Busted Cover


found this blooming in spring

Shame, they say, hates being shared.

Once shared it can’t survive. Shame loves secrecy.  A few years ago I, a closet non-gardener, stupidly infiltrated a herb garden workshop hoping for cooking ideas. The situation turned itchily uncomfortable early on. The place was huge, and when I heard participants comparing this to “Charles and Camilla’s garden” I knew I was out of my depth. The lemon balm tea and lavender-bud-shortbread soothed momentarily until, oh-oh. We actually had to tell the assembled group why we had come. ALL had gardens. ALL could actually make things grow. ALL, of course, except me. When I “came out” and murmured apologetically that I “didn’t like gardening” there were mutterings of “shame, shame” from some of the members.

Gardeners are baffling!

hope for blackberries

After that experience I kept my non knowledge to myself. Until now. I live in a village where everyone gardens as a “matter of course” . I look at them with amazement as they plunge their hands into last year’s garbage-turned compost,  gleefully pick caterpillars off their tenderly-planted seedlings, and delight in having to go out to water the garden over and over again. This they call “healing”!


And so am I, to them.

Amazement is two-way, you know. People are astounded that I am phenomenally garden-ignorant. Long ago when there used to be hairdressers (last February 14th), Hazel, a farmer’s daughter was astounded. “What” she exclaimed  snip snip “you didn’t even know that you don’t dig potatoes until they flower????” snip snip. “Nope,” says I sheepishly. I swear it took her 37 snips to absorb this incomprehensible answer.

Wisteria arches a love seat in the back garden

Experience from another life

these irises actually live in our pond!

I am reminded of the excruciation my adult literacy students went through, going to colossal lengths to cover up their inability at reading and writing in a world where everyone expected them to be literate. It took a gargantuan effort to admit it, finally, to someone (us), far far harder than mere garden ignorance. One caller said, “I had to drink half a bottle of vodka to get the courage to phone”. And our answer was always the same: “you’ve already done the hardest part by calling. Congratulations. Now let’s get to the easy part and find out what you want to learn”.

Why I never learned to garden.

hope for cherries

In my defence, I have to say that my previous life was far from the grow-anything-from-a -cutting mentality of the people here. I lived as a missionary in houses with vast grounds tended by full time gardeners. I went to boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas where there were only two directions: Up and Down. As the hillsides flowered with fern-fists, rhododendrons, and reindeer orchids under the sog-soaked monsoon rains, we were learning to shake our shoes out to rid them of scorpions, and to avoid the side-plate-sized spiders with white sacs, because if we squashed them, literally thousands of baby spiders would pour out all over us.  Our walk to school took us on leech-lustered paths. By the time we arrived at the classroom with its hard-scarred flip top desks, Wordsworth and his daffodils were from a completely different planet.

Until now.

my bee garden, so far

But now I’m on that planet…gentle and lovely,  with enough daffodils to satisfy a hundred Wordsworths. Totally different, and one I am privileged to call home. We inherited a sumptuously landscaped garden.  All these photos are from it.  And now it’s time to fight my self-limiting assumptions and LEARN how to care for it.

I’ve done the hardest part – sharing the shame. As with my former students, help is at hand!  An hour of youtube videos produces : a tomato grower who instructs me to spray my tomatoes with aspirin dissolved in water, for greater growth. A knitted-capped guy from Berkeley USA suggests that I throw in a dead animal while building my compost heap. Huw from Wales explains the difference between green waste (nitrogen-rich lawn cuttings and ?coffee grounds) and brown waste (carbon-rich dead leaves and ?shredded white paper).

One day this week I opened my front door to see  several pots of vegetable plants, left there by a friend who always plants a whole packet of seeds and nourishes them to healthy greenery, happy to pass them on (“Thrilled” she said). I looked at them with pity – did they know they are in the hands of an ignorant plantaphobe?

Vegetable patch

I have much to learn. Maybe I, too, will one day find it “healing”.



Baked Green Rice

Can be baked in a ring and filled with creamed peas or spinach, also can be used for stuffing or just served on its own.

Oven moderate — around 350 degrees.  Saute 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped clove  garlic in 2 Tablespoons butter.  In a largish bowl beat 1 egg.  Add the onion and garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup milk, 1 cup mixed parsley and coriander leaves chopped, 2 cups cooked rice, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, a fresh grating of ginger, and some chopped jalepeno peppers (to taste) to give it zing. Empty into a baking dish in which has previously been poured 2 tablepoons of oil.  Bake 30 minutes, until top is brownish.

And while the oven is on, why not throw a couple of peeled sliced carrots into a roasting bag with 2 tsps. oil and a pinch of fennel seeds.  They will be ready when the rice is cooked.

1 comment

  1. Dear Judy

    I LOVE this article – as usual you hit the nail on the head!! But don’t worry, all gardeners are still learning; and still killing our seedlings; doing battle with slugs; or making stupid mistakes. Perhaps that’s what makes it so fascinating. So enjoy your garden this summer – we’ve certainly got the weather for it.

    Do hope you, John and your family are well – it’s been an interesting few months! We’ve been cocooned by family, friends, village shops and Waitrose. Happy to continue in our rather hermit-like existence but appreciate how hard it’s been for so many people.

    Take care and lots love,



Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: