Green-fingered efforts have sluggish results
Published at 09:10, Monday, 18 June 2012
I HAVE never been much of a gardener, I’m ashamed to admit.
There’s nothing I like better than sitting in a garden, listening to the murmur of innumerable bees, watching butterflies sip delicately from some fragrant bloom or trying to work out where that blackbird is taking that beakful of worms.
But while I’ll happily trundle the lawnmower around all day, and haul out the odd weed, getting things to grow is a different prospect altogether.
Many times I have returned from dealing with a smirking chap in a brown coat at a garden centre, laden with packets of seeds, propagating doo-dads, expensive compost and enough fertiliser to grow a beanstalk, but I have yet to see my first seedling come through.
At school, I seem to recall every year we did something with beans, carrot tops and blotting paper, which were left on a saucer.
While every other child produced a miracle of feathery carrot leaves, or a bean shoot bursting with health, I was just left with a shrivelled up carrot top and some damp blotting paper.
The teachers were nonplussed, and I always harboured a notion that the Belton twins sabotaged my efforts, but could prove nothing.
I planted daffodil bulbs which failed to appear for three years, and when they finally did break through the soil, they had leaves aplenty – but not a single bloom.
I did once plant a gardenful of seed potatoes, and watched like an expectant father as the little shoots broke through.
I guarded them zealously, shoring up the soil to support the infant plants, laying down generous mounds of slug pellets and shooing away any birds or cats rash enough to come within 10 yards of my pristine praties.
After many months, with the leaves just starting to die back, I finally decided to lift the crop, having hoarded an array of sacks to fill with the tasty tubers.
The truth dawned when I knocked the dirt off my first- born baby taties – every single tuber had its own resident slug.
It was true of every single plant. The only slugs in Tynedale which regarded slug pellets as tasty anti-pasti had invited all their mates to a potato party.
I think we salvaged about a single boiling – and even they tasted pretty awful.
My father was no gardener either, but when we moved to a new house in 1952, there was a rose growing in the garden, left by the previous occupant.
I read somewhere that roses were pretty difficult things to grow, but this specimen was a true street fighter, and proved just about impossible to kill.
My father’s main gardening technique was somewhat extreme, as when things became a little overgrown outdoors, he simply struck a match, and set the whole lot on fire.
The neighbours were non-too-happy with the resultant columns of smoke and smuts, but the scorched earth policy ensured there were few weeds to worry about.
Throughout these frequent firestorms, the rose remained immune, producing a blizzard of sweet-smelling blossoms from early spring right through to the first frosts.
Aware of my dismal record on the nurturing front, he brought a carrier bag full of cuttings he had taken from the indestructible rose on one of his visits.
“See if you can kill these,” he instructed, handing me about a dozen of the thorny little twiglets.
“All you have to do is stick ’em in the soil, and leave ’em. They’ll look after themselves.”
I duly inserted the little whips into thin slits in the soil against the gable end of the house – and within 10 minutes, they were all out again, uprooted by the dog, who thought it was very kind of us to provide her with a new source of amusement.
She was very hurt when we took them off her, replanted the well-chewed remnants and made sure she couldn’t get them again.
Needless to say, 10 of the 12 were soon bare sticks but remarkably, the other two survived, and for the past 20 years, have occupied much of the gable end, providing us with many hours of scented pleasure, as well as innumerable scratches and many hours spent probing for thorns with a needle.
This year, however, the unthinkable has happened – apart from a few pathetic wisps of green at the very top, the rose appears to have died.
Does anyone know any sovereign remedies for roses?
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk