Gardeners’ hands can tell a litany of horticultural bloodshed and it’s not a pretty story.
Just as there are bedroom eyes, so there are garden hands.
Like mine, which show that being a dab hand in the plot is not a good look from every angle.
It can be a biting, scratching, poking, lancing and itching time among the plants, so the damage is multiple and varied. My hands are a casualty map of garden mishaps, bearing a line of attack that records assaults old and fresh and blood shed in the line of horticultural duty. With the number of times my thumbs have been cut and torn getting down and dirty, they are closer to gangrene than green.
Gardening is not for pussies. Sedate and calm as the practice may seem, it can be a flesh-tearing, blood letting experience getting them and that’s without touching a cutting instrument. Whoever first said “No pain, no gain” may well have been speaking of green thumbs’ threshold.
There are puncture marks from the needle-tips of the variegated agave hedge I have been trying to thin out. A bloody and painful exercise and in retrospect, I should not have planted out the babies of the fertile mother plant, which in three years have grown to my height (165cm ) and brandish spreading arms with weapons of mass destruction at their tips.
Scabs and gashes from scratches and punctures pruning the bougainvilleas and weeding around the roses pepper my fingers, wrists and forearms and there’s bark missing from knuckles scraped tackling shrubs overgrowth on the barbed wire fence line. And those pesky little leaf barbs on the vines climbing the paperbarks that line our creek have done a job on me too, leaving a stinging red angry rash. My sweet little crown of thorns euphorbia has a bite, too, if not handled carefully, I have learnt painfully and well.
Even the benign, low-maintenance bromeliads, have made their mark, thanks to the sawtooth edge leaf of some lurking in the throng as I, unsuspecting, poked my fingers into their throats to clear leaf debris overload.
And along the way, an ant, spider or a centipede had a nip of me, leaving a finger lump or two to negotiate my rings around and my cuticles ingrained with grass and soil stain that scrubbing and exfoliating can’t shift. And little bloodsuckers that drop on you from on high and off just about anything that has leaves – ticks – don’t seem to have a low season. It’s mid winter, yet one hitched a ride on my neck last week for a few hours, raising an angry red lump. No man or beast is safe from their attack.
The midges and mosquitoes have supped well on me in late afternoons and the determined flowering lantana with its rasping sandpaper stems I slash and burn, is paying me back by giving me angry marks on all exposed limbs.
And don’t start me on sorry flesh-slicing stories of mishandled secateurs, pruning saws, grass shears and star pickets.
It’s relatively trivial collateral damage, hardly noticed when I am happily ensconced among the shrubbery. But when I’m scrubbed for dressier pursuits, I look like the walking wounded, a gashed, slashed glaring advertisement for garden gloves and antiseptic.
I own several pairs of the floral cotton girly gloves and the heavy duty variety made of stiff industrial-strength canvas, but like many gardeners, I often slip outside intending to “just pull out a weed or two” and who can properly grab dainty shoots except with bare hands? Two hours later, as I’ve been sucked into serious, back bending and perspiring toil, the damage is done.
I keep my tetanus shots up to date, but it doesn’t stop me from looking wistfully at other gardeners’ neatly manicured hands and blemish-free arms and wonder if they palm off the heavy lifting on to paid help.