How does your garden grow?

Not with silver bells and cockle shells that’s for sure. To be fair I can only admire the estate agent’s photography skills in managing to make the overgrown tangle of prickly plants in the garden look like a lush suburban dream.  Nevertheless, we were truly thrilled to have a garden. Ten years of apartment-living had made us hanker after some green space of our own, but left us seriously lacking any hands-on horticultural experience or know-how.

Undeterred,  very soon after moving in (I think my MIL was wielding her shears against an unruly Camellia within 24 hours of us getting the keys) we started with a fairly brutal slash-and-burn kind of approach to gardening. I’m sure my neighbours were highly entertained by me vs the enormous holly bush, which went several bloody rounds; although probably less amused once I had KO’d said holly bush thus removing much of the garden privacy provided by its spiky foliage-hello neighbour!  Despite it being mid-Winter I became mildly, no admittedly totally, obsessed by filling up my weekly green bag. Imagine my delight when I read on the borough’s website that you could put out as many bags as you wanted as well as chopped wood-cue a driveway full of green bags and various bundles of sticks (carefully arranged in sizes in strict concordance with the borough garden waste guidelines of course).

As well as banishing the barbed botanicals we were waging war against bindweed and ivy, but after our indiscriminate first round of uprooting I tried to become more selective in my shrubbery slaughter. My (very) limited plant knowledge was quickly exhausted. Disappointingly I couldn’t differentiate my dandelions from my daylilies. Eagerly (yes, really), I tuned into ‘Gardeners’ World’…Monty was thinning vines with nail scissors…somewhat out of my league. So I decided to phone a friend: By which I mean I would simply post a photo on the family WhatsApp chat entitled ‘Gardening 101: Friend or foe?and wait for the fasted finger response for said plant’s identification and accompanying advice…easy!

The baddies: Bindweed & Ivy – foes identified!

Having half razed our garden to the ground it was clearly apparent that we would have to plant some things, umm I mean plants or something. I have previously had minimal no success with assorted pot plants, mostly due to my tendency to forget to water them, but I had high(er) hopes for my green fingered abilities in the garden. In fact I was imagining myself knelt weeding, wearing some tasteful neutral-linen-esqe gardening attire teamed with a jaunty floppy hat, half hidden amongst huge headed hydrangeas and sweet-smelling honeysuckle or busy collecting some of my bountiful harvest (?of what) in a rustic Sussex Trug. Time to wake up and smell the roses bindweed blooms!

The goodies: A few floral friends! Clockwise from top L: Crocus, Camellia, ? (clearly I still need help) and Japonica buds

I’m not entirely sure what gave me such lofty ideals, but I certainly have excellent gardening pedigree so maybe I can hope that I’m somewhat to the garden born? I’ve been considering my family tree-an apt analogy indeed…

My family tree showing my green-fingered pedigree

My maternal great uncle was an avid gardener. Their stunning garden was pretty much RHS standard and he would take you on (long) tours naming all the flowers in Latin. I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember any of the details and was keener on the the teatime cake that followed. My paternal Grandpa was a serious cultivator, growing copious crops of potatoes and beans so we always had delicious garden veggies to eat at my grandparents. As kids, my cousins and I were encouraged to fill buckets with dandelions heads (before they went to seed) and jars with caterpillars which Grandpa would trade for pocket money (I’m sorry caterpillars, it was only years later I figured out your fate!) Similarly, my Dad has always tended a good going vegetable patch and I was lucky enough to have a generous garden to play and grow up in alongside flowers, fruit and vegetables. There’s a favourite photo of me a few years old with a massive grin on my face holding my dad’s hand and grasping a home grown turnip in the other hand. My Mum probably made some insanely Instagram-able Cranks-style vegetarian dish (#cleaneating #beforeturnipsweretrendy #aheadofhertime etc) and although I can’t swear blind that my toddler self then actually ate said turnip dish I like to believe this is what happened, with relish!

So, are green fingers genetic? I’m hoping so. Dreamy blooms and Sussex Trugs aside, I do really want to grow something edible that my children and see growing and enjoy picking and eating.

Next up, on with our (novice) arboricultural adventure…

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