Seduction. The art of the garden centre. There seems to be a certain magic that unleashes itself as soon as I reach the car park, regardless of whether I am in the market for anything or not – and my bank balance usually suggests that ‘not’ should be my default position.
Lulled into a false sense of security with the knowledge that my summer bedding planting is completed, my husband is initially caught off-guard. He’s clearly forgotten that I’m easily drawn in by the rows of bedding plants that usually greet me first. From there, it’s one small step to the alpine plants that could fill the (diminishing) gaps in my rockery. With the trolley (I picked one up just in case) beginning to fill, I can see my husband becoming nervous. He knows that, despite my empty promises not to buy anything, any visit could be costly. And he’s not wrong.
Because my garden is bursting with plants, each visit is a precursor to a sacrificial ceremony. When pots are no longer awaiting seasonal bedding, I turn my attention to my perennials. Each plant now has to earn its place: Otherwise, I will be ruthless. The latest earmarked specimen is my Arctic Queen clematis. Having never performed because of its location under a more vigorous Montana, it’s been sacrificed already – snails having taken this job upon themselves. All that remains is to decide what will replace it.
I’m tempted by a peony but I already have one nearby and I can ill afford using up my precious spaces for duplicates. Unfortunately, the more experienced a gardener I become (not that I count myself as experienced), the more wide-ranging and eclectic my tastes. Away from the safety of my usual specimens (clematis, bedding plants, etc), I am in uncharted, not to mention costly, territory. The most seductive thing of all is when quality plants are grouped en masse, displaying different varieties and shades of similar specimens. Shades of pink, purple and blue lead into bright yellows and oranges and hot reds and sadly I have very little self-control.
Visits to open gardens and shows such as Hampton Court haven’t helped matters and I feel that I am in constant search of perfection – a year when clematis shoots aren’t feasted upon by slugs or my sweet peas haven’t gone crispy from dehydration even though I water them like a religious fanatic.
I have already been unfaithful to the French lavender that has gone far too woody and leggy for my liking. She and I are soon to part company in favour of a brightly coloured gaillardia. Sadly, discarding plants past their best (or ones that don’t grow at all) in favour of specimens that will work hard for my money does not sit well with me. Is this what “proper” gardeners do? You know, the ones whose gardens are immaculate and packed with colour all year round? Or do most gardeners adopt my usual mantra of “there’s always next year…”?
And so I’m on the lookout for opportunities that may give any under-performers in the garden a stay of execution until next year. One plan is to remove our tiny lawn and replace it with gravel planting until my husband relents and suggests I plant up an area at the bottom of the garden formerly reserved for our furry five. They’ve never really taken to gardening anyway…
…to be continued.