Wednesday, 30 June 2010

You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I am going to plant an orchard.

I can hardly express the soaring pleasure that one simple sentence brings me.

It started with the pot table. Once I got all the chaotic pots onto the lovely table my kind sister gave me, I realised fully what a mess the front of the house had become. Fired up, I roared off to the garden centre and found three enchanting apple trees (two Spartan, one Charlie Ross) and a winter flowering cherry, which I have put in big terracotta pots to the left of my front door. Now, when I walk out in the morning, instead of a weedy old drive, there is a heavenly row of enchanting green trees. They arrived at breakfast time, and I cannot stop gazing at them.

Looking at the beauty, I suddenly thought that four trees was not nearly enough. There is a pointless bit of unsatisfactory grass outside my shed. I have always thought I should put something there, but never quite knew what. I had vague thoughts of a shrubbery, in homage to Monty Python, but another whole bed to look after made me feel a little weak. At ten o'clock, the brainwave struck. I would plant fruit trees.

By half-past ten, my landlord was at the door with his two landscaping gentlemen. It is sheer dumb luck that I happen to have a landlord who builds houses and makes gardens. By eleven o'clock, the whole thing was planned, decisions were made, and the orchard now exists in my mind's eye. There will be a quote, I shall swallow hard and hope the book goes on selling, and before I know it, the plums and cherries and apples shall arrive.

Joy is unconfined.

Small addendum on human psychology:

One of the landscaping fellows was the most confident man I have ever met. One reads a lot about confidence; self-belief is a bit of a holy grail in our psychobabble age. Many people write books about how to get it. There is all that self-help nonsense about saying one's affirmations in the morning, standing in front of the glass insisting: I am a worthwhile human being. I get glimpses of it in myself, occasionally, but mostly I mainline doubt. I live on uncertainty: am I good enough, clever enough, ethical enough? Shall I ever write as well as I want to?

This gentleman had none of that, at least not so it was visible to the naked eye. He had the surety that comes from being an expert in your field. He knew exactly which trees to choose, what I should do with my leggy elders, how the winter-scarred ivy on the dry stone wall should be saved. At first, it was quite startling. I realised how rare pure confidence is, in action. Once I got used to it, it was marvellously soothing. All decisions could be quickly made; there were no ums and ahs, no head-scratching, no pondering. (I spend half my life pondering.) Everything was quick and straightforward. How lovely, I thought, to have that gift. I wonder if it is something innate, or whether one can learn it, like French or playing the piano. I am going to go away and practice.

In the horticultural theme, here are some garden pictures for this balmy Wednesday:


My lovely new scarlet rose, with a little Hidcote lavender, also new. You can see I have been going crazy at the plant shop. Those wild drifts of mint are old, and growing like gangbusters. Everyone says you should never plant mint in a bed because it takes over, but I love that it does, and encourage it in its colonial ambitions. There are so many things that won't grow here, because of the hard weather. When the mint comes back each year after the hardest of winters, I feel like clapping.


The only thyme that survived this year's endless snow, with a little salvia beside it.


Another salvia. Sometimes I think I would like a blue garden with no other colour in it at all.


A lovely geranium.


I have been so excited about the new planting that I sometimes forget the old friends. This brave sedum has been here since the garden was very first planted six years ago, and it goes doggedly on, through all weathers, and my occasional seasons of neglect.


The honeysuckle was also here from the start, and is gearing up for a wild, gaudy show this year.


Another new arrival, the gorgeous, delicate astrantia.


And through it all, runs the sturdy, reassuring presence of the dry stone wall.

PS. For those of you who subscribe through Google Reader, I do apologise. I pressed publish halfway through writing this post, so you will have got one half-finished article with no pictures. Please forgive the muddle.


  1. You are following the delightful lead of The Man Who Planted Trees (Jean Giono) - if you don't know it, I will be delighted to be the person to have introduced you to it... :)

  2. What a fabulous idea! - am genuinely excited for you and remembering my childhood home and it's many plum, damson, apple and greengage trees. Here's to much mellow fruitfulness. Anne x

  3. What a lovely thing to do - plant fruit trees I mean!

    We have an agricultural property where we planted fruit trees just for the squirrels and other animals! not apple or damson but mangosteen and lychees! Its lovely now that they are fruiting to see the wildlife that visit our garden. We still have plenty left over for us!
    Our neighbours think we are nutty though.

  4. Cassie - am going straight to the library to get that book; you have indeed introduced me to Monsieur Giono.

    Stripeycat - now obsessing about greengages. Have not thought of those since my own childhood.

    Mystica - so agree about the delight of attracting wildlife. When I planted, I thought a lot about the bees and the birds, in the literal rather than figurative sense, and get a huge thrill when I see the huge fat bumble bees dancing about the geraniums. Ignore silly neighbours; I am certain they are green with envy.

  5. Magic. Will be keen to know your opinion! Nice to be able to give something back when your writing gives such pleasure.


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin