Friends Old & New

This old article seemed apposite as on Saturday two old friends Lois and Caroline were over bearing plastic bags for plants. I gave them lots of stuff, and happy to say it was all quality and any apt to run wild were given with all due caveats. Some gardeners are very mean about sharing, but I think it is a great idea – if you lose your own you can get some back from your pal (unless she is particularly mean, in which case drop her).One of the deep pleasures of gardening is the camaraderie amongst gardening friends. Yes, there is often a dreadful competitive element to plant collecting, who is first to get their mitts on the latest “in” plant, who has the best specimen, the most unusual colour, the choicest variety, and often these are guarded with a parsimony that would make the pre-salvation Silas Marner blush with shame. However, the sharing of plants with a like-minded friend – especially one who understands and appreciates the gesture – is a source of delight and deep gratification.Like a cocktail party in full swing, the summer garden is a babble of friends and acquaintances jockeying for attention, the old reliables mixing with the superstars – the elite crew presents from seriously smart gardeners, which is always a huge honour. I have some lovely snowdrops, a present from Robin Hall of Primrose Gardens in Lucan, given to me on a visit with my mother-in-law when I was just starting out, and a common or garden teasel, which originates from a seedling given by Helen Dillon, therefore elevating it to precious status.

Almost every plant in my garden has a story, one which adds an additional layer of interest. Sometimes it is unbearably poignant, a memory of a friend now gone, but living on in the delicate hues of a healthy plant. Others are bittersweet – a memory of a friendship that has cooled off or even irredeemably fractured, the sight of the first shoots opening the floodgates of memories, perhaps reinforcing the rift or even prompting the phone call that precipitates a reconciliation.

I have a couple of beautiful roses, Zephirine Drouhin and New Dawn, which my mother grew from slips from her own plants. Now crippled with arthritis, she is unable to manage the heavy work necessary to keep the garden going and her once beautiful patch is now mostly in shrubs for ease of maintenance. Please do share your plants, and remember that innocently “taking slips” from strangers’ gardens is actually theft and a cardinal breach of garden etiquette. I have a sedum my aunt gave me, which though lovely, still makes me wince with shame as it was given with the recommendation that it was a superior creature because it “came fromBlenheim Palace”. So Jack’s muscari, Janet’s hellebore, Sarah’s auricula, Isobel’s primulas and my darling ma’s roses, welcome to the party once again and long may you live and thrive.

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