Growing up a stone's throw from Selfridges, in a two-bedroomed mansion block flat, didn't teach me much about gardening however. I did have an impressive window-sill collection of plants. And when we went to Italy we had an orchard and my relatives had land. But gardens? Nope.
Three years ago, I bought me a house in Suffolk. We now have just under one acre of land. I have no idea what to do with most of it. The reason we bought our funny little 1960's house (little being a good, descriptive word here) was because the garden that came with it was the best we'd seen. The former occupants were very keen gardeners. VERY keen. We have lawns, and a little formal garden at the back, and a woodland walk bit and lots of trees (which I've learned the names of, mostly) and borders n' stuff, it's all very magical and perfect for children to play in.
But I have no clue at all what to do with it. I am not exaggerating, not one single bit, when I say that I can tell a tree, I know what grass looks like and I can identify roses and daffodils. And moss. But that really is about it. People I know come round and say "but darling, look at your cornus controversia traversia fantasia tree, it's divine, how did you get it so tiered?" and I think "do my gardening for me."
When we first moved in, driven by keen enthusiasm and with only one child to look after (which let me tell you, is EASY, retrospectively) I decided one day to do some weeding of things that looked, to me, like weeds. To be fair to me, which I always try to be, I did check with my partner, who said "yes them's is weeds". So I pulled them all up.
Later I discovered they were poppies. Wild and rude poppies (rude cos they just go where they like) but poppies none the less. It's taken them three years to recover from my frantic plucking. I like poppies.
In 2008 I could ignore the garden cos I was pregnant, and shuffling around like a Barbar Papa. In 2009 I could ignore the garden because I'd just had a baby (at HOME, a HBAC, yes it is possible people). This year I'm realising that unless we want to end up with a garden like that one in The Secret Garden (except without the possibility of staff, or a TV crew, to make it alright) I was going to have to do some work in it.
But, as I've mentioned in other posts. I'm a girl that needs kit before I can do anything. Growing up, I was forced FORCED to work in my parents' cafe. One of the things I did was the washing up. There is nothing like doing washing up of un-known people's dishes to really put you off washing up. I remember coming across bits of food floating in the water that, to this day, can still make me retch at the memory. I was too small to wear rubber gloves (are you crying yet?).
These days, when I am washing precious things, things that cannot go into the dishwasher, I will only do so if wearing rubber gloves. I need that degree of separation because I've been deeply scarred.
So of course, with gardening it is obvious I need lots of my own kit if I'm to really take any interest in it.
I have my own wheelbarrow, but that has since been stolen by my eighty-year old father who will insist on helping out in the garden. My partner also nicks the wheelbarrow. So I've lost interest in it.
I NEED really expensive secateurs, because we all know that will make me much cleverer and more capable in the garden. But until I've ascertained which those are to be, I make use of my three other pairs of secateurs, all of which have broken/rusted because I don't take care of them properly because I haven't bought them especially for me.
So finally we get onto gardening gloves. It is completely unfathomable that I could garden without them. So three years ago I bought some Briers gardening gloves from Chartwell, Winston Churchill's old home. They were cream, and leather and really rather good. But they too got 'borrowed' and then they hung on the washing line until they turned brittle.
I bought some very good, green, leather gauntlets, reduced to a fiver (from lots more) in Johnny Lou Lou's last year. But the mice ate them, goddamit, in the garage. Then I ignored my own advice and bought several pairs of cheap gloves from Homebase, all of which were totally rubbish.
Two weeks ago, I put out an appeal on Facebook for good gardening gloves and my online friend Vicky R, told me to try Atlas Gardening Gloves. I was suspicious because I'd only ever worn leather gardening gloves. And these were rubber nylon things. The pictures of them are a bit misleading, because they look like they'd be thick and unwieldly, like a beefed up rubber glove. But they're not.
|Blimey the look enormous. I promise I haven't got Shrek hands. Photographed here on yet another stainless steel surface in my kitchen.|
God they're fantastic. I mean, I know it sounds completely mad to rave about a gardening glove, or anything, in that 'they've changed my life way'. But they have. Here's why:
They're really sensitive, so you can do almost anything in them, from coaxing out a weed root, to handling really rough weeds. What the pics don't really convey is that they're really soft, you can scrunch them up in your hand.
|They scrunch up small, not particularly useful per se, but means they're flexible, which is.|
Because of this: they're not so tough they'd be able to handle super hard thorns (you can get some others for that, which I've yet to try) and I have stung myself on the back of the hand with a nettle (although that's good for you in the long run init, protects against arthritis) because the back of the glove is less protected to make the glove more flexible. But I lived.
They come in all different colours, which I like, so I know which are mine.
They're cheap compared to leather gloves. But actually, so much better I think.
Sizing: I have fairly small hands, and I got a medium, which fit fine, but with room. I may go to a small next time for uber sensitivity and pretend I am a garden surgeon. They're not like rubber gloves in that hard to get off way if they're too small, because they feel like fabric.
So the upshot is that I have been out in the garden pulling up actual weeds (since that is the only thing I am trusted to do) regularly.
Vicky gets them from eBay where they are cheaper. But I got mine direct where there is more selection.
So there you have it.