LOSING THE PLOT

The travails of an amateur gardener
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I THINK I am becoming a plant fascist. As swathes of richly-coloured daffodils add their voices to the chorus begun by the yellow forsythia, I am filled with nothing but scorn. Splashes of multi-coloured primula leave me cold, and I am trying hard to divest myself of the pack of huge, golden gladioli that came free with this month's Gardener's World magazine.

Such cynicism is unbefitting, I know, of one so untutored in the ways of the soil. Plantsmen and women far more knowledgeable than I have probably laboured for decades to produce these unfeasibly large blooms in shocking shades.

I know it is churlish to spurn such testaments to human endeavour, but I cannot help it. Instead, I have planted a number of varieties whose modest charms have known little or no improvement.

This policy has its drawbacks, mind you. I am inordinately proud of the two tiny, delicate Narcissus bulbocodium which have struggled into flower in the shade of next door's Leylandii, but I am sure Keats wouldn't have composed so much as a haiku to them. But they bear the magic of exclusivity, and so my incipient disdain does not trouble me at all.

Much more worrying, though, is the persistent feeling that I may have cast off one type of conformity simply to take on another. In short, am I now a horticultural fashion victim?

Not long ago I read an article about the three phases in a gardener's life. In phase one, the novice is generally delighted by the discovery that he or she can get things to grow at all, and differentiates little between one plant and another. Phase two (to be avoided at all costs, the author implied) is the fashion stage, a sort of teenage era in a gardening lifetime during which one is blown hither and thither by the dictates of those in the know. After that, the fully fledged expert reaches the nirvana of self-determination, exercising his or her own discerning taste and worrying little about what others do.

Since then, I have been reviewing my garden choices regularly for signs of "phase two" behaviour. But the problem is, how can I tell? Is there a horticultural equivalent of The Face magazine which I can read just to make sure I am properly out of step with the world?

There's only one solution: stop worrying about it and get on with the digging. I wouldn't want to become one of those self-styled trendies who wastes valuable gardening time fretting about style, would I?

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