The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - FIONA LOONEY Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

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.

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