Break the Rules and You will be a Happier Producer | Gardening tips
There is a great t-shirt that I keep seeing online. In bold letters, he proudly announces: âIntroverted but willing to discuss plants. Judging by the number of anxious gardening questions I get, I feel like I already have one. However, what surprises me about the majority of these questions is that they come from people who, whether they know it or not, care less about their garden than what other people think.
Perhaps the most common question is, “Is it a weed or a flower?” It happens so often that I have a common response that always elicits a confused reaction: “Do you like it?” If so, it’s not a weed. It seems that many gardeners, especially those just starting out, have an inherent fear of the hobby, especially when it comes to the ârulesâ of horticulture. The reality is, however, that many of these rules have nothing to do with the actual health of the plants or the success of your plot, but are simply original cultural beliefs that date back largely to the Victorian era. The only difference between a “herb” and a “wild flower” is your cultural perception. When my Malaysian parents come to UK they can’t get over the fact that Mimosa pudica is sold as an exotic houseplant here when it is a roadside weed with us. They also marvel at the curious beauty of thistles and ask where they can buy the seed. Take a daisy from a lawn and grow it up for more petals and bigger flowers and it suddenly becomes renowned in our minds as a brilliant bedding plant, despite them being much more difficult to grow (and in my opinion). much less magical than spontaneous dusting on a lawn.
There are a lot of “How do I make my tree grow straight?” also, followed by photos of the most wonderful, character-filled and windswept specimens that a bonsai master would have taken years of pruning and wiring to create. If you wanted to buy a tree like this for a Chelsea show garden, you frankly couldn’t. So enjoy the wonder that nature has created for you. This perceived need to conform to regimented forms and ranks is very much in keeping with the entrenched idea that everything was better in the past than it is now. For example, “Where can I find ‘heirloom’ peas? Is automatically followed by a look of disbelief as I explain that heirloom peas are wonderful dried for soups, but a terrible choice for our modern love of eating them fresh, sweet and green. There are also many concerns about the exact angle and position for pruning roses, despite evidence showing that simply dropping old school rules and cutting new growth in half each fall gives you the same results ( if not better). There seems to be a dread that a member of the Old Guard will stand over your shoulder waiting to judge you as soon as you step out. But it just doesn’t have to be that way.
Ironically, the Victorians were fascinating gardeners, who invented all kinds of horticultural wonders precisely because they were so incredibly experimental. However, you are unlikely to lead a Victorian lifestyle when it comes to food, work, travel, family, or love, so why should you feel constrained by rigid rules that are out of date or no longer. relevant in gardening? Not conforming to dogma means you are free to experiment and come up with new, exciting ideas. Sometimes these experiences will not be successful, but this is how we learn. Not worrying about getting it right will likely make you a lot better at gardening – and you’ll have more fun doing it, too.
Follow Jacques on Twitter @Botanygeek