Why are we gardeners?

Some Gardening Observations

A few thoughts on why we are gardeners, with a sprinkling of sanctimony and moralising. (Oh, I’ll get over it…)

Assuming you are reading this because you got bitten by the gardening bug, how did you spend your time before?

It’s still winter…but there’s a raised bed to fill. The easy way is to just turn over the turf and fill the bed with commercial compost. Why are we gardeners? Don’t ask me right now.

A gardening chum of mine once had his plot right next door to the clubhouse of a golf course. (In the Central Belt – doesn’t really matter where…)

Every Saturday afternoon he could hear, over the wall, the banter of the players as they got their golf-carts yokit. Then there was the clatter of their spiked shoes as they came down the steps.

The golfers sounded as though they hadn’t a care in the world.

Meanwhile, he’d be down about three feet in the soil, hauling on a reluctant horsetail with roots that went on for ever or, at least, right under the rockery.

 ‘How come’, he’d think, ‘they’re over the wall enjoying themselves and I’m struggling to get the rock garden clear of pernicious weeds’ Why are we gardeners?’ 

Non sine pulvere palma. Whit????

Well, that’s the down side of gardening. Isn’t there a saying, something like ‘not without the dust the prize’?

(Why am I asking this question when I know fine it’s Latin ‘Non sine pulvere palma’. The palma part refers to the palm-wreath that bedecked the winner. Ooh, get him and his Boris Johnsonian pretensions.)

In the gardening world you don’t get something for nothing. You work at your ground – shortcuts are permitted – and it brings rewards. (Even so-called low-maintenance gardens need a bit of attention – unless you plump for lock-block and plastic grass, in which case it isn’t a garden at all. Just a parody.)

Gardens. Are they worth the time?

Anyway, my friend admitted to me he was getting to the stage of wondering if it was worth it. The question about why are we gardeners was beginning to prey on his mind.

He didn’t want to play golf – but he did think about the passing of time. There goes another weekend, he thought, when, instead of being somewhere hillwalking, he’d be raxing himself barrowing soil around for a raised bed or laying out another path.

I’m sure most of us have felt like that just now and again. But his gardening did pay off in all kinds of ways.

On the Coire Garbh of Ladhar Bheinn in the far west. Clearly, this is not a gardening weekend.

First of all he noticed his friends from the city centre started to call on sunny Sunday afternoons. They admitted that they just wanted to sit in a lovely garden. This was certainly a reward for his efforts.

And at least it made him sit down as well, instead of rushing around with the wheelbarrow. So his social life didn’t suffer too much.

Then there was the satisfaction of home grown produce. ‘Yes’, his guests at meal times would say, ‘French beans definitely taste different when they have been picked just an hour before the
meal.
‘ (It’s true, of course they do.)

Why are we gardeners? Because the fresh food we grow ourselves makes us feel healthy – coupled with the exercise we take while growing it. (Seems a watertight theory.)

Why are we gardeners? Well, your garden may be a worthwhile investment

Then there came the time when, with a growing family, it came to
move on. He was lucky enough to own the property. The
estate agent came to look round and was impressed by all the work
outside. He decided that he would take any prospective buyer into
the garden first.

In fact, the agent said ‘I’m going to sell this house in the garden.’ And, as this is a true tale with a happy ending, he certainly did, for a very good price.

And that was many years ago. Now the householders lucky enough to have a house and a garden are realising just what an asset it can be. Especially in these grim days during a pandemic when outdoor space is sought after, even if it is only for a ‘garden-office’.

Now, let’s not be too mercenary. Why are we gardeners? Well, we tend our plots for all kinds of reasons. But my friend admitted that, all of a sudden, he realised what all those weekends of work meant in cash terms: quite a few thousand above the asking price – more than the next door neighbour would get.

From greenhouse to plate. Hint: grow different colours of tomatoes – at least it makes the tomato salad look visually interesting. Wait though, are they very small tomatoes or is that a very large spoon? Hmm…more to this food photography than I thought.

That neighbour spent all his time on the golf course and only had a boring square of grass in his back yard!

The estate agent said the house sold itself because people fell in love with the garden. My friend almost felt guilty about it especially as he’d only pulled the heads off some of the pernicious horsetails for the purposes of viewing. They were all going to come back again!

(Wait, maybe you pull the tails off horsetails. Let me think about that.)

Celmisia going over, campanula hogging the foreground while Phlomis russeliana harmonises with the stonework. By the way, this Phlomis – ‘Turkish sage’ – is a bit of a thug and shows no mercy to its neighbours.

So if you sometimes have your doubts about all those hours of digging, think of the exercise in the fresh air. Think of the taste of carrots straight out of the ground and your own tatties.

And those moments of smug triumph when you know that all of the ingredients of that green salad were actually growing only an hour ago…

And if you’re still not convinced that gardening is one of the best hobbies around, then, you never know, all those backbreaking tasks might bring their own hard cash reward some day in the future.

That is, when your work creates someone else’s dream garden.

But don’t garden for that final reason only. After all, gardening is really a labour of love.