From the collection: The garden year with Mr Bear

This charming children’s book was published in Sydney in late 1937 or early 1938 by the Australian seed company Arthur Yates & Co.

It’s one item from a large collection of books about Australian gardens, gardening, gardeners and plants presented to the Historic Houses Trust of NSW (now SLM) in 2004 by the late Professor Richard Clough AM through the Commonwealth Cultural Gifts Program. Arthur Yates & Co first published a gardening guide in 1895, followed by annual seed lists and garden calendars, revised editions of the Yates’ garden guide and occasional specialist lists of flowering bulbs, roses, dahlias, sweet peas and other plants.

The garden year with Mr Bear was a one-off, written by Bert Peach, sales manager for Yates and later a company director. The book features beguiling vignettes of green-thumbed Mr Bear sowing flower seeds, planting onions and putting up netting for sweet peas. Some illustrations are printed in colour; others are in black and white for children to colour in. Each page of text subtly promotes the publisher’s product – vegetable and flower seeds, bulbs, shrubs, trees, and Yates’ garden guide – while providing simple instruction in seasonal planting.

About the author

Head and shoulders photo of woman holding up card to face with conservator's white glove on hand.

Megan Martin

Former Head, Collections & Access

Megan is the former head of Collections & Access at Sydney Living Museums. She has a particular interest in the working of the historical imagination, in teasing out the meanings of objects in museums collections and in crafting the stories that can be recovered/discovered through a close reading of those items of material culture.

This article originally appeared in Unlocked: The Sydney Living Museums Gazette, our Members’ magazine.

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