Gardening for Beginners

WHAT ever is the opposite of greenfingers, I have. I only have to walk past a houseplant for it to shrivel up and die in front of my eyes.
It's not a family thing. My brothers and sisters are all keen and expert gardeners. But I can get a cutting, water it with tears, dip it in rooting powder, keep it in a polythene bag in the airing cupboard, pray over it, cast magic spells, and wait for it to start shooting. And wait. And wait. And wait.
My mother on the other hand can find a dry twig in the road, stick it in her garden and the next day, honestly, it will be six foot high and covered in flowers.
As my birthday comes round and various people ask me if there is anything that I want, I sometimes ask for a plant of some kind. They look at me as if they may as well stick the tenner straight into the recycling bin and so cut out the middle man.
My eldest sister dishes out plants that she has propagated. They come complete with Latin name tag and strict instructions on how to care for them. Middle sister later gets the third degree. "Where's that Rosodendrum Daffodilus I gave you? I hope you put the the Violetus Primulatum in a nice shady spot. Did you remember to feed the Lilacum Carnatius with eye of toad and ear of bat? You'll have to move that Fuchsian Ragwort or it'll get club foot and yellow fever."
She comes round to my house to check up on the 150 plants she gave me at her last visit and it's: "Oh my god, the Zinnia Zebratum is still alive! IT'S STILL ALIVE! IT'S STILL ALIVE!"
I must admit, though, I do tend towards the neglectful side when it comes to gardening. If I pay out good money for a plant I expect it to be self-sufficient, sleeping in its own bed, finding its own food and not coming to me for handouts like some 25-year-old son unable to cut the apron strings.
My mother once prodded the dried up remains of various pot plants in my house, gave me that look that mothers have perfected over years of dealing with recalcitrant children and said witheringly, "You'll find a little water is a wonderful thing."
It doesn't help that gardening seems to be conducted in some arcane language that I have never managed to master.
Friends and family ask me things like, "Did you remember to prep the soil?" I might have. I might not have. What's it to you?
"Do you double dig?" Look, I have trouble getting my ass in gear to single dig.
"Some cultivars would look good over there." No doubt. So would some Bolivars, Magyars and Tartars, as long as they knew about gardening.
But I have a week's holiday coming up so I've been getting out the gardening books, this time determined to rival the creations at the Chelsea Flower Show. I will love my plants, talk to them, feed them on champagne and caviar and tuck them into their beds at night in the hope that they will repay me by sticking around for a few years.
It's time to turn over a new leaf.


  1. Don't smother them in love. Water - just enough but not to drown them. Feed - little and often unless you have very rich soil when feeding isn't necessary - ask the nighbours if you're not sure what soil type you have. Then plant them. Yes; do talk to them. I tell mine "Grow or die you buggers the choice is yours - if you grow well you will be much loved if you die you will be soon forgotten" - they invariably grow." But when they do - lavish praise on them.

  2. You could try peeing on them. That's better than sex for a plant.

  3. I have literally only just binned several hundred pots of dead things. All that survive are two jade plants, a yukka and an extremely spikey cactus that I can't get near enough to, to do anything to. I am terrified to move any of these plants, as they seem to be living (thriving is FAR to strong a word) in their allocated environment...I am still collecting spikes in my feet from an accident trying to wrap another offending cactus on the landing carpet. Valuable lesson learnt there I feel.

    I am definitely a gardener of the 'plant and hope' variety, and although I actually quite like pottering about, I am terrified that something will run up my arm.

    Good luck with your endeavours, and whatever you do, don't try seeds.

    Nil agua est morte

  4. Hi, I've just followed the link from Miss U's, and I'm glad I did. Great post, and the last one. Thanks for the laugh this afternoon.

  5. I agree, plants should be low maintenance. I only water mine when they are wrinkled up and literally CLINGING on to life.... that teaches the buggers to be grateful.

  6. After reading several of your posts, I believe we were separated at birth....

    Killing plants, check.
    CHOAS house, check.
    15 year-old tins in the pantry, check.

    I'm afraid to read further, as I suspect it will just confirm my belief. Can I just call you "Sis"?

  7. You've been tagged! I think that you write a quality blog that gets folks thinking, so I've tagged you as the latest recipient of The Thinking Blogger Award. Please pass along the title to a few people who you feel are deserving...

  8. You've been tagged! I think that you write a quality blog that gets folks thinking, so I've tagged you as the latest recipient of The Thinking Blogger Award. Please pass along the title to a few people who you feel are deserving...

  9. My compost bin arrived this week. So if plants die I will just rot them and hope the next generation has a better chance!

    Must get you added to my regular visit list - nudge me if i don't over the weekend!

  10. The Thinker: Thanks for the advice, especially "Grow or die you buggers the choice is yours" -
    sounds like my kind of gardening.

    Mr Bananas: Thank you for your advice too. My case comes up next week.

    Hazel Love: Vivat crescat floreat.

    Miss Understood: Sentiments absolutely reciprocated!

    Ali: You're very kind. I'm just about to check our your website and will no doubt leave a comment.

    Little Cheese: Get that book written and you'll be able to afford a gardener!

    Fat Sparrow: Hi, Sis!

    Elizabeth Grace: I've never been tagged before so I will give it my careful consideration before posting.

    Beki: Compost bin, full of dead plants; garden, ditto. Thanks for potential link.