The Joy Of Gardening
That title could just as appropriately be The Pain of Gardening. But by mid-June, when the hard post-winter work is done and the annuals are all planted, you can begin to enjoy the fruits of your labours. Or the flowers of your labours in my case since I grow neither fruits nor vegetables.
Gardening, like walking, is a very natural form of exercise, unlike jogging or working out at the gym. And we've been seriously cultivating plants since at least the Neolithic Revolution, although admittedly that's only the other day in the life of the planet.
There's an elemental, atavistic pleasure in working with the soil. This is as low-tech as you can get in a relentlessly hi-tech age.
It's not an original thing to say, but growing plants from seed is to witness a small miracle. Working with the basic elements that allow life to exist on this planet, a lifeless husk that has sat in a packet for months or years springs to life and becomes something of astonishing beauty that supports myriad other forms of life. And you're reminded that it was the co-existence of particular elements within a very narrow temperature range that made this a living planet, unlike those in our immediate vicinity in this tiny corner of the cosmos.
Gardening is also an activity that runs counter to the spirit of the times because it's a long-term project in an age of instant everything. You Can't Hurry Love sang The Supremes. And you can't hurry nature either. Like Eartha Kitt's Englishman, nature takes its time.
Take my Foxgloves. Well no, keep your thieving hands off them! I grew them from seed two years ago. They started life indoors, were then potted up and eventually planted out. But it has taken a full two years since I first tore open the seed packet for them to flower. As these pictures show, it was worth the wait.
As woodland plants, Foxgloves are one of the few flowering plants that thrive in shade, even total shade, which is why I put them in a section of garden where a high wall and a large tree mostly obscure the sun.
For those with more than a passing interest in such things, these are a traditional variety called Glittering Prizes and grow to a height of 5 feet. Messrs Thompson and Morgan, official seed suppliers to Lupin Towers, will part with a packet of seeds for a paltry sum of money.
The flowers have large blotched throats which are even more striking on the paler varieties of flower.
They look good at the back of the border, mingling with Lupins, Delphiniums and other tall plants.
Bees love them and disappear completely inside the long throats of the flowers - especially if a strange man is pointing a Fuji Finepix at them.