This is all my husband’s fault. I used to remember the names of people and places, with plants being my specialist subject. I could startle any audience with the breadth of my recall and the amount of often useless information at my command. Before Google, Attila used me as a handy human encyclopaedia. He works out answers mathematically and this doesn’t help with “Who starred in “Lawrence of Arabia” and in which other films did he appear?” I don’t do numbers. Once the sum exceeds ten, I have to take off my shoes and socks, to supply the necessary digits.
Helleborus orientalis “Blue Boy” (Lenten rose)
We were wandering around an open garden. I left my spouse to his own research, while I furtled in a flower bed, inspecting something unusual. I was dragged away from my reverie, to face a group of gardeners clustered around a modest shoot of purple foliage. Attila squared his shoulders, pride evident on his features. “My wife knows the name of nearly every plant on the planet” he said. Some ten people turned to me, awaiting my pronouncement. I searched within. Nothing, nil, nada, zip. Of course I knew what it was, I grow it myself, I just couldn’t say what it was called. Their expectant faces, my blush of embarrassment and the miserable humiliation stay with me still. My reputation for knowing my onions was in tatters. It took me a fortnight to summon Atriplex hortensis, red orach, to mind. Now I struggle to memorize my address.
Atriplex hortensis var. rubra (red orach) seedlings
Rain has stopped play outdoors and I’m looking for dry jobs that don’t involve cleaning the oven. I have a disgraceful, over-full box of shame in the potting shed, wherein I keep plant labels, empty seed packets and tags of unbelievable scruffiness. Some are finely laminated and inscribed with the most exquisite inks known to mankind, others are written in pencil on the back of yoghurt pot shards. I’m forever intending to put them in an album, since I can’t abide plastic markers stuck in the ground. Any keeper of cats knows that they take a deliberate delight in screwing up a sticker system. I dragged the container to the kitchen and washed the waterproof labels to remove ancient mud deposits. I strewed the lot on radiators to dry all over the house, ignoring impertinent comments so occasioned.
Excess is necessary
I trimmed off anything needless, leaving any picture and the official designation of each specimen. I’ve collated the lot in loosely alphabetical order, because I usually think “I’m sure that begins with “P””. I’m often wrong. I have stuck the entire collection to sheets of blank paper, making handwritten notes where needed. Now I have a compilation of many examples of plants that I have introduced, without embarking on an extended trawl through the RHS tome, full of a cast of thousands. I promise to include new additions without delay. My partner in crime suggests incorporating a gold star for good performance, a black mark for something that has died ignominiously and a grey blob for an item that has disappeared amongst the undergrowth and could still be surviving somewhere, for all I know. This is a nerd’s bespoke heaven. I feel an anorak’s satisfaction in a little micro management and I’m better equipped for identification in this blog or summer’s open day. I’m using strong glue in a small room with the door shut, to keep out inquisitive pets and family wanting to help. I’m suffering from double vision and hallucinations; as they say hereabouts, I’m off my face.