Mary had a very distinctive way of talking. She extended her vowels, drawing them out almost to the point of a drawl, and prefacing most of her sentences with, 'Oh'. As a result, she would often address us with, 'Oh, Lahhhnce, oh, Jayyyne......'. We delighted in it, as she delighted in life.
|the Book Committee of Faber & Faber 1944 with T.S. Eliot on extreme left|
Although she died almost exactly four years ago, and we miss her dreadfully, we feel most fortunate to have counted her amongst our closest friends. Originally secretary to T.S. Eliot, the Anglicised American poet and playwright, most famous for 'The Waste Land' and 'Murder in the Cathedral', Mary had married David Bland, a director of the publishing house, Faber & Faber, who, at the time, was its commissioning Art Editor. So it was that Mary moved in the most literary of circles, including among her friends poets, such as John Betjeman and Anne Ridler, and the painter John Piper whose work hung in her home.
Following the early death of David, Mary established a successful business selling second hand gardening books from a shop in Mortlake Terrace, on Kew Green, London. The shop continues to this day.
|stockpiles of second hand gardening books|
From there she entered the milieu of the gardening cognoscenti, for years taking a stand at the Chelsea Flower Show for the sale of her antique and rare gardening books. Often we would join her for a preview of the show on Press Day before its opening to the public.
Later she gave up Chelsea, critical of the designers who, latterly, with notable exceptions, she viewed as untalented, and the awards handed out for mediocrity, as well as the growing presence of non gardeners obsessed with celebrity status. All of which, regrettably, remains unchanged. But Mary never spoke with rancour. And in all the many years of our friendship only once did she proffer advice against the developing acquaintanceship with a young person who, uncharacteristically, she regarded as devious.
|at a party we held in Budapest shortly before Mary's death. Seated centre Mary Bland. Clockwise Alan Harding, Joan Griffith [hidden] Werner Guttmann, Jane Hattatt, Natasha Guttmann|
But it is through Mary's deep knowledge of gardening and her love of books related to that subject that we have, over time, built up our own gardening library, concentrating mainly on first editions dating from the late nineteenth century up to the present day.
|a bookcase containg a selection of our gardening books|
Today Mary's remarkable and informative catalogues, stemming from the mail order business of her later, retirement years, no longer, alas, drop through the letter box. They, but much more so she, are truly and sadly missed.