Expert Gardener Though Sightless
Rushden Man Who Works by Touch
Not many blind men are gardeners even a in an amateur way, and still fewer are experts, yet “expert” would describe Mr. A. J. Holland, of “Trastevere,” Court Estate, Rushden, who has been gardening now for 16 years without being able to so much as see the blooms he is growing.
Mr Holland in his garden
When visited at his charming bungalow, within a mile of the boot factories, yet buried in the heart of the country, in fields distant from the nearest road, Mr. Holland was found contentedly going about his work in the garden as if he had not a care in the world. In fact one had to look twice to be sure that his legacy from the War, absence of sight, was truly genuine.
“I believe some people think that I’m swinging the lead,” he said, but it is not so, as he left hospital in September 1918, with only poor sight in one, and now, as he puts it, he has to “feel the light on his face to know if the sun is shining.”
Before the War he was one of the best gardeners in the country and had won numerous awards, as well as being well-known as a judge. His last job was head gardener at Middlemead, Leicester, owned by Mr. F. S. Brice.
On leaving hospital he was trained at St. Dunstan’s in poultry farming for a year, and in that time he obtained ... marks out of a 100 and 50 out of ... in his examinations and passed out [best] in all departments. He was then [poultry] rearing for 10 years, specialising in ... cockerels, with which he [won] many prizes all over the country. [the edge of the page is damaged]
As before St Dunstan’s trained him, he now boasts one of the finest vegetable and flower gardens in the [street]. Mr Holland has evolved a system of his own. He digs with a large trowel, his wife helping him in planting the smaller seeds and in tying in the tomatoes, as it is important the flowers and fruit are not bruised. Apart from these duties, however, practically the whole of the work of the garden and greenhouse is carried out by Mr. Holland himself. He repairs every of his property, does not use a stick and gets about with remarkable agility.
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... asked how to tell when they need water:
“You have to hit them in the belly of the pot, he explained, “or else it’s no good. This one, now, you may think looks dry and needs water, but I shan’t water it till tomorrow. This one (tapping another) won’t need any till Thursday. It’s all a question of the amount of water you give them as to how the blooms come up. Now this one’s a thirsty one—“
Chrysanthemums are the flowers with which Mr. Holland formerly won so many prizes, and he hopes to enter for some of the competitions for blind gardeners which are organised throughout the country from time to time. He is also trying to work up a little business with local connections. His brother was also disabled in the war, and Mr. Holland bought his present home 16 years ago from an Italian gentleman who had spent a lot of money on the property and who had a fine taste in sculpture and painting, there being a picture of the Madonna on the ceiling. The house’s name, Trastevere, incidentally was given it by its former owner and means, so Mr. Holland says, “This side of the Tiber.”