Just as there are bedroom eyes, so there are garden hands. Like mine, which show that being a dab hand in the plot is not a good look from every angle. It’s been a biting, scratching, poking, lancing and itching time among the plants here lately, so the damage is multiple and varied.
My hands are a casualty map of garden mishaps, bearing a line of attack that records assaults old and fresh and blood shed in the line of horticultural duty. There are puncture marks from the needle-tips of the variegated agave hedge I have been trying to thin out. A bloody and painful exercise and in retrospect, I should not have planted out the babies of the fertile mother plant, which in three years have grown to my height (165cm) and brandish spreading arms with lethal weapons.
Scabs and gashes from scratches while pruning the bougainvilleas and weeding around the roses dot my fingers, wrists and forearms and there’s bark missing from knuckles scraped tackling overgrowth on the barbed wire fence line. And those pesky little leaf barbs on the vines climbing the paperbarks that line the creek have done a job on me too, leaving a stinging red angry rash. My sweet little crown of thorns euphorbia has a bite, too, if not handled carefully, I have learnt painfully and well.
Even the benign, low-maintenance bromeliads, have made their mark, thanks to the sawtooth edge leaf of some lurking in the throng as I, unsuspecting, poked my fingers into their throats to clear leaf debris overload.
And along the way, an ant, spider or a centipede had a nip of me, leaving a finger lump or two to negotiate my rings around and my cuticles ingrained with grass and soil stain that scrubbing and exfoliating can’t shift. And spring means a fever of those little bloodsuckers that drop on you from on high and off just about anything that has leaves – ticks. No man or beast is safe from their attack and I have had more than a few attach already this season.
The midges and mosquitoes have supped well on me in late afternoons and the determined flowering lantana with its rasping sandpaper stems I slash and burn, is retaliating by rubbing angry marks on all exposed limbs.
And don’t start me on my sorry flesh-slicing stories of mishandled secateurs, pruning saws, grass shears and star pickets. It’s relatively trivial collateral damage, hardly noticed when I am happily ensconced among the trees and shrubs. But scrubbed for dressier pursuits, I look like the walking wounded, a gashed, slashed glaring advertisement for garden gloves and antiseptic.
I own several pairs of the flowery cotton girly gloves and the heavy duty variety made of stiff industrial-strength canvas, but like many gardeners, I often venture outside to “just pull out a weed or two” and who can properly grasp dainty shoots except with bare hands? Two hours later, sucked into serious, back bending and perspiring toil, the damage is done.
I keep my tetanus shots up to date, but it doesn’t stop me from looking wistfully at neatly manicured gardener’s hands and blemish free arms and wonder if their owners have paid help. But it did cause me to inspect more closely a couple of garden products I came across lately. The light and pliable protective sleeves, gloves and associated apparel available at various garden product websites might save me from permanent scarring.
And a group of Californian university researchers have developed a way to keep pesky mosquitoes away, with a patch that makes humans invisible to the pests. I am sure many tropical zone dwellers would want to be patched through to them, suffering the dusk onslaught of mossies in summer.
Real gardening is not for pussies.