Me – a gardener? You must be joking!


When I was a child, my parents had a modest sized front lawn but a reasonably large rear garden, almost as big as an allotment. The trouble was, each gender of the family had their jobs by which we helped out our parents, willingly or unwillingly! Gardening was not one of my jobs.

I and my sisters were girls, so we did girlie things, like baking, putting out and gathering in the household washing, and there was a lot of washing so the ironing pile was seldom reduced to nothing. I did not mind the baking – the reward was in the eating of the end product. The job I most disliked was doing the washing up. My father taught us all how to wash up, his way. Glasses first, then cups, then saucers (yes, we used saucers – mugs were definitely not acceptable to my parents at the time!). After that came the unsticky plates, then the stickies, the cutlery, and last of all, the pans. I hated washing pans; non-stick had not been invented at the time, so a lot of elbow grease was required. Now I fail to see why it was such a chore as I do it all the time at home but not always father’s way, and after having dispensed with a dishwasher some years ago. (Why did I do it?)

Brothers being boys, therefore the stronger masculine gender, their job was to haul the coal from the coal house into the kitchen where it was kept until it was needed for the open fire in our living room which also heated the water. We did not have central heating. I do not remember them doing anything else. My father took care of the garden until it became too much. My older brothers only helped out in the garden under pressure, and with a lot of moaning. I do not know what my much younger brother did in my teenage years as I was too busy with my life as he was growing up, but of course, fifty years later I know a lot more about him.

As a youngster, I failed to see why there were boys’ jobs and girls’ jobs at all. Were we not each a person before our gender? Ok, I was a girl but I was capable of hauling the coal into the house and I would have swapped my washing up chore with a brother if either had been willing. I actually liked coal; it was shiny and sometimes I found fossils in it. Unfortunately, the only concession to me and my strange rantings about why gender made a difference allowed by my parents was to allocate me a small patch of garden in which I planted Little Dorrits, Lobelia, radishes, potatoes, and carrots. A strange mix but as I had no idea about gardening, and the garden was meant to feed our large family, having flowers of any sort was an indulgence.

After leaving home I never again worked in a garden until I was married. I did not enjoy it, plus I froze when I came upon a worm when digging, whereupon my husband took over and I looked after the house, the children, and the dog. The garden became his domain, and I was happy to relinquish completely, any involvement in the work of it. I cannot imagine why I made such a fuss about worms!

Some years later, after a divorce, I went through two houses so quickly I never saw a season in either after I sold them and bought my present house. I never did any work of significance in either of my first two gardens. I paid someone else to mow the lawns, which was all there was in any of the gardens, front and back. After moving into my current home, I was always either working, looking after the children (until they left home) or busy with external interests. However, I liked a reasonably tidy garden, and again, I paid people infrequently to come and do something, with the garden, until earlier this year. In between, there were spells when the garden did its own thing.

Contrary to my natural reluctance to get stuck into my garden, I have always liked television programmes about gardening. I was often awe-struck by the makeovers and the surprise garden transformations featured in some of the programmes. Still I did not get the gardening bug. My fingers and thumbs remained very un-green!

My inspiration has been my neighbour, who is well into her 70’s possibly even older (I never asked her age), and is a wonderful gardener. One of the advantages of living next to her is that I often take pleasure in looking at her wonderful array of flowers and flowering shrubs in her gardens. She is always in her garden, toiling away and making me feel thoroughly ashamed of myself!

As my neighbour does not drive, I have taken her to the garden centres on several occasions over the last two years. From then on, my enthusiasm grew as I often bought plants of some description, some of which died before they made it into the garden, but gradually I improved, actually managing to get the plants into the ground, and to my surprise some of them even grew!

I do not remember the gardening bug biting me. Perhaps it was after I planted up my containers and finally made use of some solar lights which I had bought in a moment of madness from QVC and after seeing the results on a dark night, when the garden actually looked beautiful, that it bit me. Whenever it was, I have to admit that I am so pleased to be bitten! The trouble is, like all good things, it can become all absorbing, and too much time is spent in the garden on a fine day. I have forgotten that I do not sunbathe and my necessarily bare arms are becoming weatherworn by the sun and wind. Time that I had planned to spend on other things quicky goes by and I end up not doing some of the chores I meant to do.

…and yes, I do see a tinge of green in my thumbs. However, I will not try to wash it off anytime soon!

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