The Enthusiasm of Mr Shewell-Cooper

‘I long for the day when every man and woman in this country will know the joy of caring for plants and will feel the thrill of raising and tending their own little garden, however small it may be.’

Dr. Wilfred Edward Shewell-Cooper, M.B.E., N.D.H., F.L.S., F.R.S.L., F.R.H.S., Dip. Hort. (Wye) has to be one of the most ardent advocates of indoor gardening in the last century.

He was an organic gardener, prolific horticultural adviser, educationalist and BBC Garden Editor who wrote numerous books from the 1930s to the 1970s.   He is also the forerunner of the many small space, city and indoor gardening experts we are lucky to have today.

In Home, Window and Roof Gardening (1950) he focuses on window boxes, roof and balcony gardens, hanging baskets and tubs to encourage people in towns and cities to take up gardening.  He tackles the common fears of those who are reluctant head on, saying ‘drudgery’ soon turns to joy as efforts are rewarded.

‘Gardening curiously enough always repays the gardener.  I know of no man or woman who has been bitten with the craft – for craft it is – who hasn’t been a completely happy enthusiast.  A window box will satisfy a man’s aesthetic sense.  It will give him the joy of well doing.  There is the added interest which is good for his active brain – there is the happiness that comes from growing something as well as sharing the beauty of that growing with others.  Only those who have really tried to produce beautiful plants under difficult conditions know the satisfaction of success.’

Dr Shewell-Cooper revels in the potential for window boxes to transform the environment in towns and cities, as well as the character of the gardeners themselves.

He wanted to see council Parks Departments supplying compost and advice, garden societies established in every town in England, and even lists of volunteer advisers in Post Offices, as there were for ex-forces personnel after the war.

‘It might almost be said that it is our national duty to cultivate window boxes.  I will never forget the way that houses were absolutely transformed during the Silver Jubilee and Coronation periods of the late King George V.  Everyone in London at any rate seemed to go window box mad and what a good thing it was, for to be mad about gardening is to be mad about something worthwhile.’