KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
Igarden the way most people exercise. I spend ages talking myself into it, then I attack it with a wild burst of energy and enthusiasm, achieve a great deal in a relatively short time, promise myself and everyone else that I’ll do a little each day from now on, and then give up entirely until that nagging voice starts up again.
But unlike the voice that drags others to the gym, the one that invites me into my own garden is choked with weeds. You might think, having been in sole charge of a decent-sized piece of greenery for 12 years now, that I might have a better grasp of how nature works — yet still, every time I pull an unwanted interloper out of a flower bed, I am both amazed and disgusted when its close relative shows up soon afterwards to enquire after its whereabouts. I consider it a personal insult that my grass continues to grow. I really, really haven’t got the hang of this.
My biggest problem in the garden, though, is not my constant amazement that things will insist on growing, but a total lack of patience — or rather, a limited supply of patience that always runs out at the worst time.
So I will go out there on a day like this, and I will painstakingly remove even the tiniest weed or stray leaf from both the significant back garden and the slightly pathetic attempt out front. When I did this a fortnight ago — the first sortie of the season — it took me an entire day.
By teatime, my back was so stiff and my hands so sore that I was obliged to drink quite a lot of wine, just to facilitate my making the dinner. But as I did so, I surveyed a darkening garden totally bereft of weed and stray, and I looked forward to getting back out there the following morning and lovingly planting the seeds I’d bought to bring me so much colour and pleasure all summer long.
Anyway, fast-forward to a slightly hungover Sunday morning and me reading the information on the back of the seed packets for the very first time. It has never, ever dawned on me to do this before I actually pay for the seeds. If I did, then my garden would look exactly the same as it does now but I
‘Sow indoors then transfer outside’? As Meat Loaf nearly said, I’ll do anything for my garden... but I won’t do that
would be considerably richer. Because there are certain things that I simply won’t do.
‘Sow indoors and then transfer seedlings outside.’ No thanks. As Meat Loaf once nearly said, I will do anything for a beautiful garden — but I won’t do that. You know when you spend quite a bit of money on a shrub and then read the bit about soaking its roots in water for 24 hours before you plant it? Nope. Not a chance.
What I am just about willing to do is rip open a packet of seeds and turf them all into a small hole that I’ve just made in the earth with my finger. Sow seeds individually six inches apart? I won’t, thanks. Frankly, I have better things to do. Thin out seedlings after a few weeks? Don’t make me laugh.
The result of my total lack of willingness to engage with the planting process is that very little of what I want actually grows in my garden. Some of the seeds do take, but because I never, ever take a mental note of what I’ve planted where, I don’t know what anything is. I also can’t be sure that what does grow is actually anything I’ve sown, or whether it’s just an attractive weed.
It always amazes me that my mother can look at any plant or bush and tell me what it’s called. We have a tree at the end of our garden large enough to climb, and I have no idea what it is. Obviously, I’ve been told. But I forget. You could say that I have the very opposite of a Garden of Remembrance.
But this year will be different. This year, I will get on top of the garden. I will follow the instructions. I will sow indoors and plant out and thin and sow. I will remember where I (properly) plant seeds.
This time, more than any other time, as the England football squad sang ahead of the World Cup in 1982. They failed to get out of the second round in that tournament, so possibly not the best song for me to adopt as my gardening mantra.
Or maybe — finally — I am conceding to the inevitable.