Common as Muck

What a fantastic day Sunday was for gardeners. I couldn’t believe it when I woke up to sunshine, and then realized that it was also warm. I got a huge amount of work done and the garden looks the better for it. A top tip – an instant way to make the garden look tidier is to mow the grass and edge the lawn. You can buy a special sort of half-moon tool designed specifically for the job or just use a spade as I do. This gives definition and demarcates the beds and lawn. Put the turves face down on the compost heap and they will rot down nicely.

The other day someone (she knows who she is) asked me what sort of chocolate I liked. Having a very unsophisticated and greedy palate I immediately said, ‘oh Galaxy, I love it’. My friend looked quizzically at me and asked, ‘but don’t you like dark?’ – which I do, but not that nearly totally cocoa kind that tastes bitter.  Her point was that choice of chocs is another class indicator; the darker the smarter, milk choc for plebs and white chocolate is so beyond the pale as not to register. We like to think that, unlike Britain, we are not at all class bound and have a lovely fluid mobile society. Well my eye to that, we are riddled with subtle class indicators. Little things like talk of ‘serviettes’ placing coasters on the table will elicit knowing looks between those who think they are a cut above that sort of thing. The funny thing  is, of course, that the only people who obsess about class and all the little rules and  potential social elephant traps are the poor bourgeoisie. Always the butt of the joke, the middle class are slagged and despised by those lower down the social scale, while looked on with amusement by genuine toffs who laugh at our Hyacinth Bucket foibles. I have met aristos who happily go to the toilet, drink instant coffee and shop in Aldi without a care in the world. Being bred in the bone U gives them the confidence not to give a damn about social convention. My friend and I always joke about using the’ rear view looking glass’ when in the car – mirror was considered unspeakably common until very recently. Anyway the point of all this is that snobbishness and weird conventions also apply to gardens. Here is a list of what is vulgar and what is not – as always the list is not set in stone. Once something becomes common currency and is adopted by the masses it instantly loses its cache and becomes vulgar. Also do note that I am common as muck and have love lots of the infra dig things I list as non-U.

p.s. Never, ever say something is ‘classy’ – terribly common!

Below the Salt


Top of the Table

Standard box lollipops (usually seen each side of the hall door looking windswept) Box bowls, cubes and obelisks
Red hot pokers, big red and orange Kniphofia Rare choice small Kniphofiae in delicate  creams and yellows.
Tying spent daffodil foliage in tidy knots Allowing daffodils to rot down naturally and messily amongst emerging plants
Plastic garden furniture, especially white Rusty cast iron garden furniture
Loud summer bedding in serried rows Drifts of self-seeding annuals
Japanese cherry trees Magnolia wilsonii – preferably grown from seed collected on plant hunting trip to China
Dwarf conifers Yew
Heathers Hellebores
Fishing gnomes 18th century marble statue of Flora
Hybrid Tea roses Old English shrub roses
Cobblelock Gravel
Alan Titchmarsh Dan Pearson
PVC greenhouses Cedar greenhouses
Yellow and green variegated leaves Cream or silver and green variegated leaves
Lobelia and alyssum Omphaloides and Brunnera Jack Frost
Luminous coloured heuchera Tiarella cordifolia
Jolly yellow trumpets of daffodils Pheasants eye and paper whites

2 thoughts on “Common as Muck

  1. How To Get on in Society by John Betjeman

    Phone for the fish knives, Norman
    As cook is a little unnerved;
    You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
    And I must have things daintily served.

    Are the requisites all in the toilet?
    The frills round the cutlets can wait
    Till the girl has replenished the cruets
    And switched on the logs in the grate.

    It’s ever so close in the lounge dear,
    But the vestibule’s comfy for tea
    And Howard is riding on horseback
    So do come and take some with me

    Now here is a fork for your pastries
    And do use the couch for your feet;
    I know that I wanted to ask you-
    Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

    Milk and then just as it comes dear?
    I’m afraid the preserve’s full of stones;
    Beg pardon, I’m soiling the doileys
    With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.


  2. Hi Vandra, soooooo with you on those hideous luminous Heuchera’s, falling into the “under the salt” category. Even the snails don’t touch them!! and as for Alan Titchmarsh -sadly the one time I met him my stroppy boyfriend refused to take a photo of me with him, on the grounds that it was naff! I did feel that perhaps that there was something wrong with my other half as all the other ladies were practically wetting themselves to get a photo with the “great man”


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