I hate to say it, but the idea of green fingers is a myth. That's not to say people don't have varying degrees of success with growing things, of course they do, but the idea that gardening greatness is somehow mystically bestowed upon a chosen few is frankly nonsense. I think it is time to debunk this horticultural humbug, not least because it puts people off trying, and there can be no learning without trying. In any case, in my humble opinion, the gardener who has stopped learning is likely to be growing little more than proverbial daisies.
When Claire contacted me for advice on how to look after her mother's garden I had no idea how pressing her case was. Doreen, Claire's mother, is sadly no longer able to tend the beautiful herbaceous border that she spent over twenty years creating. At least not in person. Still sharp of mind and eye, Doreen has the perfect view of her plants from her living room and is aided in her careful monitoring by a pair of powerful binoculars. So it is that she has been able to instruct Claire on general watering and weeding. No problem. Except Claire was the first to admit she didn't know a dandelion from a dahlia. My attempt at a joke (to identify the difference between a valuable plant and a weed, pull it and if it comes out easily, it's a valuable plant) didn't raise so much as a groan, just a look of slight confusion. No more helpful was my answer to Claire's repeated question: is that a weed or a plant? Well technically they are all plants, weeds are just plants in the wrong place! But we got there. Week by week, Claire has proved resourceful and enthusiastic. Just before Christmas, as a present to her mother, Claire selected and arranged a display of vibrant cyclamen in a Santa's trail across the garden. This is where Claire's keen eye as a designer worked in perfect harmony with her newfound knowledge as a gardener.
Despite appalling weather this winter, Claire and I have managed to continue with at least a few of our Growing Together sessions. After having some work done at the rear of her home, Claire now has a garden design project to get stuck into and the know-how to plant it out to perfection.