Over the fence
Are garden tasks a bother or a boon?
We all know that gardening is a delight and nothing makes us more inclined to skip around happily than the flowers that bloom in spring, tra la la! But the skipping comes to a sudden stop when we discover that rabbits – or slugs or deer or squirrels – have eaten our long-awaited flowers. There is no doubt that pests are a major irritation. I correspond with many gardeners, and about one in a 1,000 have decided to live happily with their rabbits – unless they have them in cages. Come spring we are likely to discover winter damage. Plants that have rotted off or trees that have blown down. The mega clear-up is a pain in the… well, everything. Then there’s the cheery prospect of discovering that the latest plant disease has blown in. Having miles of box hedges made the discovery of box blight a major irritation, to put it mildly. I grew the box for free from cuttings and it’s been anything but free since we started struggling with The Blight. And I gather the box tree moth (second generation) has now arrived. But the worst irritations are the boring routine housekeeping jobs in the garden. Carting off old foliage to a bin, letting it rot and then bringing it back (best not to bother – just cut and leave). Trying to get rid of bindweed. Or, if so inclined, attempting to grow bindweed to cover an arch (it won’t). The miracle is that we tolerate gardening at all. And some shameful people try to make children do it, too, under the guise of character building. As if. Now, this is the point when I’m supposed to say, “But hey, it’s worth it for the flowers that bloom in spring!” Hmm.
Anne, your beautiful established garden must have been a joy to develop, but perhaps it’s become a burden to maintain as the growth of plants increases in inverse proportion to your energy? How galling it must be to see trees – lovingly nurtured since whips, providing increasing structure and delight as the years pass – succumb to some dreaded disease, of which there seems to be an increasing number. Wail and gnash with frustration; I can offer no comfort here. However, as the winter season is more about maintaining rather than sitting in the garden, it is worth us now asking which bits of our gardens caused stress last season. Was it because we had to do the jobs we hate? Can’t stand raking up leaves? Grow small trees whose leaves mostly blow next door and mow up the rest. I’m too lazy to stake perennials so I grow aconitums, not delphiniums. Don’t want to mow the lawn? Don’t have a lawn, or get your idle teenagers to mow it. Sorry, the option of wall-to-wall concrete doesn’t exist – we are gardeners! So, first lose the guilt. There will be hard work to do, but lower your standards – a little squalor is normal. Bury your failures in the compost heap. Stressed by this magazine’s What To Do Now pages? Don’t be. Most of them don’t apply to you, many of the rest can wait and no one will notice anyway. Once the sweeping is done, find a job that soothes. For me, it’s the deep peace that comes on a grey Sunday morning in April, in my greenhouse with seedlings, tea and The Archers Omnibus. Anne, I can see you in your conservatory, with tea and biccies, looking out at your garden, with nary a seed tray in sight. I hope you are de-stressing…
The worse irritations are the boring routine housekeeping jobs Stressed by this magazine’s What To Do Now pages? Don’t be
HAVE YOUR SAY Is gardening a labour of love that brings perpetual bliss? Or has it become a never- ending source of myriad irritations? Write in and tell us ( see p19).