Losing The Plot: The travails of an amateur gardener

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Indy Lifestyle Online
YIPPEE! The sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hooray... It is the season for gardeners with an excess of enthusiasm over experience to rush outside and resume activities, having convinced themselves that spring has arrived. This is a mistake. As the old saying goes: "Never cast a clout till the pensioners are out."

Well, it should, anyway. The over-sixties know a thing or two about gardening, I find, and if they're still holed up indoors with a good book there's probably a sound reason for it. There may be a pallid light in the sky but around these parts the East wind still howls like a cat o' nine tails.

But still I sally forth, clutching my Christmas gift garden tools, and embark on a vigorous bout of hoeing. Mistake number two. After a while I become aware that dozens of small white shards are flying out from under my flashing blade. Puzzled, I pause for a moment and peer earthwards. They are the first shoots of daffodils and bluebells. Disaster! The combination of an autumn bulb-planting frenzy, a mild winter and a disorganised mind is clearly not a winning one. It occurs to me now that perhaps there was a point to all that wise gardening- book advice about carefully marking where everything was planted.

I decide to eliminate the risk of further trauma and retreat indoors. Later I consult Sarah, my source of information on all things gardening. "Never mind," she says. "I expect they'll grow back." I fear this is the kind of comfort meted out to a small child whose favourite doll has just received an unfortunate haircut.

Still, the tiny snowdrops and delicate yellow crocuses which emerged last week have survived the onslaught, and very lovely they are too. I must remember in future, though, to look out for the word "sturdy" when perusing lavish descriptions of crocus bulbs in catalogues. If it does not appear, this means the plant's filamentous stems will crumple if anyone so much as looks at them. Half my precious Crocus ancyrensis have plummeted earthwards already.

There is some good news, though. My friend Isobel arrives for the weekend brandishing a piece of paper with the name of my rampaging six-foot mystery plants on it, culled from Flora Britannica by her mum Mary. They are apples of Peru, or Nicandra physalodes, to give them their proper name. They thrive on rubbish tips and are also poisonous. What did I say about the older generation and gardening? They know, you know.

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