Benign Neglect

IMG_3440The reluctant gardener’s focus has been on tending the cropping plants, watering things in pots, and keeping the lawns respectable, she hasn’t paid much attention to the rest of the beds.  But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to appreciate there.

I don’t know what these flowers are called, but they are a popular perennial in the gardens hereabouts; or maybe they’re popular everywhere, it’s just that I don’t notice them, or can’t see into so many gardens elsewhere.  They appear to require no particular care, and sprout out of the bases of walls and other tight places, nodding their orange and golden heads through summer to autumn, as gradually the buds on each spear open into flower.

In this garden they appear to be thriving in amongst lots of other flowering things which are generally a little bit neglected, but may be all the better and brighter for it.

Benign neglect might be the best implement in the reluctant gardener’s tool box.



Return of the Reluctant Gardener

2013-08-23 09.09.25After my urban break at the Festivals in Edinburgh, I am back as the temporary reluctant gardener.

Everything had continued growing in my absence of course, but now the gallons of water poured and time spent communing with the plants in the greenhouse are bearing fruit.  It’s mainly down to the unusually warm and sunny summer we’ve had that the tomatoes are ripening on the vine.  It’s much more normal to have rows of fruit that are turning a little yellowish orange on windowsills, their sides pressed against the glass in the hope of catching a little drop of sunshine to turn them a little red on one side, and for us to have been looking for recipes involving quantities of green tomatoes.

Not this year; and it’s really quite exciting, rummaging through all the foliage to find the little red globes.  There’s already a few more than we’ve been able to keep up with.  The cucumbers are slowing down production, only a couple a day, rather than the four or five which had been their rate earlier in the month, but the tomatoes are now revving up to overtake them.  Take into account that the runner beans have now started producing at the rate of just under a pound a day, and you’ll have a fair idea of what we’ve been eating for dinner.

Not only has the reluctant gardener been harvesting, I’ve even been mowing the verge outside the house.  There’s a stretch of grass between the pavement and the road in front of every house in the town.  It’s part of the public highway but as the Council mow it about once every 5 years, it has, over time, gradually and without anyone saying anything become part of what each householder contributes to the community.

It’s surprising how few houses have untidy verges.  At some point or another, everyone is out there mowing this strip of greenery.  Some take an astonishing amount of care with it, with neat, square and weed-free edges.  Where one stretch of grass runs alongside two properties, the boundary line is respected, so, as in our case, at the point on the pavement in line with the fence, there is a clear demarcation line: the neat neighbour’s immaculate mowing stops and our more haphazard approach begins.

I have to admit that my gardening reluctance reaches its apogee with it comes to the verge mowing.  The cable for the electric mower doesn’t stretch far enough, so I have to use the ‘big’ petrol machine.  It’s arduous to start, requiring just the right energy, speed and angle pulling on the starter string thing, and then it roars away at high speed (and worries me that I’m going to somehow gouge out the neat neighbour grass when I have to turn it around at the invisible boundary line).  But it’s done now; and the grass while a bit scruffy, is shorter, and we can hold our heads up in the street again.

The Start of the Tomato Harvest

IMG_3401The reluctant gardener is back, watering and keeping an eye on the plants.  The cucumbers are still flourishing, and it’s continues to be a rare meal in which they do not feature, however, the tomatoes will soon be rivalling their fecundity.

This probably doesn’t look like much to those of you who live in warm, sunny climates, but in the unpredictable weather of the West of Scotland these small tomatoes, all 2 and a half ounces of them, represents something of a miracle of nature, ripening on the vine, as they did.  They are the vanguard of what looks like potentially a bumper harvest, but in their reddy orangeness were a surprise discovery when I was bending down to water the plants.

Something about the flamboyance of the stalks made me photograph them, and even suggested, for a brief moment, the idea of sketching them.

Enthusiasm may flag when the crop glut comes, but for the moment, the thrill of discovery remains.

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