I started this post some weeks ago thus: “Yesterday, before I went to the beach, I potted fuchsias. I love the sound of that. Potted fuchsias. The fuchsia part I mean. It’s the shhchhhh sound that pleases me. Kind of like zhooshing, the onamatapaeic word that indicates something is being schmicked up, revitalised, given a style and look that will make people look twice. Fuchsias sure do that. They’re gorgeous, but it’s not without trepidation that I venture into the fuchsia world ….. and I hope it won’t all end in tears. It’s a relationship littered with F words.”
Well there’s been considerably more F words added to the relationship since I wrote that, because in all my excitement with shhchhhh-sounding plants, I splashed out on freesias, too, imagining a splash of delicate colour as the two lots of F girls met and mixed in the beds and baskets I put them.
Because not one of them has survived. What in tarnation was this major hardware store’s garden staff doing putting stacks of pendulous fuchsias and delicate freesias out in prime display to tempt customers in January!
Catching fools like me, of course. In the searing heat, it was probably the dumbest choice and timing I could have made.
And it just goes to show how seductive a pretty face is. When I saw them and fell in love, I didn’t really stop to think: “hmmm cool climate plant, probably not 39C degrees material”. I just lusted after all that pink, crimson, purple and scarlet little teardrop heads, that I imagined bobbing up and down each morning as I greeted them as if to say: “Yes, you are a clever gardener and what a gorgeous choice you’ve made with us.”
Despite their ”heat hardy” label, they all curled up and perished, no matter where I put them and what tendering I did. Sad, ugly brown leaves and dead stems mocked all my dreams.
I learnt, too late, that August is the time to plant out freesias and fuchsias here in the sub tropics – if you have the patience for them. (And I’m not sure I will.)
I lay bare this episode of gardening stupidity because (misguided) friends who think I’m an expert with plants, say they don’t bother with gardening because it’s just all too hard; that I am so much more informed and adept, I could never understand their level of incompetence and lack of confidence at it.
Well, hello. Fess up time.
I have made and am still making all manner of big boo-boos in the garden. It would take more space and time than I have here to list them all, but for starters:
I have killed all the azaleas but one that were a transplanted gift from a friend’s garden
I cannot grow hibiscus without them succumbing to every grub known to mankind
‘Easy to care for’ Camellia japonicas hate me and refuse to flower no matter where I put them – although the smaller flowering camelia sassanqua gives me some compensation
I have picked all the wrong roses for our climate and in five years with 10 bushes, I have had about a dozen blooms in total, regardless of how much blood and bone, feed and love I give them.
I planted the African tulip tree too close to the poinciana and they are fighting for light and space – and competing orange flowers.
Cocos palms we put in around the swimming pool make our life hell with seed and blossom drop and now they’re so tall we can’t reach to trim dead fronds and remove the seed bunches.
I have had four attempts to grow a ” sturdy” white Tibouchina ‘Peace Baby’ in a pot and still fail.
Hellebores in the shade under the frangipani seemed a lovely idea, but it’s a losing battle so far.
Coriander and sage just refuse to live in my world.
Hydrangeas wilt and shrivel wherever I put them.
I am on my third try to strike a piece of the hardiest vine known to mankind – the golden chalice – which a friend has growing rampant.
I have been know to kill impatiens – the common everyman perennial.
The daphnes I bragged about making a scented driveway entry, have all died, despite the best preparation, care and attention I could muster. The so-called hot weather hardiness was just not robust enough apparently – or some mysterious bad chemistry between them and me prevailed.
There is always something fungus or “pesty” on my cycads no matter what I do to them.
Like my reluctant friends, I too remember being intimidated by all that I didn’t know about gardening.
I have over reached and shrunk back. But something kept me at it. Being around people who had “green thumbs” helped, because they dispensed snippets of wisdom about soil, watering, striking, feeding, placement in small bites – and I could apply it in manageable doses. With each small success, confidence grew.
My advice to those wary of gardening is just start. Garden wisdom grows from the first dig. Begin with a few pots – or one small bed of colour or a shrubbery. And when the successes outnumber the failures, you are on a roll. If you let it, gardening will take your heart and soul and give you a reason to get up every day. It will soothe you, delight you and revive you.
Walk in lots of gardens. Look, smell and touch. I used to baulk at going to grand, beautiful show gardens, places that I thought would make me feel inadequate and mine would look pathetic in comparison.
But I love visiting them now, because I get that every garden has its beauty both in small patches and grand designs. And there’s a garden osmosis at work.
I delight in getting even just one idea from a visit – whether it’s a new composition of colour, or undergrowth design -or where to put a birdbath.
And the feeling it leaves me with ….
Now that’s an F word I do use a lot in the garden!