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August 2004 Blether:
© 2004 Patrick Vickery

The Garden Blether II:

'Blether' is a Scottish word meaning a good chat (a good blether), often a long and lazy relaxed chat at that, and sometimes over a dram or two of whisky!

e-mail Patrick at: aldieburnplants@aol.com

Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands with his wife, three children, two dogs, two goats and an assortment of smaller animals. They live in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick runs a small Garden Nursery (part-time), is a Garden Writer (part-time) with a particular interest in the humourous side of things (especially the things that go wrong!), and works part-time as a Special Needs Teacher.

Patrick's first gardening book  In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden. ISBN: 186163148 has recently been published. A 'how-to' book - a book that shows how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways, for both expert and gardening novice alike, at minimum cost and in an innovative and self-financing way, using a raised bed system of propagation, and concentrating primarily on hardy perennial plants that can be raised and grown outdoors without the aid of a polytunnel or greenhouse.

Available direct from the Publisher at: Capall Bann Publishing, UK; from bookshops; or from Amazon.co.uk via the Internet.

more info:

In Pursuit of Perennial Profit - The Pot of Gold At The Bottom of the Garden...

Gardening is a pursuit I had little interest in until we bought our first house. This is often the case. Beyond the confines of the bricks and mortar, through the window, thereís a garden that canít be ignored because it grows and you have to do something about it. So when the grass had reached knee height, even longer in some places, it was time for action. I found a rusty scythe in the garden shed, sharpened it and set about cutting grass with relish. The neighbours watched from a distance with a degree of reserved amusement, clearly unsure whether they should offer me the loan of a lawnmower or whether using a scythe was my unique way of expressing a lifestyle preference, back to nature or something like that.

Some hours later, finished, rested and re-hydrated, I assessed my scything skills. Not very good. No, not very good at all. Most of the grass remained long and straggly, much of it of varying heights, and - even worse - some areas were actually bald where I'd ripped the soil with the blade! Two weeks later - and with another cut looming - we opted for a second-hand lawnmower and confined the scythe to the back of the shed from whence it had come.

The next job was to construct a fence to keep the dogs off the road as they had a tendency to wander. One dog in particular had been hit twice, you see, once by a motorbike, once by a car, and still survived to tell the tale. Both drivers had been remarkable understanding at the time, of course, but there's a limit to how many accidents of this kind can be sustained before somebody gets seriously hurt. So a visit to the local sawmill was arranged to buy fencing materials, a trip to the hardware shop for nails and then fencing commenced.

With most things practical, Iíve found, it's not possible to become an over-night expert until you've had a few failures first, a few botched attempts, and for a first attempt the results were largely predictable. It did the job alright, no doubt about that, and actually looked quite respectable from a distance, but I told the neighbours not to lean on it as it had a tendency to keel over under pressure. It took a week to complete, two months of 'fine-tuning' to sustain the weight of a small neighbour and then a further month before it acquired the stability and strength to contain the random weight of a casual passer-by who might be stopping for a chat, a rest or a nosy peer through the window into our front room. But it was a learning process, a useful process, and Iím now aware that satisfactory fencing requires big nails, big wood, cement, a spirit level and holes dug deeper than twelve inches to put the posts in.

The next project was a plot for vegetables, a patch of ground where we spent many pleasant afternoons weeding, hoeing and cultivating as a family. And when I think back to those formative vegetable growing years one particular moment comes to mind, a piece of advice crudely administered by the owner of a small Garden Centre when we went to buy bamboo canes to stake our fine crop of peas.

"Don't be stupid, man," he barked, which isnít the sort of comment you expect from your local horticultural supplier, is it? "Get your sticks from the woods."

So we duly thanked him for being so insulting - as you do - and returned home empty-handed. I think we must have caught him on a bad day, you see, though strangely enough it didn't put us off from returning on other occasions, and occasions when he was always most helpful. Not for bamboo canes though, no, no, most certainly not, but for other gardening items.

Yes, gardening is a pursuit I had little interest in until we bought our first house, as is often the case, but from then onwards it acquired increasing significance in our lives. Weíve had a few gardens since then, and our horticultural and DIY skills have improved beyond recognition, but what remains fundamental to the whole process is the rich and humourous fund of horticultural mishaps, disasters and misdemeanours that would fill a book if only I had the time to write one.

Now the moral of the tale - if there is one - goes something like this (I like a good moral, you know):

If at first you donít succeed, then have a good chuckle and try again.

Or alternatively, if your peas need staking, head for the woods!

(Copyright 2004 Patrick Vickery)