I remember that as a small child I was given a little patch of garden as my very own. Each year, with great ceremony and using carefully saved pocket money I invested in two six penny packets of seeds. Invariably these were Marigolds and Nasturtiums. My Marigolds were not like the ones so popular these days, you know, the type that look like prissy young ladies with strict maternal instructions concerning deportment and orders not to dirty their party dresses. My brood had no such inhibitions and flaunted their bright orange heads and flounced their green skirts with total abandonment; so what if they looked a bit dishevelled. I suspect they sang bawdy songs and jeered at the geometrical precision of a nearby tulip bed whose occupants stood to attention fearful that a wayward petal might spoil such perfect symmetry. When tulip flowers eventually withered with petals scattered on the ground, the merry marigolds were vibrant with buds just bursting to replace their exhausted siblings. These lads and lassies must have had a romance or two as the following spring their offspring frequently appeared pushing up through the earth.
The nasturtiums were equally prolific , red and yellow trumpets hanging at all angles as they sought to take over the entire garden encroaching on the more refined area cared for by the adult world. As pocket money and interest developed I graduated to Cornflowers which though a little more self controlled entered into the general flora fun and frolics their blue heads blending beautifully amongst the orange and yellow of their bedfellows. Finally Pansies joined the happy mob content with their expensive seats at the front of the bed from where they could turn their grinning blue and yellow faces up wards to enjoy the antics of their flamboyant friends. My patch became one cheerful messy mass of colour. Bees buzzed around and it seems that in those days slugs had not been invented.
Another memory from those days reminds me of the adult garden and brings pictures of giant lupins, pink, yellow and cream again unworried by the slug family. Today the two lupin in my small garden are perpetually surrounded by a circle of those lethal blue pellets. Maybe a child just does not notice, or worry about these creatures and perhaps rightly so.
Why has he come in here? He was not born then.
And what about dahlias of yore? I recall a long row of towering plants with enormous blooms, inhabited by a multitude of earwigs, and large dark green leaves. They started to bloom while we were away on holidays during July and when we returned the garden always seems darker. I used to dread the arrival of the cut flowers indoors and convinced that these creepy-crawlies would chose my ears as a more natural environment. I'm still a bit wary about viewing these flowers anywhere except in a natural outdoor setting.
When I reached double figures my interest in things that grew waned and was replaced by hockey, tennis and of course....boys. It was later when I became a house and garden owner that my love of plants was rekindled. At first it seemed that my childhood efforts were more successful than those of later life as I proceeded the pitfalls of many a learner gardener. Yes, I fell for the *dwarf conifer" trick and my dwarfs zoomed to a height of twenty feet and would still be reaching skyward were it not for the intercession of man and saw. My decision to place a russian vine against a party fence was a disaster. Within a year it threatened to cover not only the fence but the houses where the occupants were at risk of strangulation. Thankfully some years ago the fence was replaced by a wall and the dreaded vine went to engulf those vineyards in the sky. While this particular climber can, in the right situation, be an attractive asset it should carry a government health warning to alert those with gardens unsuitable to its rampant vigour.
Soil was another unforeseen problem. To me earth was earth;you dug a hole and planted shrub, flower or whatever, watered and sat back to enjoy the fruits of your labour. The wait could be in vain as some flourished while others planted in similar conditions faded and died. This mystery was solved by a kindly friend who explained about soil preparation and that just as humans favoured certain living conditions so did plant the fraternity. Well whoever would have guessed that soil could be acid or alkali....but I did learn to read the labels more carefully.
I shudder to think of the climbers I placed close to walls where water was scarce and the unfortunate roots fought a losing battle against concrete foundations. With such a criminal record it would be easy to find me guilty of plant slaughter on many counts.
With the help of books, experts and especially experience my garden eventually took shape and continues to give me immense pleasure. I know I will never be satisfied and for that I am grateful.
Marigolds and Nasturtiums continue to reign, after all, they planted a valuable seed in the life of a small child.