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gertrude

November 2017

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countrygirl

‘Seeing where you’ve been’ in the garden and Margery Fish

fishgarden

It’s a well known saying amongst gardeners that after a session of weeding, tidying or planting, it’s nice to ‘see where you’ve been’. Here’s Margery Fish on the subject:
‘One of my sisters providentially came for a holiday and helped me clear the weeds from the bank. We had a magnificent time clearing the ground, because there was a lot of bindweed there, as well as easier weeds. We both agreed that there is no sport in the world that compares with clearing ground of bindweed. … Tracing this tenacious creeping Judas of a weed to its source and getting it out without leaving any small broken pieces behind requires skill and patience, and the reward is a barrowload of the obscene twisting white roots and the joy of burning them.’
From We Made a Garden.

Hmm. I’m having similar sport at the moment with couch grass but I’d describe it as extreme sport. ‘Extreme weeding’ has a ring about it, don’t you think? Couch grass has encroached into a flower bed. Its roots are so tangled up with alchemilla that the alchemilla has to be sacrificed, and it’s that plant which I find so tenacious and such very hard work to get out. I’ve had three sessions at it so far, the last one this morning, trying to be sensible and not do too much at once. I still haven’t finished. I’ve even had to use the spade to chop the matted clumps, then turn them over (oof!) and tease out the grass roots. Once that’s done, I fork the patch over again. And again. And still keep turning up more of those white fleshy roots. My plan is to plant only annuals or bedding in the cleared areas this year, so that any grass which pops up again can be swiftly dealt with. Is it worth all the aches and pains? I hope I’ll think so later.

Margery Fish, redoubtable woman, was middle aged before she started gardening and confesses in We Made a Garden that she had previously thought people quite mad to be working in a garden rather than sitting in it. This book describes how she and her husband Walter bought East Lambrook Manor just before the war and turned a wreck into a home and garden. Margery and Walter had very different ideas about gardening. He was passionate about tidiness and quite an autocrat in the garden:
‘Walter would no more have left his grass uncut or the edges untrimmed than he would have neglected to shave’.
Mrs Fish approved of this but was less keen on his passion for large, vulgar dahlias and his refusal to take an interest in the garden except in summer. After Walter’s death she was able to garden in her own style, which was to have a good design crammed with as many plants as she could get in, with plants for all seasons.

I recommend We Made a Garden as the chattiest of Mrs Fish’s books and the one most likely to interest people who are not themselves great gardeners. Stories about Walter will either amuse or horrify you. I owe her a great debt. It was reading this book and then her others which introduced me to a new world of plants I’d never heard of and turned me into a plantaholic.

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