Join a garden club and gain some variety, writes Julie Thomson.
I’ve learnt gardeners look at the world with eyes, hands and heart. They don’t just see a landscape and take in the trees, flowers and foliage. They touch, compare, smell and ruminate and can reel off what family connection this bush has to others and what-goes-with-this-goes-withthat, kind of thing – garden accessorising at a glance.
Take a gardener for a walk and she or he will stop, squat and poke their hands into the dirt, trace the veins of leaves and stroke tree limbs and trunks like they are beloved children.They hold the colourful back story of many plants at their fingertips, extrapolating a mere “red bush” into something of intriguing origin, bizarre blooming or reproductive habit and fascinating medicinal use.
And they nod sympathetically when something in my garden is failing to thrive, offering treatment, pondering vexedly and actually fretting when a remedy is not immediately apparent or doesn’t work.
It is not faux concern. It really matters to them.
Garden club show and tell
One of the joys of belonging to a garden club is being around a clan who can rattle off the Latin and common name of hundreds of plants and lose hours debating the merits of this shadeloving ground cover over that one, talk loftily about PH levels and soil acidity, yet kindly praise the humblest and commonest coleus slip or choko, just because a member has tended and cut it proudly and brought it along. It’s a sweet and loving adult show-and-tell that is not replicated many other places. They genuinely welcome and encourage newbies with no horticultural snobbery.
And, they pay attention, remember and follow through. I’ve only to mention a cutting I’d love or a shrub or vine I’ve admired and at the following meeting – yes four weeks later – a member will have potted that very plant to give me. When so much of the world seems to have the attention span of a gnat, the thoughtfulness, generosity and trouble taken to hear, note, remember and act on what others might take as a casual fancy, is truly touching.
I’ve been the recent lucky recipient of both a white and a pink bauhinia, a petrea vine, a speckled aspidistra and a beaumontia that I had even forgotten I’d coveted, quietly presented to me in pots when I arrived at the meeting. Another member whom I hardly knew, took the trouble to get my phone number from the president to call and offer me some worms to replenish my worm farm, after mine had perished in the heat. I’m touched to be on her mind to go out of her way to share.
Sure, many people are thoughtful, kind and generous, but I believe there’s more of them among gardeners. It could be the “living in the moment” that gardening demands and so a better mindfulness is at play.
That’s why one day, when I met a woman in her large, beautiful garden adjoining her café (where we had just spent a tidy sum) who wouldn’t allow me even one slip of a common ground cover chrysanthemum pacifica, I was flabbergasted. The odd noxious weed is inevitable, I guess.