Memories of Yates Garden Guide

new garden guide

In mid 2011, expert gardeners from around Australia were invited to write anecdotes about their memories of Yates Garden Guide. These two stories go right back to childhood.

From Colin Barlow in Western Australia:

As a young English boy growing up in the outskirts of Manchester in the UK, I regularly received presents from my Aunt, Uncle and two young cousins in Western Australia. One extremely cold Christmas my Aunt and two cousins came to stay with us in the UK for six weeks. Unbeknown to me my mother had mentioned to her sister that I had become interested in gardening. When excitedly opening our Aussie pressies on their arrival I received something completely different: a yellow Yates Garden Guide and some WA wildflower seeds. They thought that I would like this iconic Australian gardening book that I hadn’t heard of.

I sure did – there were lots of plants, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that I knew and lots of Australian ones that I had never seen or heard of!

This started my love of Australia and its plants. Three years later we came to WA for a six week holiday away from the cold UK winter. Hot, thirty-something days instead of two degrees and I was in heaven. I made up my mind then that I would come here to live.

Starting an apprenticeship in the UK I worked in a glasshouse where we grew Australian plants for decoration. There were bottlebrush, silky oaks, eucalypts and even a Norfolk Island pine. My Yates Garden Guide was very handy.

After completing my studies I came out to live in Australia just before my 21st birthday – a little like Arthur Yates. Many years later I find myself with ‘my tips’ in this iconic garden book. A gardening journey inspired by a little yellow book and a packet of seeds!

And from Noelle Weatherley in Victoria:

I have in my possession a well-worn copy of the 24th edition of the Yates Garden Guide. It was a Christmas present in 1947 from my paternal grandfather Alec Rentoul to his sister Marjorie, my great aunt and the closest person I ever had to a grandparent.

Alec Rentoul died in 1948, before I was born, so I never knew him. However, I do know he had a large, well tended garden. My grandfather passed on his love of horticulture to his sons. My father, Jim Rentoul, went on to grow an extensive range of orchids at home in Glen Iris and subsequently wrote seven books on them. He also wrote an orchid column for Your Garden Magazine for over 40 years.

As a child, I spent many happy hours in Auntie Marj’s garden. She lived alone, having never married. My father was particularly close to her and, as a family, we visited her frequently. She taught me the names of plants and flowers and I always came home with a posy we had picked together. Her Yates Garden Guide was never far from her side – she learned the names of plants from it and planted out her seeds and seedlings as and when the Guide recommended – it was her gardening ‘bible’.

When I started studying horticulture, Auntie Marj, who by that time was quite elderly, moved from her home into a care facility, and I became the custodian of her beloved Yates Garden Guide. I too read it from cover to cover and probably added significantly to its current, somewhat dog-eared state. It is among my most treasured possessions, along with my grandfather’s gardening books. It sits proudly in my office library, in front of my much more recent editions of the Yates Garden Guide.


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