When I was a nipper, Mum and Dad were not gardeners.
Our garden was so overgrown me and my mates spent hours hunting for pigmies. It was a jungle out there. You could go in after breakfast and not come out on the other side until bed time, and it wasn’t a big garden.
When I got to about 11 years old, I decided to try to tidy it up. My parents and younger siblings took great delight in extracting the urine. So I gave up. Then when I started senior school, we had gardening lessons. This consisted of copying the teachers notes of the board into our exercise books, and if you couldn’t keep up, tough. In a whole school year we went into the school garden once, to learn how to carry tools safely. Not that we were ever let loose with any. Consequently, I lost all interest. That just about finished me off. When I first got married we even bought an upstairs flat so we didn’t get lumbered with the garden.
I managed to avoid any work in the garden for as long as I could, I could just about be persuaded to mow the lawn, which I still hate, all that backward and forward, just to do it all again a few days later, (must buy some sheep).
This continued until last year, I’m now in my 60’s. Beloved and I visited some friends who took us to a local village fete. Whilst walking from the car park to the field where the fete was being help, we passed an old stone cottage. The back garden seemed to be full of nothing but dahlias. There were all kinds, big ones, small ones, different shapes and colours. Nice I thought.
When we reached the fete we walked around the show tent. It was full off the usual stuff, homemade cakes, homemade jams and chutneys, kids’ art, like I said the usual stuff. At the back of the tent was the gardening section and I fell in love. An enormous red dahlia, the one in the photo, which doesn’t really do it justice, (the other photo is one I have grown this year from a cheap pack of tubers).
I came back full of enthusiasm, I wanted to grow dahlias, but it was August and a bit late in the year so I’ve had to wait. Then earlier this year we moved home, so much to do and so little time.
Now I can’t get enough of the garden. I’ve dug beds, pruned overgrown bushes, weeded, sown seeds, planted out, I’ve even started two compost heaps, and yes, I still hate mowing the lawns, three of the damn things. I love being in the garden, if I can’t get out and do something, anything, I get grumpy.
If Mum could see me now, she’d wet herself laughing. So now you know why my spending an hour weeding, and enjoying it, is a miracle, and why I’ll probably ask so many stupid questions.
Oops, must go, I’ve just spotted a flower that needs dead-heading.
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.