“Did you mention the idea of a follow up article on the gardening group to Miranda?” I ask Niles, feature editor for one of the magazines I freelance for.
There’s a long pause.
“And?” I persist.
“Her only response was a shudder”
“Ah. So, I take it that’s a no?”
“Duh!” Niles says and rings off.
Well that’s that then. I’d been trying to justify another visit to the allotment group as a legitimate work assignment, something I’d get paid for but that clearly wasn’t happening. Maybe I could think about actually joining the group? After all I’d moved to the country to… to what? It was a question I’d asked myself a few times recently. My answer was something that didn’t sound convincing even to my own ears but it would have to do. I’d moved to the country to… to undertake country pursuits. Well gardening was right up there wasn’t it? Visions of myself in something floaty carrying a trug basket and snipping fragrant flowers flitted across my brain. I could picture myself gracefully tending my raspberry canes and stooping to pick up the eggs from my own free-range chickens and… just stop right there I tell myself. Chickens are over-kill. But perhaps I could grow a few vegetables? Something easy like tomatoes or courgettes. Actually, I had no idea if they are easy to produce or not but it would give me a reason to go to the meeting tonight. Decision made and I swear it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the big, quietly attractive guy in an Aran-knit sweater that I’d met there the last time.
Dressed-down is not usually a difficult look for me to pull off but getting the right blend of casual oh these muddy jeans are just what I happened to throw on and sexy bo-ho I’m a free spirit, a dance in the rain kind of girl proved to be a challenge. Quite why I wanted to give that impression I didn’t stop to examine but for the record I never have danced in the rain. And I’m very suspicious of anyone who does. I settle on jeans (clean ones) and a T-shirt that falls off one shoulder and at seven o’clock I set out with an open mind about raised beds v greenhouses and a liberal spray of my favourite perfume. I feel confident that one or the other (if not both) should do the trick.
And Aran-knit sweater guy is there and wearing… well… his Aran-knit sweater. I’d have thought it was a bit hot for this time of the year but it’s all right I think. It’s obviously his gardening jumper. Don’t sportsmen wear their lucky pants every time they go out into the ring or on to the pitch? Ok so maybe waging war with green-fly and slugs isn’t quite the same as facing a rampaging scrum half or a welter-weight with a deadly left hook but gardeners do take their herbaceous borders very seriously I believe.
Potting containers are the way forward I’m told. For a beginner. And tomatoes are where I should start. I’m given plenty of tips about seedlings and grow-bags and something called pinching-out. Discussions get quite heated. And that’s even before they start on about all the different varieties. There’s Golden Sunrise, Tumbling Tom, Black Cherry and even one called Big-Boy. At that I give Aran-Knit sweater guy the once-over. HHmmm… promising.
As the meeting progresses I find my attention wandering. Gardening is apparently not just an art but a science. To take it seriously it’s important to know about soil composition and drainage and how to mulch which all seems a far cry from my vision of drifting about in chiffon picking those gorgeous creamy over-blown Beauty and The Beast type roses from fairy-tales. A proper gardener doesn’t just sniff them and bung them in a vase she has to learn how to defend them against Diplocarpon Rosae (that’s black spot fungus to the uninitiated!) and that takes a lot of work. And dedication. Now hard work I know I’m capable of but sustained enthusiasm… not so much. But I will give the tomatoes a shot because really, after all the advice I’ve received, it would seem rude not to. I even promise to come back and let them know how I get on. And when I say them I mean Aran-Knit sweater guy. Whose name is Ben I discover.
“Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day” he says, “Which way does your garden face?”
“Well…” I think for a moment “Two ways. At the front, out towards the hills and at the side towards the High Street”
He looks at me “That’s not exactly what I meant but… well maybe I should come and check it out for you?
“Maybe you should” I agree
“And have you made up your mind about which variety to go for?”
Ben fishes out his mobile and takes my number
“Because I’d recommend Elegance, it’s a standard red and a pretty safe bet”
“Oh I’ve already decided” I reply “I know exactly what I want. It simply has to be Big-Boy”
TO BE CONTINUED