Cut­ting re­marks over the hedge from the undis­puted queen of the gar­den

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - with David Med­calf med­der­s­me­[email protected]

NEI­THER a bor­rower nor a len­der be. The Bi­ble? Shake­speare? The quo­ta­tion must pre­sum­ably be one or the other. On the face of it, gar­den­ing is not much about bor­row­ing or lend­ing at all. There is sim­ply no point in lend­ing some­one a plant which will be an­chored in the ground for­ever and ever amen.

It will never be re­turned by the bor­rower – that is the long and the short of it. Bet­ter by far to make a gift of the be­go­nia which has been ad­mired by a guest and then feel good about bright­en­ing some­one else’s flower bed.

While bor­row­ing is im­prac­ti­ca­ble and rare, steal­ing is rife – though hor­ti­cul­tural theft is the most gen­teel form of larceny imag­in­able. Lit­tle old dears are the worst cul­prits, as deadly as a plague of lo­custs while main­tain­ing their air of un­ruf­fled in­no­cence. Be­ware of pen­sion­ers idly pok­ing in your borders for they are not as harm­less as they would have you be­lieve.

These saintly-faced wreck­ers de­scend on the peren­ni­als of their un­for­tu­nate vic­tims with blades con­cealed in their oh-so-re­spectable look­ing hand­bags. As sin­gle-minded in their crim­i­nal in­tent as any me­di­ae­val cut-purse or inner city mug­ger, they can snip cut­tings with all the un­der­hand dex­ter­ity of a pro­fes­sional ma­gi­cian. And on the rare oc­ca­sion when their of­fences are de­tected, they are sim­ply too damned nice and la­dy­like to be chal­lenged.

The cus­tom among tal­ented gar­den­ers to open their premises to all and sundry as a fund-raiser for some good cause is im­pos­si­bly nerve-wrack­ing for the hosts.

They must worry whether the weather will al­low them to display their roses at their best. They must worry too as to whether there will be suf­fi­cient deck-chairs, or­ange squash and park­ing spa­ces to ac­com­mo­date all com­ers. But above all they must toss and turn each night at the night­mar­ish prospect of a horde of grannies ar­riv­ing all armed on the sly with nail scis­sors or se­ca­teurs. Let this gang loose un­su­per­vised in your pre­cious grounds and a prize win­ning gar­den may be re­duced to a waste­land in the space of one leisurely af­ter­noon of po­lite con­ver­sa­tion and cur­ranty scones…

Her Majesty, the mother-in-law, paid one of her rare State vis­its to The Manor re­cently dis­pens­ing the ben­e­fit of her enormous ex­per­tise. What this woman does not know about flora is scarcely worth knowing, so it pays to lis­ten to her ev­ery word.

‘You are over­wa­ter­ing that.’ Yes, ma’am.

‘Keep that potted. It won’t stand plant­ing out yet.’ Yes ma’am. ‘This needs feed­ing.’ ‘That needs starv­ing.’ ‘Ugh! I di­ag­nose vine wee­vil.’ Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. Yes in­deed, ma’am.

It was not un­til we came to the hedge that I felt I could do any more than nod and take a long list of men­tal notes as the royal party in­spected the Side Gar­den. The hedge is this summer’s pride and joy. The hedge is one of the won­ders of the world as far as I am con­cerned. Now that the hedge has reached the stage where it can stand a good clip­ping, I am happy to boast of how I have raised it to such mag­nif­i­cence.

Her Majesty looked at me with be­mused in­dul­gence as I droned on about the watch­ful­ness re­quired to pro­duce a hedge of such all-round awe­some­ness. Even­tu­ally, she was al­lowed few words.

‘You don’t by any chance re­mem­ber where you ac­quired the mak­ings of this mirac­u­lous hedge, do you, dear boy?’

‘No, ma’am.’

‘I gave you the cut­tings from my own hedge, dear boy.’ And so she did. I now re­called bring­ing those pre­cious lit­tle slips from the im­pe­rial res­i­dence to The Manor wrapped in damp news­pa­per. I prob­a­bly never said thank you. I now ex­pressed be­lated gratitude and we pon­dered to­gether how many of our botan­i­cal trea­sures are presents do­nated by other like-minded souls.

Hermione and I have cul­ti­vated a row of grape plants, for in­stance, all from the vine­yard of a friend. They have taken such firm root that we are now hap­pily in a po­si­tion to of­fer vine cut­tings to any­one who shows and in­ter­est in cul­ti­vat­ing them. Our wil­low grove is the re­sult of Jan­uary morn­ing raids tak­ing sal­lies from the groves of oth­ers.

It is all about shar­ing and never mind bor­row­ing or lend­ing.

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