Monday, 23 February 2009


Look who was ba-humbling around in my garden yesterday - spring really is on the cusp. (Take no notice of the completely retarded Hyacinth 'Woodstock' the bee is bumbling on, the snow did something funny to the flowers.)

What are you thinking this time of year? Are you getting excited and making veg plot plans? I'm pleased for you if so. But I find myself feeling strangely depressed. I feel that last year I had a terrible year in the garden - that I ended the year thinking that none of the jobs had really got done. 

I want to have a year in the garden this year which is the opposite to 2008. I want to finish the year without feeling like I've bought loads of random plants from plant sales and then come home and stuck them in wherever. I want to feel like I've taken care of what's actually there, and not ached for it all to be totally different. And most of all I want to stop arranging my garden so that it needs more work than I ever have time to do, and ends up feeling like an evil, sulking presence in a corner of my mind. 

The truth is that I am good at growing things if they are big and green and don't need much attention. Or need it once a year: like my wisteria, now primed to go. But I can't do (at all) that lovely floral floaty stuff that James A-S is so good at. I can't do the organised allotment routine that VP is so good at. I have tried to be these things and I am just not them. I have a twenty-year-old agave to show for my years of gardening, and a fifteen-year-old puya. And my allotment can be distinguished from afar by its sweet william patch and asparagus fronds. And that's, um, about it. 

I want to stop trying to be good at what I'm not, and just accept the gardener that I am. A fairly lazy gardener, who will run out on a cold night with bubble wrap and brush falling snow off the echiums, but who is not very good at remembering to feed and water. And who wants to spend more time this year sitting in the garden relaxing, and less feeling stressed about whether squirrels have dug up all the newly planted species Gladioli. I just feel like my life might be too short to be a really good gardener. 

Anyway these are my slightly doomy, though pragmatic, thoughts, on this February day. 

Did you have any realisations about yourself as a gardener last year? Have they changed the way you are planning to garden this year? 


Julia said...

Last year I learned that, for all the wholesomeness I felt, I have absolutely zero talent for growing fruit and veg. Green tomatoes, hardly any tomatilloes, a pathetic potato crop - I shall stick with my exotics, which are by comparison a piece of cake!

VP said...

Organised allotment routine? Moi? I'm just glad it's not the worst plot on the block. AND I'm waaaaaay behind with my autumn digging never mind this year's jobs.

The thing is, I think if you're a true geardener, you're never really satisfied. People look at my garden and go 'wow!' and I have to bite back a looooong list of jobs that would make it truly perfect.

But then if I did that long list of jobs I wouldn't have time to enjoy my garden and that's the whole point isn't it?

So don't be too hard on yourself - I bet you've achieved a lot more than you think.

VP said...

PS Don't forget we had a bummer of a summer last year.

Onwards and upwards!

emmat said...

No honestly my garden definitely had a particularly bad year last year. I think the whole thing needs a real rethink which is going to have to happen sharpish or everything will have started growing again and then I feel like too much of a mass murderer to do anything.

But both your comments are slightly consoling! so thank youxx

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks for becoming a follower of ESTHER IN THE GARDEN, Emma.

About yout post - rather than finding it gloomy, I think it sounds rather liberating. Gardens are meant for being happy in. If you worry about what might be (or what might have been) how are you going to enjoy it?

My garden - it depends on the time of year. (Which is meant to be a flaw . . . but I think it leaves scope for imagining.)

I admit I get apprehensive about what people will think of it though. Which is silly. However, I've found some people look at it in a bewildered way and sort of go 'oh' in a flat 'what a let down of a garden' kind of way. Whereas others come in and go 'Wow! and stand in amazement . . . and keep saying 'I do like your garden Esther'. (Perhaps I should chose my friends more carefully on this basis.)

What I've learnt / realised this year - that to fill the garden with shade so it is pleasant for me to sit in doesn't go with growing lots of tomatoes and basil - which is what I like to grow best.



Yolanda Heuzen said...

I have yet to create the perfect garden and if/when I have done I will be instantly bored with it. :-) And I don't think I ever will because I'm too lazy a gardener anyway. LOL

Last year I'd made a long list of stuff to sow in/for my veggie garden. I think I made it half way through and then completely forgot about it. I still had lots to eat and enjoy from my garden. Less than if I'd followed my sowing scheme to the letter but hey, I'm not perfect and so is my garden.

And if other people don't like my garden, too bad. For them. ;-)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I learned last year that if the garden gets way more than the average amount of rain, it looks truly wonderful, regardless of what I do. If we have a drought, it looks truly terrible regardless of what I do. If it's a normal year, parts look good and parts look bad regardless of what I do. I much prefer the laissez-faire attitude to gardening. Things spill out into the paths, one of the group of 3 always dies, ruining the design. So what? I don't grow moisture loving plants because I can't be bothered to remember to water them, oh well. I've determined that I am a plant collector. I'd like to be a garden designer, but I have such a hard time saying no to a plant just begging to be taken home from the nursery. And if it doesn't get stuffed into the ground until fall, so what. That's what potting soil is for; it can always be moved up to a larger pot. I enjoy each little piece, and over look the ugly bits, the toys strewn about the lawn, the balls lost in the border. I enjoy watching the bees, the butterflies, the toads and even the occasional frog. I'm not out to impress anyone and I'm not trying to win any awards. It's not perfect, but I don't worry about it.
I hope you can find contentment in your readjusted attitude.

Victoria said...

I agree with Julia; grow the things that do well for you. And exotics are soooo satisfying: there's nothing like a big green leaf to make you feel that you've got big green fingers (minus the odd bit of finger in my case, of course ...)

Victoria said...

PS: Remember when you did your lovely pink Bloom Day slide show last year? I was so jealous! And that's what you call a particularly bad year.

Arabella Sock said...

I do sympathise with you and wonder if you have the same problem as me. I don't find my garden a challenge any more. It is a small garden and essentially 'done' as far as any garden can ever be done. It peaked a couple of years ago and since then I have merely tweaked bits here and there (usually making things worse) and maintained what is. The structure of it doesn't really allow for a change in concept. Although I love it I really want a new garden to design but at present we don't have any plans to move. Hence the obsession with getting a greenhouse - if I can lose the shed and squeeze one in there it will open up a small, but new dimension to me. Unfortunately that will leave you as the only blogger in the entire garden world without a greenhouse - still at least you've got Kew!

patientgardener said...

Oh dear you do sound down in the dumps. You should see Spring as the start of a new year full of possibilities. Dont worry about what others do - you will always feel inadequate if you do(I do). You should garden for you - grow what you like, how you like.

We all how plants that we have bought and not planted out. I read something by Beth Chatto the other day and she referred to her collection of homeless plants so if its good enough for her.....

Most of my garden friends are retired so they have immaculate gardens whilst I like you grab 5 mins when I can. So you arent alone

easygardener said...

Impulsive plant buying and squeezing them in somewhere is the norm in my garden. Making allotment sowing lists/plans and then forgetting about them is another. Are you telling me there is a better way?
I tend to organise some mini project (a container bog garden for carnivorous plants this year) to stop myself wanting a new garden. Being a lazy gardener this suits me quite well (lol).

Lia Leendertz said...

Everyone says 'growing your own vegetables is easy!' It's a big fat lie, there is so much to it.
The problem with my garden is that i change my mind so often. i have just made lots of big decisions, and am feeling very happy about them, but i live in fear of some beautiful Gardens Illustrated catching my eye that makes me think 'Damn! I should have done that!'.
But, last year i mainly learned that... everyone should have a covered place in the garden where they can sit during rain. Magic.

emmat said...

I really like Esther's point about how gardens are meant for you to be happy in. I'm beginning to think that is the key to what is making me unhappy. I spend much more time thinking about "jobs" than about getting quietly drunk.

And Lia's suggestion about having somewhere to watch the rain is so evocative and genius it makes me get a tear in my eye. Mr McGregor's Daughter saying "one of the three always dies" has made me chuckle a couple of times now...

I don't know about the whole 'Beth Chatto does it so it must be alright' argument though... I think Beth is saintly, but I don't think that makes her infallible. Old-fashioned gardeners are often okay with the idea of homeless, straggling plants, but I don't have 4 acres and I have got no excuse. I feel there's a moral case to be made against killing things. That's how I feel anyway!

Anyway thank you to everyone especially Victoria because I thought my Bloom Day thing was garish and gross compared to everyone else's so it cheers me up to think somebody was actually even slightly jealous.

Jane Perrone, Horticultural blog said...

Having moved into my house in August I feel a bit sad that I've done so little on the garden yet, but with a plan to demolish the garage and turn it into a garden office later in the year there's not much point in doing a lot until that's done - builders trash gardens!

And money, there's the other rub - spending it all on boring stuff like furniture and plastering, not plants. However my plum and pear tree are both fab and exactly the fruits I'd have chosen myself so I can't complain.

I'm definitely a bedtime gardener - once the nursery door shuts at 7pm I'll be out there this summer. Must make sure I make time for that glass of wine, though.

Nutty Gnome said...

I am a haphazard gardener with lots of mini projects (and one big project) going on at the same time.
When we moved into this house the garden was all green - no colour, even the flowers were all shades of green!Pleasant but bland.
I buy or acquire plants thatI like and stick 'em in where I think they'll look nice - but it can take me weeks or even months to get around to planting them.
My vegetable garden never lives up to my expectations because I'm not organised enough to keep up with it- oh, and I forget to water!
And I always think everyone else's garden look far better than mine - so my plan for this year involves making sure I spend more time just sitting in it, preferably with a nice glass of wine close at hand!

Juliet said...

Emma, you're not alone. As VP said, we had an awful wet summer last year - we also had a very early winter, so there was very little time in the autumn to do all the gardening jobs which would normally get done at that time of year before it got too cold to do them. I had an enormous list of things I had planned to do before the end of November, most of which I still haven't done.

Because my energy levels fluctuate quite wildly anyway though, I'm used to carrying things over. I just write another list, star the things which are urgent, do them as soon as I can, and everything else can wait until I get around to it. There are very few things in a garden which have to be done at the supposedly right time for doing them - most of them will wait another week/month/year. The important thing is to enjoy the garden, not let it become a chore.

I have unplanted things in pots everywhere too. We've been planning to move for - I don't know, it seems like forever, but I suppose it's about four years now. I started taking cuttings in 2005/2006, while we got the house ready to sell. In 2007 we nearly moved, so I dug up lots of perennials and divided them - then the purchase fell through. I'm not supposed to be buying more plants until we've moved, but you can't always resist them, can you? So I spent last year trying to tend my ever-increasing collection of pots, and at the same time maintain the garden without spending any money on it, feeling that it wasn't worth changing anything because it wouldn't be mine much longer anyway. So frustrating!

I want a good gardening year this year too. Ideally in a new garden!

emmat said...

I love how often a glass of wine comes into the prescription for actually enjoying the garden. i would like to hear stories of people drinking the glass of wine, then another, then deciding that what really needs doing is to pull out that big patch of crocosmia, and then you spear yourself in the foot and have to go to casualty. Because that's what would happen if I got drunk in my garden.

emmat said...

And ps Juliet's post is really poignant. God the years roll by, while you imagine you are going to be leaving any minute. The image of all these plants ready to go makes me feel sad and I hope you get your move together soon!

Juliet said...

Thanks Emma. I didn't mean to make you feel sad though - sorry. I think this year I'll just get on with it and work with the garden I've got, change things, plant new plants in it - then we probably will manage to move at last ;)

colleen said...

Well, I reckon I'm not a gardener at all, really, just a project manager. And this year I reckon I might get the sack for being rubbish at that too.

I need some sun.

emmat said...

Colleen's wish for sun came true!