but always in the end it was just grey mist.  Johns talks about a letter from America that starts with the greeting “Orchids to you”.  (Later he would write a book called “Orchids for Biggles”).  Johns also talks about holly and mistletoe.

 

The Passing Show

The first advert for W.E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show” in ‘My Garden’

 

 

Issue 49

January 1938

 

Published in Volume 13

 

 

Garden Remedies and Recipes

In which Johns talks about historical and bizarre remedies for all sorts of ills.  This issue also features an advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show" which can be seen here.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about writing the article in December when he has just moved to a new house and he has no garden.  He also talks about his book collection.

 

The Passing Show

Full page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

 

Issue 50

February 1938

 

Published in Volume 13

 

 

The Passing Show

Full page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about the success of W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show”.

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about green fly, what a waste of money pearls are and how one of the most charming men he ever met was a murderer.

Issue 51

March 1938

 

Published in Volume 13

 

 

Colour in the Garden

In which Johns talks about the colours of plants in the garden and how that flowers look best against a neutral background

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the pests in his garden and a working man he overheard “making a bit of a garden for the missus”.  How many people in history have done that?

 

The Passing Show

Smaller advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

Issue 52

April 1938

 

Published in Volume 13

 

 

The Passing Show

Full page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about Moles, moving into his new house (at Reigate) and he makes the memorable quote “it is simply awful the way my work is interfering with my garden” when he relays a story about having to go off to a banquet whilst working on a wall.  He also says the craziest word ever invented in any language is the word “Euaeizoon”

Issue 53

May 1938

 

Published in Volume 14

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about the chance to meet W. E. Johns at the Chelsea Flower Show where he will be signing copies of his book

“The Passing Show”.

 

On Tiptoe Through The Tulips

In which Johns sets out the high cost of Tulips in the past compared to now and runs through various varieties.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about suffering the after effects of influenza and what nice people gardeners are.  Johns says he would never use poison in his garden – he once lost a dog to poison and he then knew why people could commit murder.  He explains he has no letter box in his front door but instead has a box on the wall.  Sparrows are now nesting in it.

 

Book Review

In which W. E.  Johns reviews

“Alpine House Culture for Amateurs” by Gwendolyn Anley.

 

Issue 54

June 1938

 

Published in Volume 14

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about the type of articles he requires and mentions Captain Johns.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the coldest place he has ever been - the Arabian desert at night where water froze.  He talks about meeting Patrick Synge (a botanist) and having some fun with his neighbour ‘Groglace’ when he pulled his leg over his picture “Trees” which didn’t feature any trees.  Johns refers to the sparrow in his letter box again and also his sister-in-law who caused him some problems in the garden.

 

Advert for Desert Night

In a first for ‘My Garden’ an advert appears for one of W. E.  Johns’ adult books.

Desert Night – published March 1938.

Issue 55

July 1938

 

Published in Volume 14

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a new refrigerator that will keep summer flowers until winter.  He bemoans having strawberries and red roses at Christmas.  Johns says Judkins has “gone home at last” – meaning, it would appear, that he has died.  Johns now has a new boy called George.  Johns talks about how good the Chelsea show was and various customers.  He says how nice it was to meet ‘My Garden’ customers on the ‘My Garden’ stand.  “A writer seldom gets the chance to meet the people for whom he writes”

 

Book Review

In which W. E.  Johns reviews

“The Alpine House” by Stuart Boothman.

 

Issue 56

August 1938

 

Published in Volume 14

 

 

The Passing Show

Full page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about receiving a letter critical of W.E. Johns’ column, “The Passing Show”.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about happiness being peace of mind.  He talks about laying under an apple-tree in the corner of his lawn and remembering old school friends who died in the Great War.  Johns says that Groglace has an income of twelve thousand pounds a year.  There is an amusing true story about a bee banging against a mirror and Johns talks about his grandmother and his mother and how the smell of lavender reminds him of them both.

Issue 57

September 1938

 

Published in Volume 15

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about calling his South African plants “kaffirs” and when lies can be forgiven – where they are prompted by good intentions.  Johns wonders why rabbits and other creatures have not evolved green as camouflage and he wonders how a grove of silver birch have come to grow on Reigate Heath following a fire.  Johns also bemoans the massacre of many wild creatures that do good – all to preserve game.

 

 

Issue 58

October 1938

 

Published in Volume 15

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens mentions various books as making good Christmas presents including Captain Johns’ book ‘The Passing Show’.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about abandoning his alpine house between May and November and gives details of the flowers currently in it.  He tells stories of conversations overheard at the flower shows and of an urchin who asked a lady for a flower – much to her disgust.  Johns then went and bought some for the child.

 

Issue 59

November 1938

 

Published in Volume 15

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens lists Captain Johns’ book ‘The Passing Show’ still for sale.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about returning from holiday to find that his beloved dog had been run over.  Johns mentions the war clouds looming and passing (no doubt referring to the Munich agreement).  Johns mentions various letters he has received from all around the world.  Johns talks about flowers being cut in South Africa and on sale in London within five days.

 

Issue 60

December 1938

 

Published in Volume 15

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens lists Captain Johns’ book ‘The Passing Show’ still for sale.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about plant hunting through catalogues and spending sixty pounds looking for a plant in Majorca when he could have bought it back home for five shillings.  He tells a highly amused anecdote about a friend who went to Austria and wrote “spy” as his occupation – causing consternation!  Johns laughs at the fact that his next door neighbour, Groglace, has had tons of stone delivered and not realised that it is blocking his car in his garage.

 

Issue 61

January 1939

 

Published in Volume 16

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the memory of autumn.  He talks about the fact that his house was built on the ruins of a mansion of a noble lord and there still remains a great stone structure in his garden, the pillars of which were used to fill up the cellar.  He also marvels at the thistles that are able to push themselves up through the layers of his drive and the road outside.

 

Book Review

In which W. E.  Johns reviews

“Borneo Jungle” by five different authors.  One assumes he found some inspiration for “Biggles in Borneo” which was published in July 1943.

 

The Passing Show

Half page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

Issue 62

February 1939

 

Published in Volume 16

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how cold it is and feeding the birds in his garden.  He tells a story about seeing a spider catching a moth in its web.  Johns’ wife wants to free the moth but Johns says the spider deserves its meal.  Before the moth can be rescued, however, a blue tit eats them both.  “I feel, somehow, that there is a moral in this story; but I don’t know what it is”.  Johns talks about a visit to “Bodnant” (Garden, near Colwyn Bay in Wales).  Even though he went on 27th December it was “wonderful”.  Johns says he plans to go back again in the Spring.

Issue 63

March 1939

 

Published in Volume 16

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about highbrow horticulturalists and he asks whether Spring is coming or going.  Johns talks about a book he has bought in a second hand book shop called “Days and Hours in a Garden” by E.V.B.  It’s a Victorian book and he wonders about the gardener who will buy it in a second hand book shop 85 years hence (i.e. 2024).  Johns talks about how it has rained for a week and blesses the man who invented glass “otherwise I doubt if I could bear the winter”

Issue 64

April 1939

 

Published in Volume 16

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a seed catalogue from India that is just too cheaply made.  It is on blue tissue paper.  Johns pretends to admire Groglace’s hyacinths.  Johns quotes “Show me a man’s library and I will tell you what sort of man he is” and applies the same philosophy to a woman who tends a garden and what sort of housewife she is.  He also quotes “The Gods will give you anything – if you are prepared to pay the price” and talks about having to relight his greenhouse fire in the pitch dark.  Johns says he has the flu and the doctor has told him to put down his pen so he is going on holiday for a fortnight.

Issue 65

May 1939

 

Published in Volume 17

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about seeing a vase of anemones in the Cote d’Azur that were so incredible he spent ages – to no avail – trying to get seeds or bulbs.  He also tells of seeing a cactus in the same hotel in Monte Carlo for fourteen years and wanting to go back in the summer and plant it out in the wild.  Johns says there should be more imagination in the naming of garden plants and he wonders why flowers grow up to boundaries and no further – even when the boundaries are chain link fences.

 

 

Issue 66

June 1939

 

Published in Volume 17

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about seeing a seed bursting open and throwing out two shoots.  Johns says that ten thousand rose trees have been planted on the Maginot Line “presumably they fill the gaps between concrete gun emplacements and barbed wire entanglements”. Johns tells of a Frenchman of his acquaintance who is amazed that the British spend more time growing flowers than vegetables.  His French acquaintance said that France was able to feed itself entirely in times of war.

Issue 67

July 1939

 

Published in Volume 17

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the Chelsea Flower Show being better than ever this year.  He talks about buying six pieces of garden furniture he could not afford after seeing it out in the rain.  He says the best flower there was a blue orchid on a woman’s hat.  Johns praises America for their ‘Plant Patent Act’ to prevent the copying of new plants.  Johns also talks about the joy of his return visit to “Bodnant” (see the February 1939 issue for details of his first visit).

Issue 68

August 1939

 

Published in Volume 17

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about going “straight to my study determined to finish the chapter of an overdue book” then on picking up his pen, finding he had no cigarettes, he decides to go to the shop to get some, only to be distracted by half a dozen tasks on the way.  Johns talks about seeing rabbits go to ground to avoid a hawk and talks about men having to do the same.  “Will they garden underground in synthetic sunshine?”  Johns talks about reading about a cave in Malaya where flowers are white and so are the creatures in the cave.  He uses this for the story “The Adventure of the Oxidized Grotto” in “Biggles –Charter Pilot” – first published as “Grotto of Death” in the Boy’s Own Paper in 1942.

 

Issue 69

September 1939

 

Published in Volume 18

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about orthodoxy and being a slave to convention.  A purist has come uninvited into his garden and asked why he is planting a certain plant in his rock garden, to Johns’ annoyance.  Johns talks about having flowered nearly a hundred plants in his garden this year that he has not seen before. 

If you were expecting him to mention the start of the Second World War then you have to wait until November as, of course, his articles were written many weeks in advance of publication.

 

Issue 70

October 1939

 

Published in Volume 18

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about the start of the war.  This editorial is reproduced in full for its historical value.  It finishes with reference to books for sale, including W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”, which is also offered for the first time FREE with all gift subscriptions.

 

National Emergency

My Garden sets aside a page to do its duty.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the African daisy and he says that "were I to begin gardening all over again I should proceed in a very different fashion” and he explains why.  Johns tells an anecdote about how he was conned by a hawker selling bean plants sprayed with cheap perfume.

 

Issue 71

November 1939

 

Published in Volume 18

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about offering

W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show” FREE with every subscription given as a Christmas present.

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the start of the war.

 “I was collecting seeds in the Alpes Maritimes when I was startled, not to say shocked, to learn that we were on the verge of war”.  Johns talks about building a dug out in his garden.  Johns gives a recipe for potato dumplings.  Johns talks about the loss of his gardener.  “George has gone to the war, cheerfully but in his heart (I know) unwillingly.  I was strangely moved as he walked down the road”.  Johns talks about letters written before the war drifting in but he doesn’t want to add to the labour of the censors.

 

 

Issue 72

December 1939

 

Published in Volume 18

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about appreciating more than in previous years, orders for Christmas items which include W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show”.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about labouring hard and paying £250 for a piece of land adjourning his property with a large tree he wanted to keep.  A neighbour has then approached him to say the tree was dangerous and needs to be cut down.  Lawyers will become involved.  Johns explains how he is missing George, his gardener and how he is in another battle with customs over a box of bulbs from California.  Johns bemoans the fact that he is only allowed 75% of the coal he ordered last year – but only because he ordered no coal last year – so he can’t have any!  Johns talks about how satisfying it is harvesting one’s own produce.  Johns points out the dilemma of it being patriotic to have a little in hand but unpatriotic to buy more than one needs.

 

The Passing Show

Half page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

Issue 73

January 1940

 

Published in Volume 19

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how the horticultural trade has adjusted itself to the war and how the cold will kill off his plants now George the gardener is not there to help him.  “I myself have broken ice on a water hole in the Sahara”.  Johns talks about the plants he saw during his travels in the Great War including in Macedonia.  Johns says the “Mitts” his Sealyham pup has taken to eating his tulip bulbs and he can’t stop him.  Johns talks about walking through Hatton Garden in London, once famous as the garden of the Lord Bishop of Ely.

 

 

Issue 74

February 1940

 

Published in Volume 19

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how bleak his garden is looking in the winter.  Johns also wonders how many of the people who implore us to “dig, dig, dig” do actually dig themselves?  Johns says he doesn’t mind hard work but he is not going to tear his finger-nails to shreds.  Johns says that “birds are really dreadful little hogs” as he describes them fighting.  “One Hitler in the world is enough”.  Johns talks about a friend who wants to grow “cineraria” but only produced weeds and Johns didn’t have the heart to tell him.  Johns says he was still cutting roses at the end of December.

 

Issue 75

March 1940

 

Published in Volume 19

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the superlative adjectives in seed catalogues.  They now use such words as “monster” and “mammoth” to describe size.  Johns talks about forms.  “From birth to death, both of which occasions are noted on a form, life is just one form after another in some form or other”.  Johns talks about going “the whole hog” and saying it used to be a five shilling piece.  (I think he is incorrect as a hog just used to be one shilling?).  Johns says the snow showed him where the rabbits get over the wire.  Johns talks about feeding the birds and how tame they have become.

 

Issue 76

April 1940

 

Published in Volume 19

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the loss of many plants that can never be replaced as he got them on trips to Europe, which is now out of the question.  Johns talks about bargaining for plants in Spain and how strange that would be to sellers in England, where the price is the price.  Johns talks about the pleasure he has had from his gardening books “although there is little more to be said now than was said two thousand years ago”.  Johns says “there are times when I find the generally accepted theory of evolution hard to believe” and he explains why.  Johns worries about the shortage of timber and says he has seen the trees from his window fall to the axe.

 

 

Issue 77

May 1940

 

Published in Volume 20

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how bleak spring is.  He talks about a number of plants which survived the winter, including his primulas formerly entombed in ice.  Feeding the birds has created a problem whereby they now follow him as he plants the peas and “snap them up with gusto”.  Johns has a giant Californian “Sequoia Gigantea” as a tiny sapling.  It should grow to 300 feet and life for 5000 years.  “Think of what my tree may live to see”.  Johns talks about the possibility of eating tulips and asks if any reader has done this.

 

Letters

In the first page of “Letters to the Editor” a correspondent says “Captain Johns raises an interesting point in the April issue, by his question: What first induced the winter aconite to flower in January?" and seeking to answer it.

 

Issue 78

June 1940

 

Published in Volume 20

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about toiling like a slave to make his soil produce the maximum crop of food.  “Having no gardener I toil like a slave all day, and leave my writing until nightfall”.  Johns says that at long last he has found a use for “the most utterly useless of all male garments – white dress gloves”.  He uses them for weeding.  Johns talks about his love of olive oil and how with him it has been a “fetish”.  “To-day, the best olive oil goes into high explosive shells and bombs.  This, if nothing else, convinces me that the world is crazy”.  Johns mentions all the hard work that goes into packing plants and says he now understands why growers charge high prices.

 

Letters

Captain W. E. Johns himself writes a letter, replying to a point raised by a correspondent the previous month.  There is also a letter in response to Johns question in his previous article about eating Tulips.

 

Issue 79

July 1940

 

Published in Volume 20

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns says “No longer able to buy books, I am now reading all my old ones, and in view of the experience I have gained since I last read them, this is turning out to be a profitable pursuit”.  Johns is talking about his gardening books.  He says every plant in his garden is a foreigner.  “If no one came into this garden for a hundred years how many of them would remain?  Very few.  In a thousand years – none”.  “What can I see outside the garden boundary?  Daisies, buttercups, dandelions, thistles, chickweed – all weeds”.  Johns asks where are our desirable natives?  He says he has tried planting garden plants in wild places but people just dig them up.  Johns criticises his neighbour ‘Groglace’ for doing physical drill saying it’s hard to understand.  “There cannot be a muscle in the body which the gardener does not call into play.  Johns says from earliest childhood he has had the folly of buying things cheap and gives an example of buying cheap plants and finding them to be dead.

 

 

Letters

In which a correspondent agrees with W. E. Johns’ remarks about the time and trouble it takes to send plants to friends.

 

 

The Passing Show

Half page advert for W. E. Johns’ book

“The Passing Show”

 

Issue 80

August 1940

 

Published in Volume 20

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns wonders why men gave up cultivating the lotus, not the Egyptian flower, but the shrub.  Johns says “There was a time when I cared little for white flowers.  Their lack of colour seemed to leave them wanting”.  After seeing some white foxgloves in the June moonlight they now hold a fascination for him.  He talks about three new white flowers he has added to his brigade.  Johns says his garden is infested with ants “the soil being light” and they are always in the roots of the saxifrages and on the buds of the peonies.  “The ant is an industrious little fellow and I bear him no ill will.  Indeed, if humans could only adopt his perfect communistic system of life we should all be happier”.  Johns talks about how bumble-bees can pollinate a foxglove but a honey bee can’t.  Johns talks about the cultivation of seedless fruit but they lose their taste “because they are freaks”.

Issue 81

September 1940

 

Published in Volume 21

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks says “there is no evil without good” and the war will produce an enormous crop of new gardeners.  He talks about a number of people he knows who would recoil from gardening “as a shrimp darts back from a bather’s foot”.  He talks about their beginners mistakes and how over the years he has learned from his.  Johns talks of the damage done to his garden by the rabbits – and the dogs chasing them.  The worst tyrant in the garden is the oak tree.  It is actually in the park over the hedge but it constantly drops things in his garden.

 

Letters

Three relevant letters here.  The first two are correspondents who refer to “Captain Johns” and his articles.  The third is by W. E. Johns himself and he is writing about an article called “The Tranquil Mind” in “last month’s issue”.

 

 

Issue 82

October 1940

 

Published in Volume 21

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens refers to W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show” which costs a shilling plus 4d postage.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about Swallows going abroad.  He says he can’t afford Stone or Marble pots and the ones he has are too porous.  He talks of potatos and chickens and says that birds keep on laying if you take their eggs and that he “once took an egg a day from a Plover’s nest until it had laid twenty-five”.  He says the English are the most destructive race and talks of litter and vandalism.  Then he moves onto rats and mentions that at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century Tulip bulbs cost two hundred guineas apiece!

 

Letters

One letter here.  This is by W. E. Johns himself and it is titled ‘The Scarlet Runner and the Bee’.

 

Issue 83

November 1940

 

Published in Volume 21

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns says that some two hundred enemy aircraft were intercepted over his house and the noise was considerable.  He talks of going to Bodnant Gardens and an oak near Conway Bridge that has swallowed a stone weighing not less than a hundredweight and has cracked it.  The stone will win says Johns.  Johns talks of the gardens of Caer Rhun and bemoans tinned vegetables.  “Too many cooks nowadays learn their job with a tin-opener in one hand”.

Issue 84

December 1940

 

Published in Volume 21

 

 

Editorial

At the end of Theo Stephens’ editorial there is a page saying “PLEASE ORDER EARLY” and it refers to a number of publications including W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show” which costs a shilling plus 4d postage.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a Fungi that has broken through his drive and that his Scotch Fir has roots that are likely to cause future problems with neighbours.  Johns says you can’t persuade a plant that it is Spring when it is Autumn.  Johns has smoked some tobacco he has grown, “For when a man sees his income vanish like May snow it behoves him, unless he is a fool, to take steps to preserve what little luxuries he can”.  He wishes he had planted vines.  Johns says that near him a man has built a house and he is now working on the garden but it is obvious that he knows nothing about it.

Issue 85

January 1941

 

Published in Volume 22

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks the statutes in the gardens of ancient Greece or Rome and then their modern equivalent.  "It becomes possible to perceive with disconcerting clarity the gigantic strides that art has made – backwards”.  Johns praises tea, potatoes and wheat and adds to that list coffee and tobacco “which for centuries has poured a stream of gold into the coffers of the State and now helps men to retain their sanity in a whirling world of wheels and woe".  He then mentions the grape.  Johns talks about a florist left standing when all surroundings were bombed.  Johns impressed his neighbour Groglace with his knowledge of cloves - only read the night before.  Johns jokes about Aristotle being paid 800 talents – just short of £80,000 - for his work. –"I feel that I could put in some really good work for a publisher who paid at this rate".  Johns speculates how things might be had Hitler's father and mother never met.  "And thus do I ponder like a fool as I dig for victory".

 

Grandmother’s Garden

by John Earlie

Jon Early was a pseudonym for W. E. Johns when he wrote the book BLUE BLOOD RUNS RED.  This different spelling of the pseudonym is clearly Johns’ work but may have been missed by aficionados.  Johns first used this pseudonym in the October 1936 issue of ‘My Garden’ and this is the second use of it.  In this article Johns talks about how early Victorians should not be scoffed at.  “In the first place, grandmother knew every flower that grew in her garden; not merely the name of it, but the lore surrounding it, and its meaning”.  He explains how dahlias were named after Professor Dahl and were originally pronounced “darlia”.

 

Letters

One letter from a correspondent refers to Johns’ article in November 1940 about stone-swallowing trees and points out the correct location of the tree in question.  It was near Talycafn Bridge not Conway Bridge.

 

 

Issue 86

February 1941

 

Published in Volume 22

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about so called “civilised” warfare and how barbaric warfare was almost without exception prosecuted against men and objects of a military nature.  He laments a neighbour’s garden and trees being destroyed.  A hundred year old tree cannot be replaced within that time.  The destruction of trees was in his mind “when I gazed across the treeless waste of Northern France in 1918, and again, long afterwards when everything had been replaced – except the trees”.  Johns talks about trying to cut down a tree as a soldier in Macedonia but it was as hard as iron.  He called colleagues to help but the tree won.  “We mutilated it most horribly, but we could have attacked the very rock with more success”.  Johns says “At school I was taught many things, the reason and purpose of which have remained a mystery, for they have served no purpose in my life”.  It was not until he was half-way through life that he perceived trees to be something more than inanimate objects.  “One day I am going round the world on a tree quest, armed with a camera, writing a book called ‘Trees I have Met’.  But not yet”.   Johns talks about a “hop pillow” to help you to sleep.  “For my part, I can think of a better use for hops”.  Johns talks about finding a potato and remembers a story about wealth, that if you plant a potato and replant the produce you can obtain – for free – a lot of potatoes.  Johns said he was in his garden when he said to Mitts, his Sealyham dog, “No more play, we must go home now and do some work”.  He then heard the head gardener next door say to his lad “All right, knock off work, you can go home and play.”  Johns remarks that “It’s a topsy-turvy world”.  Johns talks about the regular habits of wildlife, particularly birds and relates an incident “under fire in the Middle East” about trying to fetch a team of gun mules tethered to a fig tree and how he gave way to “unprintable  invective” as they had tangle up their chains into one big knot.  “Of course, they were frightened, but not so frightened as I was”.

 

 

Issue 87

March 1941

 

Published in Volume 22

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about seeds being “lightly covered with soil” – but experience has taught him that things buried three feet deep will germinate.  Johns gives further details of seed survival.  “Some time ago the heath here was utterly destroyed by fire.  At that time the vert was gorse, broom, bracken, heather and Scotch firs.  One would suppose that the first growth to appear after the holocaust would be these same trees and shrubs.  But no.  Silver birches came up as thick as corn”.  Johns concludes after relaying a number of such stories that “there seems little doubt that seeds will lie in a dormant state for an indefinite period”.  Johns says he is going to take some soil from the bottom of a forty foot bomb crater and see if any plants grow from it.  Johns says “that the darkest hour comes before dawn is a fact well known to those who rise sufficiently early or go to bed sufficiently late”.  Johns talks about how nurserymen at the outbreak of war found themselves stuck with acres of plants, shrubs and trees for which there was a restricted market.  (Of course, everybody was then encouraged to plant vegetables for the war effort).  He suggests that nurserymen should offer the stock to ‘bona fide’ clients on “pay after the war” terms.  Only packing and carriage to be paid for with the order.  That should yield a timely harvest at some future date and even if the harvest did not come up to expectations, then some harvest was better than no harvest at all.  Johns says “I have often suspected, and now I am convinced, that the characteristic most seldom to be found in the average British workman is imagination.  I suspected it when, as an officer in Baghdad, and other places in the East*, I heard them talking not of caliphs or beautiful slave girls, as one might suppose, but of football matches seen at such places as the Arsenal”.  Johns concludes, “the lamentable truth seems to be this; while people can buy what they need they won’t trouble to produce it themselves”.  Johns says that he can find no reason to believe the saying that bracken indicates that soil is fit for tillage.  Johns finishes by talking about what happens if you disturb the balance of nature.

 

*The biography of Johns found no evidence he served here but I don’t think he is lying about it.

 

 

Issue 88

April 1941

 

Published in Volume 22

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a man he knows who never takes anything for granted but always does his own thing.  If he buys a car he rebuilds the engine to make it better.  He bought a yacht and reset all the ropes rather than do it the way it had been done for hundreds of years.  This man lost his leg in a plane crash.  He built himself an artificial leg for everything he wanted to do such as riding and skiing.  Johns applies the same philosophy to gardening and instead of planting his peas from north to south as the experts say, he did it from east to west and found it to be better.  Johns talks about the shortage of onions – “onion sets are more rare than diamonds”.  Johns says “When you get down to brass tacks, we gardeners are seldom responsible for such successes as we have”.  Cheap seeds strewn haphazard may produce fantastic results.  “The Chinese have a saying, you can’t jump into the same river twice – because the water has moved on.  That is the grim truth”.  Johns talks about being a small boy and knocking over an ants nest and watching it be rebuilt with feverish speed.  Johns says he thinks of this as he walks through London.  Johns says that he read with shock that ten people have been fined two pounds each for growing tobacco in their gardens.  “Ignorance of the law – so I have been informed all my life – is no excuse”.  Johns says if all the seed merchants who sell the seeds were fined the maximum of £50, it could pay for the war.  “I shudder when I think that I once openly boasted on this page that I had grown tobacco in my garden”.  Johns talks about using a yardstick in his garden.  He uses it  so often to space out plants that he would not be without it.

Issue 89

May 1941

 

Published in Volume 22

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the many books on Cottage Gardens.  “I have often been tempted to reverse the process and write a book about my frightful experience when, with hayseeds still in my hair, I took a flat at Lancaster Gate.  Whatever the sophisticated town-dweller may think of the yokel, I doubt if the shock of collision is as great as that felt by the rustic who regards for the first time the bustling, bowler-hatted battalions of the metropolis”.  Johns says some time ago he took a country cottage.  It was described as ‘attractive’ – “you should have seen what it attracted”.  He talks about everybody who turned up unexpectedly and stayed for lunch.  Leaving Johns with no lunch.  When they got extra food in, and it rained, people didn’t turn up.  “We were the caretakers, always there, but the people only turned up in fine weather”.  Friends bought their friends and they bought their friends.  “Complete strangers stopped me in the garden and asked me where the whisky was kept”.  Eventually “we disconnected the telephone and pinned a notice on the door ‘Gone Away’” and hid in a pit at the end of the garden.  “So if, whether in search of bliss or to escape the blitz you take a ‘little place’ in the country, keep it dark”.  Johns says that nearly all the glass has gone in his greenhouse and all the foreign plants that he spent years and years bring together have died.  Certain bulbs have had to be planted in open ground.  “I do know at least know definitely what is hardy and what is not”.

 

Letters

One letter from a correspondent refers to Johns’ and says “I am convinced your versatile and amusing contributor Captain W. E. Johns has been misled in his deductions regarding bracken as an indication of fertility”.

 

 

 

 

Issue 90

June 1941

 

Published in Volume 22

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens cancels an offer to buy back certain copies of ‘My Garden’ for binding purposes.  “It is embarrassingly unprofitable to sell a magazine at 1s. (one shilling) post free only to buy it back for 1s. 6d.!” (one and a half shillings).

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the thistle and its “wicked disposition”.  Johns compares different types of plants to different types of people.    Johns writes about how plants co-operate with each other and about how the monkey-puzzle tree is said to be a survivor of the Jurassic period.  Johns says that the annual chickweed produces at a single crop 3000 seeds, they mature quickly so there are five generations a year.  The task of turning them out is like trying to empty the Atlantic with a stirrup pump.  Johns says the seeds of Locust trees, or Carob as it was known are said to be the original “carat” weight of jewellers.  Johns talks about a great pile of large stones in his garden which he calls Stonehenge and how he plans to break them down.  Johns talks about finding blackberry runners of some 30 feet in length, but he has heard of members of the cane family, the rattans, that can reach 900 feet.  He has been told of tropical sea weed that can reach 600 feet and he talks of the speed of things growing in the tropics.  He thinks there are certain vines that you can observe growing.

 

Letters

One letter from a correspondent refers to Johns’ article from the March (41) issue suggesting an alternative scheme of deferred payment to nurserymen.

 

 

Issue 91

July 1941

 

Published in Volume 23

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how, as a boy, he was taught that nature abhors a vacuum but it meant nothing to him.  If he was taught that nature abhors nudity it would make much more sense as “a piece of earth, a stone, a fallen tree, nature will not suffer to remain nude, but at once sets about the task of covering it”.  “My house has been built only three years, yet I can see places where this sequence is already in progress”.  Johns says you can kill most things by decapitation.  But not a dandelion.  An old gardener has told him this is because it is done in the wrong season.  You need to do it on 31st July.  Johns talks about how much beauty he now finds in his vegetable garden.  “The fun is to keep everything in geometrical patterns”.  Johns reminds his readers of his story about not being able to get the seeds of a particularly beautiful flower when he was near Cannes.  He thinks he now knows the reason why after seeing a headline in “Tit-Bits” entitled “£250,000 from a Vicar’s packet of seeds”.  Johns explains how he “finished up this year with my potato crop in a horrible mess”.  Johns explains how the other night a score of bombs fell in his garden and set fire to his yew hedge in two places.  “I was lucky that I suffered no worse damage”.  Johns says “I have just met a most interesting man – at least, he has an interesting hobby”.  The man collects wood and has an incredible collection of specimens.  “In future I shall take more interest in timber”.  Johns suggests people should go and see porters loading and unloading baskets of flowers at Covent Garden after the nightime blitz.  “Thus may a man get a glimpse of heaven from the midst of hell”.

 

Letters

One letter from a correspondent refers to Johns’ article on buried seeds and relays a story about the letter writer’s own farmhouse which is 400 years old.

 

Issue 92

August 1941

 

Published in Volume 23

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how “it becomes increasingly apparent that it needs more than the fear of death to stop British gardeners from gardening.  “Speaking personally, far from finding it difficult to garden, gardening is my salvation”.  Johns says that “one day last September, a flock of ugly birds flew over and laid 137 eggs (the police figure) as they passed.  But the old gardener next door did not even deign to look up; nor did my ultra-Victorian mother-in-law, who was knitting under the apple tree, stop knitting.  When I called her attention to what was going on she merely said ‘nonsense’”.  Johns notes “the increasing tendency of growers to name their new types after aircraft and aero engines”.  “I shall need no reminder of the aircraft of this decade”.  Johns makes an interesting comment on the weather.  He says “the only thing really constant about our weather is its inconsistency, and that goes for any month of the year”.  Johns talks about finding a table fork in the garden.  “It had been thrown out in the shaking of a cloth”.  He happened to see a thistle and used the fork to get it out and discovered that a table fork is perfect for weeding.  “Try it yourself”.  Johns refers to the “Editor’s dry comment on my note last month concerning Boenninghausenia albiflora.  To my knowledge I have never seen this shrub”.  Johns says either the wrong seeds were in the packet or more probable “I got my labels mixed”.  “Who wants a crazy name like Boenninghausenia anyway?”  Johns refers to the June correspondence and the suggested plant evacuation scheme.  It might work with potted plants, he suggests.  “I put nearly everything in the open ground to take its chances a year ago, in case I had to depart hurriedly”.

 

Letters

One letter from a correspondent refers to Johns’ reference to newly planted conifers being able to resist the wind and suggests a solution.

 

Issue 93

September 1941

 

Published in Volume 23

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the notion that gardens are a place of harmony.  “My garden is a place of bondage, a temple of toil where I delve in the dirt, hack at the weeds, tear myself with thorns, sting myself, get flies in my eyes and sweat on my brow”.  Johns neighbour ‘Groglace’ will not water his garden as it makes the weeds grow – yet he prays for rain.  Johns talks about problems with his garden hose.  “I would as soon unwind the Devil himself in my garden as the garden hose”.  Johns bemoans the lack of tobacco and queries why people are not allowed to grow it in the UK when the ships importing items are better used for the merchandise of war.  Johns talks about how onions are price controlled at four and a half pence per pound but spring onions are offered for sale at six to eight shillings.  “If it is not an onion, then a colt is not a horse, a lamb is not a sheep and a puppy is not a dog”.  The most amusing passage is this.  “My brother, who lives in London and is a rather clever scientist, came to see me the other day.  “I say,” cried he, looking at my delphiniums, “what lovely lupins!”  Shortly afterwards, in five minutes he corrected a fault in my radiogram which I had been trying to locate for weeks.  One can’t have it both ways”.  Johns relays a story of a clap of thunder leading to all the insects in his tree heading under the yew hedge, where the birds had a feast.  He suggests thunder may be Nature’s siren – “take cover”.  Johns says he talks to his tomatoes.  “After all this nursing, little do they dream what is in store for them”.

 

 

Issue 94

October 1941

 

Published in Volume 23

 

 

Guinness Advert

A Guinness advert that quotes

 Robert Louis Stevenson saying

“I shall put myself outside a pint of Guinness”

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about an Oak sapling split in the shape of a “V”.  “You shall be my Victory oak” he says and promises to keep it while he remains in the house.  (I wonder if it is still there?  Johns left his house in Reigate in 1944).  Johns talks about all the plants given to him by various friends and acquaintances and how they remind him of various things.  Johns says he has never been to America, and didn’t want to go as it was “the home of such dreadful things as swing, jitter-bugs and hustle” but letters from America have changed his mind and when the war is over, he is going.  Johns said when he goes to London, he takes onions with him to give to people and he is treated with great respect everywhere.  Johns talks about how he watched a “professional” gardener plant some onion seeds but they won’t grow as the soil was far too dry.  Finally Johns says that treatment of pests and diseases isn’t always necessary for gardeners such as he.

 

Letters

Three letters this month refers to W. E. Johns’ column.  The first talks about weeding with a fork.  The second doesn’t mention W. E. Johns by name but just refers to page 350 of “last December’s issue” (which was W. E. Johns’ article ‘THE PASSING SHOW’) and the third letter starts with the reference to “Your amusing contributor Captain Johns …” and refers to his opinion that you can’t judge a plant in its first year, you have to wait a few years to judge it.

 

Wartime Advert

A wartime advert about helping other gardeners!

Gardeners Who Know – Help the Beginner Along!”

“Dig for Victory and help others to do so too!”

 

 

Issue 95

November 1941

 

Published in Volume 23

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a book by Professor Michael Donovan about how to make wine and alcohol out of unusual plants.  He starts his article this month with the line “When the war is over no doubt we shall go back to our lazy habit of buying instead of producing”.  Johns later says “it is amazing to reflect that two hundred years ago, oranges, home grown, were common in this country.  Again our wealth and slovenliness in production has been our undoing”.  Oranges were grown under glass and in 1691, the orangery at Beddington, near Croydon, produced 10,000 oranges!  Johns talks about Bacon and his advice to gardeners.  “What would the Editor say if I were to recommend “a green Arbour, covered with Woodbine, wherein to embrace and kiss one’s Mistress”?  I think I shall build an arbour.  Question: Which does one acquire first, the arbour or the Mistress?  But a truce to this nonsense”.  Johns says that he has experienced forty consecutive days of rain during midsummer.  “There appeared to be no chance of the onions ripening if the rain persisted, so I lifted half of them, ripe or not, and hung them in bunches round my study, which caused the house to stink like the fo’castle of a Dutch onion boat.  I am still in doubt as to whether or not they will keep through the winter”.  Johns says slugs have attacked his Red King potatoes but not touched his Arran Banner potatoes.  Johns finishes with a story about his search for the St. Paul anemone and how a reader has written to him to tell him where it can be found, but warned him of a “frightful curse attached to anyone who divulged where the flower grew”.

Issue 96

December 1941

 

Published in Volume 23

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a time when everybody must have been a gardener in order to eat and survive.  “It astonishes me to hear a man say, “I hate gardening”.  It more than astonishes me, it fills me with a vague feeling of alarm, because there are thousands of such people.  They all eat, yet they produce nothing, neither flesh, fish nor fruit, no, not even at a time like this.  It follows that others must produce for them.  Heaven help these people if ever the time comes when the producers decide to eat what they themselves produce”.  Johns refers to a humorous letter that a correspondence has forwarded to him after being received by the correspondent’s firm.  Johns quotes it in full.  Johns refers to how nice seeds from the bean family are.  “I probably have a simple mind, but to me they are beautiful”.  Women used to wear them as necklaces.  Johns says that at a pinch you could eat them, whereas “diamonds and pearls are going to be horribly gritty between the teeth”.  Johns says “Below my demesne there is a piece of waste land, part of the same big garden on which I built my house.  I use the word waste only to denote that it has not yet been built on, but I would have you visualize two acres of turf well furnished with evergreens, chiefly bay, laurel and box, and, rising above all, a fine cedar tree.  This, naturally, is a favourite playground for my several neighbours’ children, two boys and two girls between the ages of ten and fifteen”.  Hearing them laughing Johns went to see what they were doing and found them dancing around waving ivy garlanded sticks.  It looked like some wild ancient pagan ritual and Johns speculated that deep down inside us all there is a lingering spark of superstition.  Johns refers to the “simple souls who still read their astro-horoscopes in newspapers controlled by clever men who know how to cash in on human frailty and credulity”.  Johns marvels at his neighbours sunflowers, “not one is less than 16 ft high”

Issue 97

January 1942

 

Published in Volume 24

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about growing fruit after being “faced by an empty dessert dish”.  He starts by saying “There are still many things about gardening concerning which I am entirely uninformed”.  Fruit growing is one of them.  He talks about growing apples called “Maidens On Paradise”.  “Having lived in the East (now that is an interesting comment!) I am aware that these two fascinating subjects are coupled in the Moslem idea of heaven.  Against that I have not one word to say”.  Johns says he could not get his order off fast enough, “but I have an uncomfortable feeling I am going to be disappointed when they arrive”.  Johns suggests growing gladioli in the open like onions.  “The result astonished me”.  Johns said he nearly referred to them as “gladdies”.  “Nearly all other races, seeking an affectionate diminutive, tack one or two syllables on, but we, with our passion for mutilation, slice them off.  Thank heaven the rose is spared this indignity”.  Johns talks about a friend who pulls up his gooseberry bushes and takes them indoors to prune them by the fire before returning them.  Johns talks about recently meeting an American Orchid grower “a most interesting man” Orchids are mass produced in America and available every season of the year.  An elegant lady neighbour asked Johns’ advice on how to start gardening.  He told her to cut half an inch off the end of her finger nails.

 

 

Issue 98

February 1942

 

Published in Volume 24

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about planting six Japanese Cherry trees, all the same height at six foot.  “Can anyone offer an explanation as to why one of these trees should shoot up to eleven feet, one to nine feet, two to eight feet, one to seven feet, while the other has not grown an inch?”  Johns talks about his enthusiasm for trough gardening.  “As passion burns itself out the faster when the flame is bright, so did my affection for sandstone sinks, flicker, fall and die.  The curtain dropped last week when I emptied my troughs and put them, inverted, in a garden path as stepping stones”.  Johns talks of what happened to some gladiolus psittacinus bulbs sent to him by a lady from Africa.  Some went in the greenhouse but “a bomb interfered with the greenhouse experiments”.  Some were planted in open ground and may flower “for although I am writing this in the middle of January the green swords stand up, apparently unaffected”.  Johns says “I am one of those fortunate people who get the best out of trees, because from my study window, I look down on them instead of up”.  Johns talks about the weeds at the bottom of his garden “yet a few paces beyond the fence, on the open heath, there is not one single weed”.  This is due to the rabbits.  Johns talks about ordering some trees, and how well packed they were when they arrived.  “When all this fuss is over I shall remember the people who carried on as usual, putting reputation before easy profits.  They are the foundation-stones of British commercial enterprise”.  Johns says “It is possible, I think, for a man to maintain life on a very small piece of ground”.  “We have not bought a vegetable since the day the war started”.  Johns asks “How common is the albino form of holly?” and expresses his surprise at seeing it.

 

 

Issue 99

March 1942

 

Published in Volume 24

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the hyperbole in seed catalogues.  “By the application of what rule shall I determine which is the largest – immense, mammoth, gigantic or colossal?  Is a “deep scintillating crimson” brighter than “brilliant blazing ruby” or “intense glowing blood red?”  Johns says that “when the Romans invaded Britannia they introduced amongst other things, the art of husbandry as they understood it”.  Johns says that at the same time they must have bought with them their own gardening tools.  “There was, for example, that fascinating form of spade called bipalium, which you may still see in use in Italy where it is called a vanga.  The bottom of the spade is not flat but inclines to a point.  The chief feature is the addition of a cross bar some inches above the tread of the spade so using your foot you can push it down deeper than just an ordinary spade.  “One wonders why such a useful tool has been abandoned”.  “I must have one”.  Johns says “When America does something, she not only does it properly but refuses to be bound to a style imposed by custom or tradition”.  “I have just read, in an American magazine, how this has been applied to the American equivalent of our “Grow More Food” campaign.  Local Authorities have taken land and set it out in allotments.  But in order to assist people, they have ploughed the land and raked it to get it in a condition for seed planting – and this is done every spring.  “A communal method is adopted, and an official gardener is appointed to supervise or give advice.   Johns talks about how fashions in names come and go and “on all sides now I hear Susan”.  He tells his readers that it originally meant “all flowers” and gives other meanings for the word.

Issue 100

April 1942

 

Published in Volume 24

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens talks about this being the 100th issue and thanks his contributors for their part in the success of the magazine.  There is also a reproduction of a signed photo of him!

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about whether this democracy of ours can survive.  He criticises a lady who is mortified when her cook is called up.  He talks about Javasse Markham’s 300 year old booklet about the virtues of a wife and the greater the lady, the greater her duties.  He says he needs to send the booklet to this lady.  Johns said he gave a clove of garlic to his neighbour, Groglace, and “the fool ate it like an onion”.  “The next morning, with hanging tongue and staring eyes, he panted to me that he didn’t like garlic.  I reeled against a standard prunus to steady myself.  It seemed impossible that a human body could emit such a frightful effluvium, and live.  He asked me what he could do about it.  When I could get my breath, I told him, nothing – short of drinking a gallon of petrol and applying a match to his mouth” (I have to say that made me laugh out loud!)

Johns says it is surprising how many people in this country labour under the curious delusion that quality is synonymous with size.  “Surely tenderness and flavour should come first”.  Johns bemoans the winter weather.  “I cannot remember so long a spell when gardening of some sort was not possible”.  Johns says “I read that in Chile the rainfall varies between a quarter of an inch and seven feet, according to the district.  Fancy trying to give people gardening advice in such a country.  Fancy trying to run a gardening paper!”  Johns give a tip on how to get rid of an old tree stump without digging it out.

 

 

Letters

One letter from a correspondent says “I can not agree with your versatile and amusing contributor Captain Johns where he suggests that stone troughs for plants have had their day”.  He then gives his opinion why.

 

Issue 101

May 1942

 

Published in Volume 24

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about humans being able to form attachments to plants and the strange emotion he feels towards plants of sentimental value.  Plants that he has collected on his various holidays abroad and he relates some of the tales about how he came to obtain them.  Johns talks about people being blamed for leaving the land but says science is the source of that.  Certain dyes and pigments were obtained from plants but chemists have now created synthetic dyes which do away with the need for the plants.  “I have a suspicion that as a general rule, gardening books, when dealing with greenhouses, set too much importance on the necessity for maintaining an even temperature”.  Johns says that in the wild, all plants have to put up with widely fluctuating temperatures between night and day.  “In the wide open spaces of the Middle East I have known the fluctuation between midnight and noon to be in the order of 100 degrees yet the flora doesn’t seem to mind”.  Johns returns to the subject of garlic and says it is now for sale in many places it previously wasn’t.  “As a general rule, garlic should only be used in such quantity that its presence can just be detected”.  Johns says that for a salad, he merely inserts the prongs of a fork into a clove of garlic and drags the prongs down a lettuce leaf, then mixes the leaf with the rest.  Johns says there is no link between “cloves” of garlic and “cloves” the spice.  It is called a “clove” of garlic as it “cleaves” into segments.  Johns gives a tip on beating the early September frost by taking plants indoors and they can then keep flowering until Christmas.

 

 

Issue 102

June 1942

 

Published in Volume 24

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about living in the presence of history and so we do not get the clear picture as historians of the future will.  He uses the phrase “failed to see the wood for trees” and talks quite literally about the effect of trees on history.  The deforestation of Palestine changed the climate there.  “Pizarro attributed the fall of the Incas indirectly to a tree – from their habit of eating the narcotic coco”.  Johns talks about drugs and (prophetically as it turned out) asks what effect nicotine is having on human existence.  Johns says it is worth noting that the oldest creatures alive on earth today are trees.  Johns talks about famous ancient trees, including one that was hollowed out and converted into a prison (!)  Johns talks about how many derivatives from cabbage are in the seed catalogues.  Johns talks about how gherkins were packaged by a Mr. Pickelle and eventually the name was applied to similar commodities.  Johns suggests growing tobacco and grinding the leaves to use as anti-pest powder.  (This is surprising as it was only in the April 1941 issue that he noted that growing tobacco was illegal!)

 

Letters

Two letters from correspondents refer to Captain Johns and his sense of humour.

 

Advert

An advert for bound copies of “My Garden” costing 7/6 per volume for the years 1934 to 1940 inclusive (where there are three volumes per year) and 10/- for 1941 (where there are two volumes per year).

 

Issue 103

July 1942

 

Published in Volume 25

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the plants he would keep an eye out for, if he was part of the expeditionary force.  He talks about the many golden opportunities he missed when he was in the army (in the First World War).  Johns talks about a story of a man-eating tree in Madagascar.  “The writer wrote his confession in all sincerity, no doubt, but like other writers of fiction (including myself) he flattered himself to suppose that he had hit on something entirely new”.  Johns then relates the story of how a traveller named Carl Liche saw a woman sacrificed to the tree, whose huge leaves closed over her, hiding her from view.  When the leaves returned to their original position all that was left of her were white bones.  Johns says we know a little plant can eat an insect “there seems to be no reason why a larger specimen of the species should not have a more ambitious appetite”.  Johns talks about the dangerous creatures that gardeners abroad face.  “You may not think of this, but I, who have gardened in lands where death can lurk in the bite of a centipede sitting under a piece of fallen bark, never cease to be thankful”.  Johns says how his young cabbages were torn to pieces by seagulls, yet recovered to be the best bed of cabbages he had ever grown.  Johns says “the rock garden is gay with flowers which, after a vicious winter, I never expected to see again”.  “Indeed, casualties have been heavier among the alleged hardy brigade.  There are gaps among the standard roses, and the rock roses”.

Issue 104

August 1942

 

Published in Volume 25

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a friend telling him that almonds only do well in this country every seven year and this year is almond year.  Johns was unconvinced, yet his tree is heavy with fruit.  “Is this seven-year plan an established fact, or just coincidence?”  Johns talks about wines to drink with almonds and says his wife discovered the perfect one on the Cote d’Azur, talking to a priest.  “I shall never forget the way he crushed a clove of garlic ‘twixt the table and the cloth with one blow of his mighty fist.  He then scraped it into his palm and hurled it into his salad almost with brutality.  What a man!  What a man!”  Johns says “I think I must write a book about the little wines that I have discovered by accident”.  He talks about the black marketeers on the Riviera now and says he is not a vicious man but he would like to see them “sun-drying on the Roman gallows at La Turbie, where once men swung for far, far lesser crimes”.  Johns talks about the Dutch bulb growers and how it was cheaper to have their catalogues published in Austria.  Johns says he regrets that he “did not take a camera with me on some of my forays into the strange places of the earth, where sometimes duty, and sometimes pleasure in the guise of duty, took me”.  Johns says how amazing the plant the Arabs call “Samh” is, as it flourishes on the rainless plains of Saudi Arabia.

 

Advert

An advert for bound copies of “My Garden” costing 7/6 per volume for the years 1934 to 1940 inclusive (where there are three volumes per year) and 10/- for 1941 (where there are two volumes per year).

 

Issue 105

September 1942

 

Published in Volume 25

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how everyone, whether he admits it or not, is at heart a gambler in some form or other.  Johns elaborates on how gardeners gamble with the weather.  He criticises those who make gardening such a terrifying enterprise.  “If you paid heed to these trouble seekers, you would forever be dusting your garden with this, squirting it with that, or spraying it with something else.  I may be wrong, but I say that if all the chemicals that are wasted every year on these frivolous precautions were put in a  heap it would make the Pyramid of Giza look like a molehill”.  Johns says that string for tying plants may soon be difficult to get.  “I have for years used my old typewriter ribbons”.  “I loop my old ribbons over the branch of a tree so that the rain can wash the ink off, otherwise the ribbon is dirty to handle”.  Johns talks about the popularity of saffron and gives a history lesson as to how it came to this country.  It was bought by a pilgrim priest in the reign of Edward III.  40,000 flowers were needed to yield a pound of the commodity so it was very expensive.  In the reign of Henry II, it cost £1.00 per pound.  Johns says life is full of mysteries and wonders why so few people know how to eat broad beans.  He explains how the foul tasting skin can be removed with boiling water.  Johns says “since the war began I have witnessed many strange spectacles, but none, I think, more startling than that which may be seen in the City of London, opposite Fenchurch Street Station”.  A bomb site has been turned into a garden, the wonder being that the land is so expensive there.

 

 

Issue 106

October 1942

 

Published in Volume 25

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how most men think they know the names of things in their garden, but when you start to receive catalogues, the word incredible is justified.  “Before him lies a path which, if not endless, has rarely been travelled to the end, even by masters in the field of botany; a path which has been known to move the strong to tempestuous vituperation and the weak to hysterical laughter”.  Johns talks of the ridiculous names given to flowers, when named after their discoverers.  “But what have we done, what has the world done, to be afflicted by such monstrosities as Warczewiczia, Krascheninikowia, Zahlbrucknera, Sczegleewia, Krombholtzia, or Zschokkia?”  “How many patient hours did it take the parents to teach their unfortunate offspring how to spell their names?  Not that the spelling mattered much; a few more letters thrown in here and there would have made little difference”.  Johns tells other stories about plant names, including how Buffonia got its name.  “The naturalist who discovered this ugly, evil-smelling plant had just had an argument with the French scientist Buffon, so he named the plant after him”.  Johns says he is grateful for onions but we will never produce such bulbs as are to be found round the Mediterranean basin.  Johns asks “what is the flower that grows in sherry?” and says it flavours Amontillado, but in some years it does not occur.  Johns bemoans planting his cabbages too near a big Scotch fir.  The dead needles drop into the cabbages and it is impossible to get them out, giving them a flavour of creosote.

Issue 107

November 1942

 

Published in Volume 25

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about recently taking a week’s hike round the pleasant rural country where he spent his youth.  “I found myself gazing at gardens which my eyes had not seen for more than thirty years”.  They smaller gardens looked the same but the larger estates had suffered.  Johns asks why tulip disappear?  He started the war with hundreds of bulbs but now has fewer than a hundred.  Johns says “in the surfeit of  wonder at the things he has invented, man has lost the faculty for wonder.  He know longer wonders at anything ….. least of all the works of nature”.  “Gone are the pleasant myths that filled the lives of our fore-fathers with hope and eager anticipation”.  Such thngs as the Fountain of Youth, the Elixir of Life, the City of Gold and the Philosopher’s Stone.  “Soon it will be said that there is no Paradise”.  Johns talks of the wonders of things first bought to this country like rubber and “Coco-de-Mer”, the largest fruit in the world, which first sold for £300 each.  Johns says that in 1789, the source was discovered on two islands only of the Seychelles.  Johns also talks about ginseng “the root is shaped disconcertingly like the human body, with torso, head, arms, legs and sometimes fingers and toes – wherein, no doubt, lies its magic appeal”.

 

Letters

Two letters from correspondents refer to Johns.  One sympathises with him over the disappearance of capers and the other talks about his interesting note on the saffron crocus and its properties.

 

Issue 108

December 1942

 

Published in Volume 25

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about growing vegetables and how easy it should be.  Yet people complain of failure.  “What do these people do that failure so often crowns their efforts?”.  Johns talks about the tricks that cause a plant to swell to abnormal dimensions.  “I cannot persuade myself that vegetables so treated are pleased at being transformed into monsters”.  Johns thinks too much is written about plant diseases.  “A man may garden all his life and never see half these diseases”.  Again, books dwell at painful length on the parasites; “yet you may walk through any normal garden without seeing a sign of one of them”.  Johns says that if the instructions on a packet of cabbage seeds say plant two feet apart, the amateur decides to put them closer as “it is almost impossible for him to believe that in six months those same plants will be fighting for elbow room”.  Johns says that various people advise planting shallots in October, others March and others December 21st.  “All these people are probably speaking from experience which has been successful.  Which all goes to show that you can go to extremes in any direction, and still the accommodating vegetable will do its utmost to oblige.  A man who declares that he can’t grow vegetables must be singularly ill-furnished in the upper story”.  Johns says that since he has remarked on plant names he has been sent “some delightful examples of the sort of berserk nomenclature that has caused botanical names to become a standing joke”.   “Next time I run a rose thorn in my thumb I’ll shock the birds with Blastus!  Helleborus and Damnocanthus!  Of course, the whole thing is utterly ridiculous”.  Johns ends with onions.

 

Issue 109

January 1943

 

Published in Volume 26

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how evil as well as good, has been attributed in all ages to the supernatural agency supposed to reside in certain roots and plants.  He says that walnuts used to be associated with the brain due to way they looked.  “Possibly the American expression “nuts” was derived from the same source”.  He talks about the mandrake (“the mandragora of the Romance languages”) and how for thousands of years it was said to make a noise, such as a shriek, when it was pulled out of the ground.  Johns found one growing in his garden out of sandbags and his gardener, Holt, was aghast when Johns said he would pull it out.  Johns did this alone, by night, in the light of the full moon and said his heart did increase in tempo when he did it “so strongly does superstition linger”.  Not a whimper did it make when pulled out.  It looked more like an Octopus than a man and “it came out clean and shining, as through from a bath, without one grain of earth adhering to it.  Its root had split the concrete slab below.  Johns talks about how the war has spread over countries from which he collected flowers and he talks of the story of Adonis and Venus and of the effect of the war on Cleopatra’s summer place.  He says that the descendants of the plants that Antony and Cleopatra would have gazed on will grow again.  Johns talks about his oleander and how it took six long years before it produced buds which then didn’t flower until the following September.

 

 

Letters

A letter from a correspondent refers to Captain Johns’ question “Why does a tulip disappear?” and says the answer, according to a bulb catalogue, is that tulips poison the soil.  Tulips should never be planted in the same bed two years running for this reason.

 

Issue 110

February 1943

 

Published in Volume 26

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns starts his article with a quote from Milton.  “To understand those things that lie before us in our daily life is the true wisdom”.  Johns talks about how the fruits of the distant world arrived in this country, such as Cinnamon, Clove or Arrow-Root.  Vanilla is a product of the orchid family.  Johns talks about Ginger and how it came from the Pacific Islands.  He deals with Castor Oil and Cloves and explains in detail how Cinnamon is obtained from the Ceylon Laurel.  If the tree grows to its natural state the bark is coarse and useless.  “The spice is obtained by cutting the tree off at ground level, when it throws up a number of tender shoots, the dried skin of which forms the cinnamon that we know”.  Johns refers to Camphor and Henna and explains where they come from.  “Brazil nuts, gone for the duration, are the fruit of the tree Bertholletia Excelsa, which is remarkable in that although it is rarely 3 ft. in diameter it attains a height of 120 ft.  The nuts were first brought home in 1633”.  “The weight of the fruit is enormous, and to enter the forest when it is ripe is a dangerous proceeding.  The natives protect their heads with wooden shields.  As most people know, the nuts are the grains of one enormous shell, in which they are perfectly packed”.  Johns talks about the history of pepper and how the Dutch had a monopoly.  This so annoyed the London merchants, that they formed the “Society of Merchants and Adventurers Trading to the East Indies” which was the foundation of Eastern trade and the Indian Empire.  Johns says he is not trotting all this information out of his head.  “I am sitting at my desk surrounded by so many books that it takes me an hour to put them back on their shelves”.  Johns says scores of conifers on the heath have been ruined by having their heads cut-off for Christmas trees.  “I cannot see that it is much use talking about a new world until people have been taught to take care of what they already have”.

 

Issue 111

March 1943

 

Published in Volume 26

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how “fashions in dress have for so long played a normal part in human affairs that we accept them without surprise or question”.  “We shall not be privileged to see contemporary fashions a hundred years hence, but if they do not appear ludicrous the world will have lost its sense of humour”.  Johns says of fashion “from the time that one man, by his skill or by his industry, raised himself above his fellows, he had endeavoured to make the fact patent by means of a different style of dress or by a different arrangement of his natural coverings – the hair on his head and face”.  “Every intermediate rank between the highest and the lowest has ever striven to raise itself one step higher on the ladder of society by imitating the class above it”.  “The change is gradual, and for this reason obsolete fashions appear ridiculous only in retrospect”.  Johns talks about quinine and wonders how many Indians poisoned themselves in their search for a cure for fever, before they hit about the right tree?”  Johns says he has a date palm that he has grown from a stone and it is now two foot high.  He says it is odd how much frost the date will stand.  “I would not swear to it, but this may date (no pun intended) from the day an Arab told me that all date palms cultivated by the Arabs are females.  The pollen-bearing flowers grow on the males – a different tree.  About one male is permitted to grow for every fifty females, so it is something to be a male palm in Araby. The females are pollinated by hand”.  Johns remarks on how incredible the weather has been in mid-January.  (I find this really surprising as the battle of Stalingrad was concluding with the surrender of the German army in January 1943, where the freezing conditions were terrible – RJH).  Johns finished with comments on his rock garden.  He says “in a frenzy of enthusiasm I lavished more money than I could afford”.  “With few exceptions, only the old commoners remain”.

Issue 112

April 1943

 

Published in Volume 26

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about when he was a small boy at school he was taught that the Ancient Britons wandered about the land with no settled abodes, living on the land.  “In 1918 I escaped from a German prison camp, and put this business of living on the land seriously to test.  Even though I stole garden produce, and ate wheat in the fields, hunger was soon gnawing at my vitals.  Before a week was out I was so hungry, so weary, and so utterly miserable, that I didn’t care much whether I lived or died.  Consequently, it was almost a relief when, one October dawn, I was interrupted at a breakfast of raw apples by a Bavarian farmer who made certain suggestions to me, and backed them up with a twelve-bore”.  Johns talks about the Cupressus Macrocarpa tree and says that after the gales in February his all blew over.  Even trying to peg them down didn’t help.  The tree was weak at the roots.  Johns says how his grandfather told him that if grass grows in January it doesn’t grow any more, meaning there will be a summer drought.  Johns says “we hear a lot about what is going to be done to make the world a beautiful place when the war is won.  It would be a good start if everyone could be induced to tell the truth, and the R.H.S. (Royal Horticultural Society) might give a lead by suggesting a measure to govern the truth in gardening advertisements”.  “Being a rebel by nature, I am all against any sort of control, but the lies that are told in the popular gardening papers to catch the unwary are really scandalous.  Not only lies.  Just as bad are the half-truths, obviously worded to deceive.  I needn’t quote – you can read them for yourself.  Something ought to be done about it”.  Johns complains that someone has stopped flowers being transported to London.  Even though trains arrived half empty and there is plenty of room.  “A man who has no love for flowers is not the sort of man to run a country of flower-lovers.  At least, that’s how I feel about it”.

Issue 113

May 1943

 

Published in Volume 26

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns apparently upsets a number of people when he criticises trough gardens.  He starts by saying “It is seldom that I dispute statements made by other gardeners, because, for one thing, the happy experience of one can have fatal results in another.  But I must take exception to a remark made by Mr. Johnson in his entertaining feature on trough gardens in the February issue”.  Johnson had said a stone trough was a means of growing a large assortment of little plants in health and happiness with a minimum of labours.  “As I read these words I recoiled with a cry of indignation and astonishment”.  Johns then goes on to outline all the efforts he has made with troughs and all the failures he has had.  Undeterred by failure he continued to try with them but the eternal weeding became a nightmare.  “In the end I gave it up, and my troughs, with the exception of a few filled with succulents, are now stepping stones”.  On a different note, Johns wonders how many plants will have been lost to cultivation during the war.  Johns talks of extraordinary things that have happened in the garden and relates a tail from a Canon Moore, “the truth of which is not to be questioned” about how a cut piece of elm grew roots and branches.  Johns also refers to a popular gardening journal in which appears a photograph of four onions, weighing over 17 lb.  “I cannot resist the temptation to say again – how does a thing like that happen?”

 


Theo Stephens, the editor of “My Garden” adds his own comment at the end of this article and says “While I believe in letting every contributor have his say, especially such an esteemed contributor as Captain Johns, I entirely disagree with his remarks about the stone trough gardens, as will many of my readers”.

 

Issue 114

June 1943

 

Published in Volume 26

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens criticises Johns in fairly rude terms.  “Captain Johns’ sweeping condemnation of trough gardens in our May issue has brought a flood of correspondence from all parts of the country, and not one letter agrees with what he said.  I think I made it clear in my footnote that I, too, disagreed entirely with his findings”.  “Personally, I am inclined to think that Captain Johns was never really interested in trough gardens, and did not construct his with his usual gardening intelligence, or that the “week-end” he speaks of, during which they dry out, was one of his rather frequent pre-war holidays when he used to dash across to the Balearic Isles, the South of France, or some other spot “for a few days,” find the country’s food and wine to his liking – and stay for a few weeks”.

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how beautiful the country looked in April and how, to his astonishment, he was able to produce 6 lb of new potatoes on April 15th.  “My wife was surprised, but not so surprised as I, although naturally I did not reveal this”.  Johns goes on to explain that the experiment was in the nature of an accident as he was trying to grow the potatoes in pots and then wanted the pots for something else.  When he tipped them on the compost heap, he was surprised to find the potatoes.  Johns says that in three years’ time, there will be such quantities of fruit in this country “that it will require a feat of endurance to consume it”.  Everywhere he has seen people planting young fruit trees and they take three years to bear fruit.  Johns says “Much excitement was produced the other day by the appearance on the table of a lemon”.  A friend had arrived from abroad with two in his pocket and gave Johns one.

 

Issue 115

July 1943

 

Published in Volume 27

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about a lady sending him two “caper” trees but in fact they are a species of Euphorbia which can be poisonous.  He advises her not to eat any capers.  “Unfortunately I have mislaid her letter, or I would have written direct”.  Johns says the troops in Burma pick orchids to stick into their camouflage netting.  A Czech refugee has told Johns of a different way to eat radishes – grate them.  The same is done in parts of Europe with garlic.  “Of course, this is not a good thing to do in the middle of a tender romance”.  Johns has found a stranger in his garden.  “Moraea Huttonii”, which he acquired six years ago and this is the first time it has flowered.  “It is a pleasant thing to have birds in the garden, birds so tame that they hardly trouble to move at one’s approach.  But it is not a good thing for the vegetable garden.  The word has evidently gone round that we are not to be feared, and that there are no cats in the establishment, for the birds have so far increased that seed planting in the open is almost a waste of time”.  Johns says that two starlings had the temerity to build a home right against his bedroom window but made such an infernal din in the early hours that he fastened a piece of paper over the entrance.  “Whereupon they sat on the window sill, and with drooping, flapping sleeves, filled the air with such heartrending shrieks and groans that I had to open the house to them again”.  “Why a bird should choose to take such fearful risks is hard to understand.  I can only take it as a compliment.  But it is very hard on my peas”.

Issue 116

August 1943

 

Published in Volume 27

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks having just had “one of those occasional conversations which provide a man with material on which to ponder during the weekly fireguard – which, incidentally, is an admirable time for contemplation”.  He was sitting fishing by a stream when a man he did not know asked him if he had ever seen a fairer picture and expressed the opinion that there was no place on earth to compare with England.  Johns asked the man if he had ever been abroad – and when told that the man had not, Johns questioned his right to comparison.  “Whereupon he regarded me as if he might have been looking upon a self-confessed fifth columnist”.  Johns recalls that after a long march across the desert, with his Arab orderly, they came across an oasis which was just a muddy pool set about with camel dung.  His Arab orderly said “My God!  I dare swear, sare (sic), that no man ever saw a fairer scene than that” (should not this be a reference to Allah?).  Johns did not tell him that in Johns’ country this would be condemned by the local authority as a stinking dump.  Johns says that the beauty of the British landscape is accepted as a matter of course.  “To appreciate what he has, every Britisher should be compelled to sojourn for a few years in, say, Upper Egypt or Iraq”.  Johns says “I had always supposed that the expression “gilding the lily” was just a saying and nothing more.  Now, to my surprise, in an old book I find, “A good recipe for gilding and silver-plating natural flowers”.  Johns says we grumble about our garden pests but we hardly know the meaning of the word.  He talks about the measures employed in Egypt to deal with the locust.  “I have watched an army of men sweeping the earth with paraffin flame-throwers slaying millions every minute”.  Johns asks what service does the locust perform?  “We may have to exterminate the creature to find out”.

 

Issue 117

September 1943

 

Published in Volume 27

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks how he is only just beginning to realise how wide is the gulf between an alpine garden and a rock garden.  Johns says that his rock garden is “now in a state that would have caused me sleepless nights in the palmy days of peace”.  “This rock garden is of a fair size – about twenty-five yards long by five or six yards wide.  It was built in 1938, when I knew, or thought I knew, quite a lot about alpines”.  Johns says his rock garden has not been weeded for about a year.  “My gardener went to the war; I could not get another; vegetables had to come first, grass-cutting second, and the borders round the home third”.  Johns says all the alpines have gone.  “In short, what remains is a rock wilderness rather than a rock garden, but, nevertheless, some plants have not only endured but have revelled in the jungle”.  Johns then goes into detail about which plants have done well and which haven’t.  Johns refers to “that bright little African, Phacelia viscida” being everywhere.  “If anyone would like seed of this gentian-blue annual they have only to send me a stamped envelope”.  “It would be tedious to name all the plants that have died, or survived, but the lesson I have learned is this:  there is a clear line of demarcation between alpines and dwarf plants that grow among rocks at low altitudes.  If ever I am seized with the alpine craze again I shall build a very small garden for true alpines, one that can be kept clear of weeds.  The other small subjects will go into a rather larger rock garden, and be left, within limits, to run wild”.  Johns marvels at native flowers.  He says he has fought buttercups for five years but has more than when he started.  Johns says it is useless to try and naturalise any foreign plant in a place open to the public as they are picked immediately they appear.  Last year he planted thousands “on the heath opposite my house” but ever flower was picked.  “One child would think nothing of picking a thousand - but there, I suppose I should have done the same thing when I was a child”.

 

 

Issue 118

October 1943

 

Published in Volume 27

 

 

Editorial

In which Theo Stephens refers to W. E. Johns’ book “The Passing Show”, saying that a very limited number of copies are available, price 5s. each, postage 4 d.  “This is the story of a gardener’s year, month by month, with sound gardening sense and valuable information underlying its gaiety and wit; 26 illustrations by Howard Leigh”.

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how “in a world seething with discontent, with all forms of labour, skilled and unskilled, moaning, complaining, and going on strike, the professional gardener toils along his furrow with hardly a word to say”.  Johns talks about how badly paid they are.  “It has often appalled me to observe in advertisements for what a miserable pittance such men are expected to work.  It is not just a matter of labour, although the conscientious gardener works all hours, day and night, usually as the weather dictates.  In most walks of life it is knowing how that determines a man’s income”.  Johns tells the story of the motorist who was charged 10 shillings for a tap on the engine with a spanner.  One shilling for the tap and nine for knowing where to hit.  “This principal is not applied to the gardener”.  Johns says that men who, in a few days, are taught to mind a machine turning out nuts and bolts may earn £8 to £10 per week.  “The mechanic demands, and gets, double or even three times the wages of a gardener.  Why?  The answer would appear to be, if a gardener demanded £500 a year he would be accounted a madman”.  Johns says gardeners should get together and set a standard of horticultural knowledge as a necessary qualification for admission to the Guild as anyone “knowing the difference between a fork and a spade can call himself a gardener”.  Johns says that quite a lot of little-known plants are being pressed into service.   “Red squill” is supposed to poison rats but his rats seem to thrive on it.  Johns says he has sold 5 pounds of garlic for 35 shillings.  You can “grow enough garlic to pay the gardener’s salary”.

 

Issue 119

November 1943

 

Published in Volume 27

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about his neighbour “Groglace” who has asked why flowers should perpetuate the names of any particular man.  Groglace says it is vanity.  Johns points out shrapnel, guillotine, maxim, colt, zeppelin and Messerschmitt.  “If those who invented instruments of death and destruction are to have a monument, why not those who gave us the things that enable us to endure their horrors?”  Johns says he saw Groglace later in the evening, tending his hemp, which he is his growing to feed his canary.  Johns calls it “The Leaf of Delusion”, “The Cementer of Friendship” and the “The Increaser of Pleasure”.  Groglace asks him what he is talking about?  Johns says “at the sight of your plants my memory took flight to the Orient, where men put hemp to better use than the mere feeding of birds”.  Groglace asks Johns “Have you eaten hashish?”  “Yes”, I confessed, “for I have ever sought the Lotus, the little drops of nectar provided by a sympathetic providence to enable men to bear the tribulations thrust upon them by those who sit in the seats of the mighty”.  Johns says all it cemented was “my eyeballs to the back of their sockets, and my tongue to the roof of my mouth”.  Johns talks about mustard and how in the 16th century it was said that “Crowned with the Leaves a man cannot get drunk”.  Johns observes that with beer at its present quality, without the leaves the result would be precisely the same.  Johns has seen some men repairing a wood-block road in London and wonders how much wood is consumed.  “It is an astonishing thing that there are any trees left on earth”.  Johns tells a funny story about being in a tavern and looking at a barometer and getting his rain coat as a result.  An elderly local tells Johns that he won’t need that, so he leaves it behind.  Ah hour later, he is soaked to the skin.  Johns says he has sent seeds to those that wrote to him and apologises for not answering the letters but just sending the seeds.

 

Letters

A correspondent sympathises with Johns over his attempts to naturalise plants in the countryside.

 

Issue 120

December 1943

 

Published in Volume 27

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about meeting - in one of my favourite of all of Johns’ articles – with a cobbler. Johns says that, as a schoolboy, he used to look in a shop window at a cobbler and his son working on boots.  The cobbler would chastise his son if he got things wrong.  One day the father was not there, as he had died.  No dates are mentioned but it must be 1908 as Johns says “Death has no place in the scheme of things when one is fifteen” and Johns was born in February 1893.  Time marched on and Johns “went abroad into the world, and the little shop disappeared from my mind as utterly as a stone dropped in the ocean.  The years rolled on.  I followed the course that Destiny had shaped for me, doing the things that men do, the things men like doing, and the things they do not like doing, but which, nevertheless, they do.  I crossed the seas and distance lands, fertile and sterile, that together made this spinning ball of mud we call our world.  Many miles I marched on my own feet, but still more on the feet of animals that have been taught to bend to the will of man.  I travelled in trains, in motor cars and omnibuses and strange vehicles the names of which I have forgotten.  For twelve years, in a frenzied search for I know not what, I roared above the earth in aeroplanes, hardly knowing – God forgive me – what lay beneath, and caring less.  I forgot, not only the cobbler in his little shop, but the little town in which he toiled.  In all that time, thirty-five years of it (he writes in 1943) …. never once did I think of the cobbler”.  Johns says he returned to his home town and the upper and lower parts of his shoes became divorced, so he asked a passer-by where he could get this remedied.  He was directed to the long forgotten cobbler’s shop and recognised the boy – now a man – doing exactly the same job in the same way in the same window.  Johns asked the man if he found the work monotonous.  He told him no, as he was a bit of a gardener.  He then took Johns out the back where he showed him a concrete area, some seven or eight yards square filled with pots and pans containing plants.  “It’s nice to have a bit of a garden of your own, isn’t it?” said the cobbler.  “Yes, it is indeed” agreed Johns.

 

Issue 121

January 1944

 

Published in Volume 28

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about making the acquaintance of two interesting men in the bulb industry.  One was Dutch and told Johns that Holland exported annually to Great Britain one hundred and ninety million bulbs, before the war.  The man gave his opinion that it would take 25 years for stocks to build up from zero after the war.  The second person told Johns that he made £25.00 an acre on land growing food but if he was allowed to grow bulbs he could make £4,000 an acre – due to the high price of spring flowers and bulbs.  “I make no claim for the accuracy of the figures given above; I am merely repeating what I was told”.  Johns says he looked at pre-war Dutch bulb catalogues and you could buy ten thousands bulbs for £10.00.  “Another thing that shook me was the number of flowers the existence of what I had completely forgotten.  When the war started most of them dwelt in my garden; now they have disappeared and I did not even notice their going”.  Johns says you can eat dahlias without the risk of being poisoned.  Johns quotes a London newspaper editor who told him some time ago “The trouble about living to-day is, you can believe nothing you read, nothing you hear, and nothing you see”.  Johns talks about seeing the cabbages in his garden but “Right or wrong, I am once more thinking and planning in terms of beauty, rather than all this tiresome utility.  From which you may gather I am garden sick.  I am.  Too much of anything in the end becomes a burden on the soul, and over the past four years I have had such a surfeit of gardening that I am weary of it”.  Johns wishes the Government would issue gardening gloves coupon-free.  “It so happens that when my hands are rough and harsh, my brain goes on strike.  I am conscious of only one thing – my hands.  I can do nothing properly.  Writing becomes a labour”.

It is interesting to note how Johns output fell considerably during this time.  Johns had five books a year published in both 1942 and 1943 – but only two books a year in 1944, 1945 and 1946.

 

Letters

A correspondent agrees with Johns over the amount of money paid to experienced gardeners.

 

Issue 122

February 1944

 

Published in Volume 28

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about his letters to people who wrote to him for Phacelia viscida seeds (see his offer made in the September 1943 issue).  He said he made up 230 packets of seeds but these went within three days.  “What I was not prepared for was that letters should continue to arrive without any abatement for three weeks; and even then the tide subsided slowly”.  Johns says “it was quite out of the question for me to answer every letter”.  Johns says he wishes he could give away his empty wine bottles.  “No one will take them, and as I regard a five years’ accumulation I can understand how the Great Pyramid was built”.  Johns says he has “watched visitor’s eyebrows go up on coming upon what must seem a fearful monument to my depravity” and he has decided to hide them.  “I have built a new terrace”.  “Only I shall know that shoulder to shoulder two feet under the good earth, lie in serried ranks the glassy companions of many a merry firewatch, which alone would have been a dreary affair.  As my servant Ali used to say, it will be a thing to remember”.  Johns says that, like everything else, gardening has been “revolutionised” but he hates the word.  He prays that things go back to the way there were five years ago.  “A day or two ago I walked in a local nursery to buy a flower pot – an empty 8-in pot.  I was charged half a crown for it”.  Johns complains that he also bought a little thing showing four flowers and a few buds and paid seven shillings for it.  He told the man it was rank profiteering but was assured that even at that price, the man could sell as many plants as he could raise.  “After the war, the law of supply and demand should bring the cost of plants down, just as it is now pushing them up”.  Johns recently was in an orchid house where everything was slime and mildew as the neighbour was not allowed to light a fire.  It struck Johns what wonderful citizens the British were.  “The law was the law, and apparently it had not occurred to him to disobey”.  Johns says that it is best that he does not say what he would have done.  Johns was concreting his vegetable garden paths on Boxing Day in his fight against weeds.  He had planted 35 crocus bulbs but mice have taken them all.  “This sort of thing makes me utterly sick of gardening”.

 

Issue 123

March 1944

 

Published in Volume 28

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about seeing advertisements at the end of January offering tulip bulbs for sale “at prices which would not attract me even if I have more money than I have.  Eighty shillings a hundred for bulbs would be a heavy price even if they were firm, sound and fat”.  Johns says the season for when they should have started growth has passed.  He once paid, in January, one shilling for 100 tulip bulbs and only 10 per cent of them through up sickly flowers that soon collapsed.  “I would not accept as a gift tulip bulbs for February planting, for they can never make up the three months of root growth which they have lost”.  In a very interesting reference, Johns talks about the island of Kerguelen, “which must be one of the largest uninhabited islands in the world, being 80 miles long by 45 miles wide”.  Of course Johns would later set the book BIGGLES’ SECOND CASE on this very island.  Although published in August 1948, the book was written much earlier as Johns was having problems getting his books published at this time due to post-war paper shortages.  Johns talks about the Kerguelen cabbage and how hardy it must be.  He suggests crossing it with our own types.  “The collection of specimens would be an expensive affair, for the nearest inhabited land, South Africa, is 2,100 miles away”.  Johns says “slowly but surely I am drifting back to flowers, as opposed to vegetables”.  “Of course, vegetables help to keep one alive, but if there were no flowers, half the zest of maintaining life would be gone”.  Johns says that a grower has told him “I am sick of growing what I’m told at the wages I’m told, and selling where I’m told, and when, and at what prices”.  Johns says he can well understand that.  Johns talks about how the war has affected the gardens of his neighbours and gives examples.  “Those who still have their gardens intact have much to be thankful for.

 

 

Issue 124

April 1944

 

Published in Volume 28

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about following with interest a discussion going on in a contemporary magazine under the headline “Do Plants Think?”  Johns says supposing they do, what would they think?  “In view of the frightful things men are doing to the surface of the earth, which, after all, is as much the home of the vegetable kingdom as ourselves ….. there would not be much doubt about what they are thinking”.  Johns says everywhere he goes “I see fearful engines at work, tearing down trees, uprooting shrubs and stripping from the good earth the green mantle which it has devised to cover its nakedness”.  “Let us move to the Sahara Desert and have done with it”.   Johns complains “You should see what they have done to my river!”  “Clanking dredgers have torn out the very entrails of the river and cast them on the banks, so that on both sides rise hills of black mud and dead plant life that are an offence both to the eyes and the nose”.   One of the men working there told Johns that only stinging nettles grow on these dunes of mud.  Johns says that he read the article by Captain Patrick Synge from the February 1944 issue of ‘My Garden’, which referred to Sidi Freruch, near Algiers.  Johns remembers a holiday there with his wife where they stopped at the Hotel de la Plage, for food.  Johns talks about all the people he met and knew there, who became friends, including “Emile, Parisien apache, and a murderer to boot.  But, after all, he had only killed the man who made a pass at his wife, which is at least as pardonable as killing people one does not know.  Emile, with Fatalite tattooed across his forehead.  Where is he now?”

 

Interestingly, Johns also referred to Emile in his “Let’s Look Around” column for “Modern Boy” dated 16th July 1938 – issue 22 of the new series.

You can see that here

 

 

 

Issue 125

May 1944

 

Published in Volume 28

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about was a relief it was to see the spring flowers.  “To me, they seemed to be a living link, a reminder, of a past that grows ever more hazy”.  “Of course, this sort of talk is sheer sentimentality.  So what? as our trans-Atlantic friends say”.  Johns says that in the macadam path outside his house a coltsfoot plant is blooming, with nothing to support it.  “It has learned, as we are learning, to do with very little.  The great difference between us is, the laughing yellow jewel in the path doesn’t seem to mind.  I do”.  Johns says the perfect fertiliser has yet to be evolved yet he is convinced it exists.  He says that when he lived at Lingfield, he called on a builder and was astonished to see a bed of Brussel sprouts averaging eight feet high.  The builder told Johns that for eighty years a painter’s workshop had occupied the spot and it had either been blown down or burnt down.  Johns considers the possible reasons why the growth was so good.  (1)  Nothing had grown in this ground for eighty years. (2)  The soil had been denied both light and air.  (3)  No rain had fallen on it.  (4)  The soil, by constant pressure from above, must have been pressed hard as rock.  (5)  It must have become impregnated with turpentine, and the chemicals which go to the making of paint.  These must have included white lead, the base of most pigments.  Johns speculates as to what made the sprouts grow from their normal three feet to eight feet.  “It is proof conclusive that there is something, something yet to be discovered, that will, when it is discovered, revolutionise gardening in general and food production in particular”.  Johns says “My left arm is out of commission.  What has happened to it I do not know; but it won’t work.  So now I must garden with one hand, which does not make it any easier”.  “I console myself with the thought that there was once a painter who painted pictures with his feet”.  Johns says that a near bomb shook several panes out of his greenhouse, but they landed on cinders and didn’t break.  A mouse or family of mice has done a lot of mischief in his greenhouse, undoing effort that has cost him hours of time and labour.  “If this light-hearted little vandal returns to-night he may wish that he had stayed at home”.

 

Letters

A correspondent refers to Johns drifting from vegetables back to flowers and says he is not alone.

 

Issue 126

June 1944

 

Published in Volume 28

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about the possible end of the war.  “I am persuading myself – although it may well turn out that I am deluding myself – that the war will end in the late autumn.  Mind you, this is merely an opinion, resting on nothing more substantial than a “feeling” about such things as a result of reading a lot of history and taking a close interest in European politics.  I am beginning to have a respect for this feeling, for it enabled me, long before the war started, to say where and when it would begin”.  Johns says that on this assumption he will prepare his programme for his garden for the next twelve months.  Johns says that the Government is talking of building 4,000,000 new houses and repairing thousands more damaged by bombs and temporarily abandoned.  Johns thinks the vast majority of people in these new homes will grow flowers in their gardens.  “Wherefore, to help as many as possible, I shall this year harvest all my seeds of plants both rare and common”.  “England without its gardens would not be our England.  Changes, changes that some of us will deplore, there are certain to be.  Much of the old order is bound to pass, to be replaced with – who knows what?  But gardens, surely, there must always be”.  Johns said he thought of the flowers that grow on the High Savoy, when it was announced on the radio that the French patriots who had taken refuge there had been cut down by Hitler’s demon henchmen.  Johns says his bulbs often get mixed up and he can’t understand how professional growers keep them apart.  Johns says that he was watching the searchlights at 3.00 am when his neighbour Groglace came along.  Johns offered him a glass of amber nectar but the offer was declined with distain.  Johns told him “At twenty a man plunges into the dawn-mist of the future without a care for what is behind.  At forty, through fog that is beginning to lift, without pausing in his stride he may snatch an occasional glance over his shoulder.  But at fifty, suddenly aware that the distance he has covered is greater than that which lies before him, that the summit of the peak he hoped to scale is still as far away and that his strength is failing, he stops, perhaps to sit, to look back along a trail now clear in the light of the setting sun, to ponder on the things that were to be, the things that have been, and – with a wistful sigh, perhaps – on the things that might have been.  It is then, after that first poignant heart-search, when he resumes his march with sobered step, he notices the flowers beside the way, and, remembering those he crushed beneath his feet, if he loiters to pick a few, who shall blame him?”

 

Issue 127

July 1944

 

Published in Volume 29

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about how “there is in every man and woman an irresistible urge to attempt the impossible, to attain the unattainable.  It is this urge that drives us on and on, for ever striving for something just beyond our reach, for ever attempting to achieve the little more … always something better”.  Johns says “I am forever trying to catch a bigger and better fish than I ever caught before.  No one knows why.  Not even I know why.  No doubt I should go on living if I never saw another fish.  But it is a fact (which my wife would confirm with some warmth) that I cannot look at a fish in its element without being beset by an over-powering impulse to match my wits against his.  The truth of the matter is, it is very difficult to catch a fish.  But let us stick to gardening”.  Johns says it is very difficult to grow a perfect flower or vegetable.  Gardeners always seek to improve.  “A man climbing a ladder knows when he has reached the top; but for the poor wretch with the gardening bug gnawing at his vitals there is no top step”.  Johns tells a story about his neighbour, Groglace, coming to him and saying that “he has lost everything” as his potatoes are black.  Groglace said it isn’t worth it and he is finished with gardening.  “That same evening I saw him, still in his town clothes, feverishly planting more potatoes.  That’s the curse of the thing.  You can’t stop.  Groglace must grow potatoes or die.  He can’t stop, not so much because he needs potatoes as because there is something in the Anglo-Saxon make-up that cannot, will not, endure defeat.  At least, that’s how it seems to me”.  Johns then makes his first reference to Scotland, (where he will shortly move – a move that will end his gardening column).  “My friend Macniven, of Tomintoul, Banffshire – wither I took myself in April to match my wits against those of the Avon salmon – told me that he lost his entire potato crop last year in July, by frost.  No wonder these Scots are tough.  No wonder the Highland Division thought nothing of its two-thousand-mile march along North Africa.  I do not think I could garden in a climate capable of producing a killing frost in July”.  Johns says a neighbour “whose magnificent walled kitchen garden my bathroom window overlooks” has been called away and their house taken over by the military.  Hearing laughter, Johns saw young women of the A.T.S. gathering great armfuls of flowers.  “With cries of jubilation, well laden, the invaders departed.  The work of ten years had been destroyed in a moment of time”.

Issue 128

August 1944

 

Published in Volume 29

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns talks about war memorials.  “As the war draws relentlessly towards its close there is talk in the Press, on the radio and elsewhere, of war memorials, and “a garden” invariably figures in the debate”.  Johns says “I do not like war memorials as we know them.  Each moves me to an emotion appropriate to its style.  Most of them remind me not so much of the gallant dead as of the careless living”.  “Like tombstones, they wear an air of neglect in ratio with their age”.  Johns says “Almost from the day of dedication, with few exceptions, the village war memorial started down the melancholy road to oblivion.  By 1925 fresh flowers were rarely seen.  By 1930 men no longer raised their hats when they passed the Cenotaph.  By 1935, a few empty jars and perhaps a handful of withered leaves were too often considered a fitting decoration for the village tribute in stone”.  Johns says that only two men achieved success with memorials to perpetuate the victory of death.  One was the Pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid and the other was Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal.  Johns says any war memorial needs to be big.  Johns proposes a garden called “The Heart of the Empire”.  “It should embrace not fewer than a hundred square miles.  A mile of native soil for every ten thousand men who fell is not much to dedicate to those who won it, but did not live to enjoy it”.  In the centre there should be a white marble column so high that you can see Dunkirk and Normandy from the top.  It should be on the South Downs, “within sight of the sea so that every visitor from Europe, as he approached our island shore, observing it, and knowing why it is there, will remember things he will do well never to forget”.

 

Letters

Two letters from correspondents refer to Johns in this month’s letters.  The first letter says that Captain Johns’ suggestion in the June issue that we should make every effort to propagate shrubs, in view of the inevitable scarcity of such things after the war, is timely.  A later letter from a correspondent in New Zealand refers to Captain Johns mentioning a plant of musk being moved from Crewe to Kew gardens in the October 1943 issue.

 

Issue 129

September 1944

 

Published in Volume 29

 

 

For the first time since December 1936 there was

No W. E. Johns content

showing in the index to this issue

 

 

Letters

A correspondent refers to Johns’ article about War Memorials in the August 1944 issue and says he is ignoring some extremely beautiful memorials in some parts of the country and gives examples.

 

Issue 130

October 1944

 

Published in Volume 29

 

 

The Passing Show

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns presents his final gardening column entitled “The Passing Show”.  “Readers of these notes will know that I have always been interested in the possible introduction of what are usually called “garden” flowers into the fields, woods and hedgerows of the countryside”.  “So far my efforts to establish new flowers on our local heath have ended with failure, the reason being the inherent passion of our race for flowers which makes it impossible for the average person to pass an attractive flower without picking it”.  Most importantly, Johns says “Enemy action at last forced me to abandon my home.  What has happened, and what is happening to the garden I do not know.  Nor do I care particularly.  No one, I imagine, can garden with enthusiasm in a sort of minor Hades, with an occasional shower of bricks and mortar.  It seemed to me that if I was to go away I might as will remove myself as far as possible from the clamour which I have endured for nearly five years.  So, to the serene heart of the Highlands of Scotland I took myself”.  “Nowhere have I seen such colour variation in wild flowers as in Scotland.  Whatever the colour may be, it can be found from the palest to the deepest tint”.  Johns says that seated on Ben Avon, surrounded by purple heather “I found myself wondering, not so much that overseas Scots pine for home, as why they ever leave it”.

 

AND THAT WOULD BE JOHNS LAST ARTICLE FOR “MY GARDEN” UNTIL ISSUE 158 IN FEBRUARY 1947 WHEN HE WRITES AN ARTICLE EXPLAINING WHY HE LEFT AND MOVED TO SCOTLAND

 

Letters

In the last ever letter in “My Garden” that refers to Johns, a correspondent refers to Johns mention of frost in July in Scotland destroying a crop of potatoes.  The correspondent reminds everyone that frost can occur in any month anywhere.

 

 

Issue 131

November 1944

 

Published in Volume 29

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 132

December 1944

 

Published in Volume 29

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 133

January 1945

 

Published in Volume 30

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 134

February 1945

 

Published in Volume 30

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 135

March 1945

 

Published in Volume 30

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 136

April 1945

 

Published in Volume 30

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 137

May 1945

 

Published in Volume 30

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 138

June 1945

 

Published in Volume 30

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 139

July 1945

 

Published in Volume 31

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 140

August 1945

 

Published in Volume 31

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 141

September 1945

 

Published in Volume 31

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 142

October 1945

 

Published in Volume 31

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 143

November 1945

 

Published in Volume 31

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 144

December 1945

 

Published in Volume 31

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 145

January 1946

 

Published in Volume 32

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 146

February 1946

 

Published in Volume 32

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 147

March 1946

 

Published in Volume 32

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 148

April 1946

 

Published in Volume 32

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 149

May 1946

 

Published in Volume 32

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 150

June 1946

 

Published in Volume 32

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 151

July 1946

 

Published in Volume 33

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 152

August 1946

 

Published in Volume 33

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 153

September 1946

 

Published in Volume 33

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 154

October 1946

 

Published in Volume 33

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 155

November 1946

 

Published in Volume 33

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 156

December 1946

 

Published in Volume 33

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 157

January 1947

 

Published in Volume 34

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

February 1947

 

Published in Volume 34

 

 

The Show Has Passed –

by Captain W. E. Johns

In which Johns explains why he left.

“The longer I live the more clearly I perceive what tremendous consequences can result from an incident so trivial in itself that not by any stretch of the imagination could the effect have been foreseen.  Three years ago, it was a chance meeting with a man whom I had not seen since we were at school together that threw the hammer into the gears which controlled the well-oiled cycle of my daily round.  He was going to a place of which I had sometimes heard, but, curiously enough, had never seen; a place called Scotland”.  Johns says he was attracted by the thought of the fish in unpolluted rivers.  “I went, I saw, and was conquered – aye, conquered by a spell cast upon me by the simple virtues of people unspoiled by laws that breed corruption, laws which if they persist, will surely bring mankind to the rottenness of a last year’s marrow on the manure heap”.  (Johns is referring to the “Black Market”)  “My garden, the garden on which I had lavished so much care, could go hang.  What need to toil when I could live in a mighty natural garden which flourished without any help from me, where flowers grew in countless millions ……. Yes, I stayed.  I stayed for three years.  Now I have returned.  But not to stay.  The call of the wide open spaces and the rain-washed hills is too insistent to be ignored”.

“In the Highlands, where I am going to live, I shall, of course, make another garden.  That would happen were I domiciled at one of the Poles or in the Sahara”.  “Before I put down my pen may I thank those readers, particularly those in distant lands, who, in our most difficult times, not only maintained a cheerful correspondence but supported their messages of encouragement with gifts of articles useful in the garden, articles which, they had learned, were no longer available in the shops.  The greatest joy in receiving these lay in the proof that in spite of dictators, large and small, human kindness is still one of the flowers that blooms its best and brightest in a garden”.

 

Issue 159

March 1947

 

Published in Volume 34

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 160

April 1947

 

Published in Volume 34

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 161

May 1947

 

Published in Volume 34

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 162

June 1947

 

Published in Volume 34

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 163

July 1947

 

Published in Volume 35

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 164

August 1947

 

Published in Volume 35

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 165

September 1947

 

Published in Volume 35

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 166

October 1947

 

Published in Volume 35

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 167

November 1947

 

Published in Volume 35

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 168

December 1947

 

Published in Volume 35

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 169

January 1948

 

Published in Volume 36

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 170

February 1948

 

Published in Volume 36

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 171

March 1948

 

Published in Volume 36

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 172

April 1948

 

Published in Volume 36

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 173

May 1948

 

Published in Volume 36

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 174

June 1948

 

Published in Volume 36

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 175

July 1948

 

Published in Volume 37

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 176

August 1948

 

Published in Volume 37

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 177

September 1948

 

Published in Volume 37

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 178

October 1948

 

Published in Volume 37

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 179

November 1948

 

Published in Volume 37

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 180

December 1948

 

Published in Volume 37

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 181

January 1949

 

Published in Volume 38

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 182

February 1949

 

Published in Volume 38

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 183

March 1949

 

Published in Volume 38

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 184

April 1949

 

Published in Volume 38

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 185

May 1949

 

Published in Volume 38

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 186

June 1949

 

Published in Volume 38

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 187

July 1949

 

Published in Volume 39

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 188

August 1949

 

Published in Volume 39

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 189

September 1949

 

Published in Volume 39

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 190

October 1949

 

Published in Volume 39

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 191

November 1949

 

Published in Volume 39

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 192

December 1949

 

Published in Volume 39

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 193

January 1950

 

Published in Volume 40

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 194

February 1950

 

Published in Volume 40

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 195

March 1950

 

Published in Volume 40

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 196

April 1950

 

Published in Volume 40

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 197

May 1950

 

Published in Volume 40

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 198

June 1950

 

Published in Volume 40

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 199

July 1950

 

Published in Volume 41

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 200

August 1950

 

Published in Volume 41

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 201

September 1950

 

Published in Volume 41

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 202

October 1950

 

Published in Volume 41

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 203

November 1950

 

Published in Volume 41

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 204

December 1950

 

Published in Volume 41

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 205

January 1951

 

Published in Volume 42

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 206

February 1951

 

Published in Volume 42

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 207

March 1951

 

Published in Volume 42

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 208

April 1951

 

Published in Volume 42

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 209

May 1951

 

Published in Volume 42

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 210

June 1951

 

Published in Volume 42

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 211

July 1951

 

Published in Volume 43

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 212

August 1951

 

Published in Volume 43

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 213

September 1951

 

Published in Volume 43

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

 

 

 

Issue 214

October 1951

 

Published in Volume 43

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 215

November 1951

 

Published in Volume 43

 

 

No W. E. Johns content

Issue 216

December 1951

 

Published in Volume 43

 

 

Johns writes a short farewell

“Nothing so difficult as beginning … unless perhaps the end”.  “Thus wrote Byron, and none who knows Life will dispute his melancholy muse.  Well I remember the beginning of MY GARDEN, which starting as the seed of an Idea, grew swiftly into a sturdy plant that was to bear, through the years, some memorable flowers, But as in Life so in the Garden, where the things we cherished, having had their day, must fade and fall, and falling die.  Is that the end?  Surely not.  What of the seeds?  Let Mr. Stephens and his staff take comfort from this.  The seeds sown by MY GARDEN have fallen on fertile soil in many lands, where there will bloom again to bring back happy memories of the parent plant from which they sprang”.

 

 

 

“MY GARDEN” – “The Intimate Magazine for Garden Lovers” was edited by Theo. A. Stephens

and published by The Rolls House Publishing Company Ltd for the proprietor, Theo. A. Stephens, 34 Southampton Street, Strand, London.  W.C.2.

 

Theo A. Stephens.  (Born 1881)

 

It was published on the first of every month.  Each issue cost one shilling with the price rising at the outbreak of the Second World War to one shilling and sixpence.

As can be seen from the receipt below it cost 12 shillings and 6 pence to have a bound copy of ‘My Garden’.

I found this particular receipt amongst the volumes of part of my own collection.  It was obviously once owned by the Viscountess de Vesci.

Volumes were originally bound every four months, so there were three volumes to each year from 1934 to 1940 inclusive.

This changed with volume 22 in 1941 when six issues were bound per volume, so there were only two volumes to each year from 1941 to 1951 inclusive.

This was due, no doubt, to wartime paper shortages, as volumes became thinner.  It was then two volumes a year until the end of 1951 when the magazine folded.

 

 

 

The copyright in all of W.E. Johns work is owned by the estate of W.E. Johns as represented by W. E. Johns (Publications) Limited.

This private limited company have appointed literary agent Pat White of Rogers Coleridge White to represent the interests of the estate.

Their web site is here:  http://www.rcwlitagency.com/

This is a non profit making fan based web site purely for the information of fellow fans - no infringement of copyright is intended.

The intention of this web site is to encourage people to read the works of  William Earl Johns, one of the great authors of the 20th Century.

 

 

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