I have been asked many times why did I start gardening; it is more to the point to ask me when. I remember planting potatoes with my father before I started school. He was insistent that the potatoes went in the hole with their eyes up. I am sure that I must have asked why and equally sure that I was told because they are. My father was a stickler for the rules but always took great care not to explain them. I became really hooked when he allowed me to sow a few lettuce seeds in his home made cold frame. The wonderment of a child is hard to explain but it was there when those first tiny shoots made their appearance. It is a marvel of nature that has kept me sowing seeds for the last 65 years.
I remember fetching horse manure from the stables under the railway arches in the area of London where we lived. My father had made a small handcart which was easy to pull, or push, loaded with a small child or a pile of ripe manure; not both at the same time I assure you. I would travel in the handcart on the outward trip and walk alongside on the return usually eating an ice cream from the local Italian ice cream parlour. I would imagine these days that Elf and Safe Tea would frown upon the practice and outlaw it as unsafe. However I cannot remember suffering unduly from these expeditions. It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning.
I remember visiting a local park where the displays of lupins won prizes. My father would stand next to me in front of the lupin beds while my mother manoeuvred a box camera to take a photo. It was purely a camouflage exercise as my father, posing with his hands behind his back and a big grin on his face, would pluck ripe seed pods from the lupins and drop them into my pocket or hood depending on the coat that I was wearing. I guess I learnt about finger blight at a very young age.
I have always found fellow enthusiasts to be a generous lot but I have learnt to be aware of the gift of bags full of a plant or plants rather than one or two precious cuttings. Many a plant thug has found its’ way into my garden via the large plastic bag donation. Some plants have eluded my green fingers and turned their toes up rather than grow for me but I am persistant, stubborn if you like, and this year I have finally persuaded Acanthus mollis to flower for me. It has taken more than twenty years, more than a dozen different plants, two gardens and two different climates to achieve this but I am so thrilled that at last I have these stately spikes in my garden. As long as the slugs and snails confine their eating habits to my bedding plants all should be well in a day or two to enable my resident David Bailey to take some photos to add to this post.
All in all I cannot imagine my life without a garden of sorts; somewhere to sit and ponder the meaning of Life, the Universe and everything; until, that is, a wayward weed is spotted and the need to remove the offender exceeds the need to sit and ponder.