Some things just go together. Cheese and onion, Laurel and Hardy, Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri. I maintain that there is a place in every garden, for pruning like a man and mine is not only a Northerner, but a Taurus to boot. I’ve cleared down the conservatory, ready for summer. Attila climbed the stepladders and gave the mimosa a right good seeing to that it will never forget. He flung himself about the rafters like the Phantom of the Rue Morgue and I can guarantee that when he picks up the heavy loppers, the garden quivers in anticipation. I do the lower altitude stuff; the consignment of mummified cactus corpses to the compost heap and repotting those remaining which have survived the winter. I’m writing this with two of my six keyboard bashing fingers out of commission due to severe spine incursions. No matter what precautions I take, some biological bayonet will slip my guard and stab me to the bone. If a pot full of prickles slips from your hand, learn to let it fall. I can assure you that catching it by clasping it to your chest is an act of madness.
Cymbidium (boat orchid)
I’ve made up a soil mix with lots of grit for the desert specialists. At the other end of the spectrum, the ferns relish their gloom and now luxuriate in new quarters with fish, blood and bone for slow release fertiliser but no additions for drainage. The Agapanthus (Nile lilies) need good sunlight and get a little added gravel and some extra nutrients; I move these on only when they threaten to break their containers, since they perform best when pot-bound. If they don’t flower their socks off this year after all this effort, I shall be most irritated and you don’t want to annoy me when I have secateurs to hand.
Acacia dealbata & Magnolia grandiflora
Last year, my biggest container housed Empress Eugenie’s passion flower. She bloomed magnificently for four months, then dropped dead in the space of a fortnight. I suspect vine weevil, so I’ve replaced the soil and replanted with Passiflora “White Lightning” and Solanum “Alba” (white flowering potato vine). I’ve dosed the lot with custard coloured systemic drench and sit here with everything crossed that I’ve got two of, which further impedes my typing, not to mention a number of other functions. My spouse objected furiously when I larded the tropicals with chicken manure pellets; in retrospect, this was not one of my best brainwaves. I’ve had to come up with a less memorably malodorous solution to enriching their lives. I use the ash from the log burning stove to improve fertility and must point out that coal residue should never be thus employed, as it will kill everything that it touches.
Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla)
I’ve noticed that some of the most successful gardens have been the result of a partnership. Perhaps one deals with the structure, the other with the plants. Versatile folk can attend both to good bones and exciting colour combinations. Since I am vertically challenged and get vertigo on a thick pile carpet, I would be forced to make a stony plot full of alpines without assistance. He makes me re-think my ideas and sometimes, his are better. Get a gardening buddy if you can; they’re worth their weight in gold.