Golden rules for se­nior gar­den­ers

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor - Fol­low @agromenes on Twit­ter

THE PRINCE OF WALES has al­ways shown an in­ter­est in the for­tunes of COUN­TRY LIFE and, to cel­e­brate its first 120 years, he in­vited staff and friends of the mag­a­zine to High­grove, not least for us to see the progress of his gar­den. It was a mem­o­rable op­por­tu­nity to wan­der on the loveli­est of evenings and recog­nise the per­son­al­ity that the plant­ing and col­lec­tions re­veal (My week, page 38).

Whether ex­ten­sive or a small patch, for so many of us, the gar­den is an im­mense source of strength and seren­ity. It chal­lenges and it com­forts. It pro­vides tran­quil­lity and de­light. I’m never sur­prised that the story of Cre­ation starts in a gar­den.

I, too, have a gar­den, far less ex­ten­sive and much more hap­haz­ard than The Prince’s, but I love it no less for that. It pro­vides me with flow­ers and fruit. I grow sal­ads, veg­eta­bles and herbs and, this year, with its long sunny days, I have in­dulged my­self with much sit­ting and eat­ing out­side. It is in my gar­den that I’m hap­pi­est, most con­scious of my good for­tune and most at peace with the world, but then I’m well and more or less able to cope.

The gar­den isn’t a bur­den, but it is a re­spon­si­bil­ity and it does have to be kept up. This is where I come to the gardener’s ex­is­ten­tial prob­lem: the bet­ter it be­comes, the more de­mand­ing it gets and, if you’re not care­ful, you’re trapped.

That’s what hap­pens with in­creas­ing reg­u­lar­ity to friends and ac­quain­tances. One re­cently an­nounced she was down­siz­ing—to a big­ger house, but a smaller gar­den. The plot that she had cre­ated and lov­ingly tended for 40 years was just too much for her and her even older part-time help. It was the gar­den, once a con­so­la­tion and joy, that fi­nally drove her out of the fam­ily home.

The gar­den had be­come her master and she could no longer put up with be­ing its slave. There was al­ways more that could be done: an­other bed, a lit­tle or­chard ex­ten­sion, some fur­ther plant­ing, an idea she picked up at Chelsea, an en­thu­si­asm of a friend. Lit­tle by lit­tle, what had been a pleas­ant, eas­ily man­aged space had be­come, in re­tire­ment, a de­mand­ing, full-time job.

As her guests played cro­quet or re­laxed with a glass of Sancerre, she laboured in the herba­ceous bor­ders, on hands and knees, with trowel and fork. For the rest of us, the gar­den was a joy to be­hold, but, for her, what had been a labour of love had be­come in­creas­ingly just a labour. She has be­come an­other driven out of house and home just at the time when one most val­ues the fa­mil­iar.

To help pre­vent this grow­ing army of the evicted, Agromenes has pre­pared his Gar­den (Re­duc­tion of Re­spon­si­bil­ity) Or­di­nance:

Rule 1: Spend at least as much time sit­ting, eat­ing and drinking in the gar­den as work­ing in it.

Rule 2: Learn to walk around with your friends with­out com­pul­sively weed­ing or tidy­ing.

Rule 3: No ex­ten­sions, new beds or green­houses af­ter re­tire­ment. If you couldn’t man­age it when you were work­ing, you won’t when you’re not.

Rule 4: If it gets too much, share it with a friend, of­fer part as an al­lot­ment or sim­ply let it go.

Rule 5: Never con­sider mov­ing sim­ply be­cause the gar­den has got too much. The abo­li­tion of slav­ery ap­plies to gar­den­ers, too.

‘had What had been a labour of love be­come in­creas­ingly just a labour

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