I think it’s fair to say that I am a keen gardener. I’ll happily spend hours just pottering about, jumping from job to job as I see things that need doing. When I go back into the house The Friaress will ask what I’ve been doing, but I usually can’t remember.
However, I think it’s important to differentiate between being keen, and actually being good at it. One of my major problems, as hinted above, is my useless memory. I’m okay with some things: heucheras I can remember and I’m fairly confident I can pick out a hosta or a cosmos. But more often than not, if somebody asks me to identify something, my response will be along the lines of: “Not sure. I think it begins with an ‘A’…” This, of course, is not to be relied on. When I say that, it’s just as likely to be a Coreopsis as it is to be an Astrantia.
Given time, I usually get there though. When we first started making decorative acrylic domes and sold them at a fair in Rhos, somebody bought one with a flower in, and asked what it was. “Not sure. I think it begins with a ‘B’…” I replied. Luckily he thought that was funny, as he did the same thing. The only plant that came to mind was Brugmansia, but given that the dome was about one inch in diameter and not one foot, I knew it wasn’t that. It was probably about five hours later, whilst doing something else, that I suddenly exclaimed “Brunnera!”, frightening the life out of everybody else who had no clue what on earth I was on about.
Another issue is that my attempts at growing plants are somewhat haphazard, and I’m at a loss as to why. I’ve had fair success with a number of food crops: potatoes, beans, chard, salad leaves, the usual suspects. And some flowers have worked for me too, along the lines of sweet peas, cosmos et al. My failures are more numerous: rhubard, grows like a weed surely? Nope, not for me. It will start growing, then sulk and die, and sure as hell won’t spread. I’ve read all about growing leeks, loosening the soil, making a hole, dropping in the seedlings and then watering them rather than firming, but the ones I’ve had in for three months are no bigger than when they started.
To add to the confusion, I can grow pak choi okay (except that this year’s bolted in the two days of extreme heat we had sometime in May), but only the first sowing. If I try another row, in the same soil, maybe three weeks later, the damn things germinate but refuse point blank to grow more than an inch or so. What’s that about?
All of this means that my plans to be the next Monty Don are on hold. And he’s no help either: just when I was feeling pleased with myself because my sweet peas were quite prolific, his were on Gardener’s World, and were not only thicker, but so tall he could barely reach the top of them. Nobody likes a show-off, Monty.