“How pleasant the lot of the gardener in these winter months! He whiles away the short days and long evenings, devising stratagems whereby he can trick the garbage man into using the path instead of tramping across the tulip and iris shoots to collect the plastic bag thrown to him by his colleague, knocking the buds off the Magnolia stellate as he hoists it onto his shoulder and demolishing the one fat red shoot which contains all that Paeonia mlokseiwitchi would have given this spring. ‘PLEASE DON’T THROW THE LIDS ON THE GARDEN’ is lost among the other graffiti.”
Looking for a winter read, I came upon The Revolting Garden by Rose Blight, a.k.a. Germaine Greer. Greer is a 1970s feminist, famous for her book, The Female Eunuch. Her surprising love of gardening is put forth in this little volume. Believe it, she brings a unique twist to garden writing.
“How cheering the thud of the seed catalogues on the doormat! Now all that you have wanted to know about growing spherical carrots, grey beetroot, turrets of indestructible lettuce that even snails won’t eat!”
Here is just how and why London gardens are revolting.
“The London garden must be revolting, essentially because the cultural conditions are so very unfavourable to plant life that only the dreariest of plants will make do with them…”
I thought England was bursting with lovely gardens. Maybe London is the exception. First she outs privet.
“…Ligustrum ovalifolium, which can be relied upon to push its charcoal green leaves doggedly upward through the murk to a height of fifteen feet, meekly parting its grimy limbs to allow dustmen to crash through with their bins, catching up plastic bags and cigarette packets like some egregious scavenging dog.”
Aucuba is privets diseased companion.
“…Aucuba japonica or spotted laurel, whose pustular-yellow spattered leaves hang on unabashed when the rest of the garden has withered away under a pile of mattresses, rusting bedsteads, bottles, tin cans and disowned perambulators.”
A third shrub earns Greer’s distain.
“…Fatsia japonica, also accepts life in conditions of verminous, permanent semi-shade, because its thick stems and leathery leaves are so hideous that it is grateful to be cultivated anywhere.”
After thoroughly exposing the London garden, Greer goes on to describe the two types of revolting Italian gardens and the particularly revolting gardens of India. Plants would grow wonderfully in Bombay if people didn’t sit on them, sleep on them and erect shanties on them.
Rose Blight required a deep breath, an hour of yoga and a tranquilizing visit to a salt room. Then David Austin’s little fat Handbook of Roses 2019 landed in my mailbox. Take note, Rose, your namesake is the jewel of English gardens. Inspiring, abundant, tough, unrivaled in beauty and fragrance. The names alone inspire – Roald Dahl, Dame Judi Dench, Charles Darwin, Gertrude Jekyll, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Kew Gardens. Here are 174 pages filled with captivating photographs interspersed with a generous helping of rose information. David Austin is as inspiring as Greer is hilarious.
“Every day, I marvel at my good fortune to have been able to make a life out of breeding roses. My greatest satisfaction is to see the pleasure my roses give to gardeners and rose lovers worldwide.”