Over the fence

Are gar­den tasks a bother or a boon?

Gardeners' World - - Contents - Anne Ware­ham is co- cre­ator of Veddw House Gar­den and au­thor of The Deckchair Gar­dener Kather­ine Crouch is a gar­den de­signer based in Som­er­set and BBC Gar­dener of the Decade

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).

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