We’ve been working like maniacs; weeding, staking, trimming and primping in order to impress the local representatives of the National Garden Society. All over the country, other hopefuls like me are dragooning their partners into throwing aside their own hobbies, so that they may drag their unwilling asses into a border to make an impression on a clump of nettles or to eradicate tufts of horsetail. We’ve cast a critical eye over our lawns, to calculate whether the experts might ignore the masses of clover, sometimes studded with dandelions for a little extra texture. What if they laugh at my presumption? Worse, supposing they scoff?
Lilies & poppies in the Dahlia bed
Readers of recent essays will know that my spouse Attila the Gardener, had made his mark on the plot by exposing one long bed to the sky. I have to say that the poor man paid for his audacity with long hours spent in the company of ground elder. He has trailed around nurseries, garden sales and road side barrows with his hand on his wallet and his heart on his sleeve. He has paid for specimens to fill extensive bare soil without complaint and afterwards, has helped to dig holes and shovel compost. He’s complemented my planting schemes and bolstered my ego. Nevertheless, I’m still not ready.
In the conservatory
I try not to use hideous toxic chemicals on my green patch of paradise. Last year I anointed the ground with nematodes in an attempt to limit the ravages of the slug population. This has had an effect; there has been a definite decrease in the number of slimy swines draped over the leaves, so I propose to repeat the treatment next spring. Snails are largely immune to biological control, because they don’t reside in the soil where the predatory worms are active. Thus they are as saucy as ever; behind every flower pot there is a rapacious shelled slitherer, gums at the ready to do damage. I go out with a bucket after a shower of rain, collect the brutes and put them in the green recycling bin, to go on their holidays. I’m not picking up a slug for any money. Viburnum beetle and saw fly larvae have had their wicked way with some of the shrubs. If spectators wear very dark sunglasses, maybe no-one will notice that the leaves have been eaten away to lacy shreds.
Aconitum (monkshood) “Stainless Steel”
The grass has been mowed and the edges are so sharp you could shave with them. The wind has knocked the petals off some of the poppies but I accept that these things happen and perhaps superglue is not the answer. The conservatory has been titivated to the point of perfection and looks wonderful. After much anticipation, the connoisseurs arrive. They wander around making encouraging comments and give helpful advice on how to rescue visitors who fall in the pond or get tangled in the roses. They sup tea and smile. I am so excited, I feel like an ancient pressure cooker whose gasket is about to blow. They say that I’m good enough and I’m going in the Yellow Book. We shall open our gates for charity next year, late June or early July. We’ll have to put in a huge amount of effort, not to let them down. “Oh great” says Attila. “talk dirt to me”.