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Gardening: the slippery slope to being grown-up

PUBLISHED: 11:38 16 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:38 16 August 2018

A patio with flowers and flower pots looks stunning, but watering and maintaining takes up precious gardening time. Picture Getty Images

A patio with flowers and flower pots looks stunning, but watering and maintaining takes up precious gardening time. Picture Getty Images

Cornelia Pithart

It starts stealthily when you manage to keep a cactus alive. The next thing you know, you’ve got a windowsill of plants that you’d normally have killed months ago - is a newfound ability to garden (a bit) a sign that I’m growing up?

As a TV reviewer (I typed ‘TB’ – that’s an entirely different career) I am unlikely to say that time spent gardening is more fulfilling than time spent watching television.

Frankly, as a garden-phobe, I am unlikely to say that gardening is more fulfilling than many things other than, perhaps, smear tests or maths examinations – or rather this was what I WOULD have said a year ago, before I started gardening.

What they tell you is true: one minute I was a garden refusenik, the next minute I blinked and turned into my mother.

But anyway: a new survey claims that 25 per cent of people aged under 45 prefer gardening to watching the box – I literally cannot believe that this is true, even if I have just put together a charming patio garden and actually went out and with MY OWN MONEY bought a TRELLIS. A trellis: it’s a gateway drug (or should that be ‘trug’) – next thing you know I will be requesting seed catalogues and embroidering my own kneeler.

I have always hated gardening – despite both parents being green-fingered and keen – seeing it as housework in the rain, which as concepts go, is about as depressing as honeymooning in Widnes in winter in a shed lined with uranium with Donald Trump.

Most of my friends garden, many have allotments and some garden professionally: I haven’t judged them though, indeed I

have made a concerted effort to accept any free fruit or vegetables they can offer me so they know I’m still there for them, regardless of their boring, filthy outdoor habits.

Latterly I believed that I had toxic red-fingers: I have killed cacti (which I believe is literally impossible) and began to consider houseplants as having the same shelf-life as cut flowers, because that’s what they had if they came into my house.

On the plus side, I used to be the kind of customer that Anglian Water put on the front of their brochures because I had a lifetime hosepipe ban on the grounds I didn’t own a hosepipe but on the minus side I lived in a grey world where going out into the garden was like stepping into the exercise yard of a high-security prison at night, during a power cut.

I considered this to be a small price to pay for not gardening.

I’m not sure how it started: one minute I was killing cacti, the next I had an entire windowsill full of succulents AND ALL OF THEM WERE ALIVE. Then I kept some herbs alive for longer than a week and a fern that someone bought me as a present was still green (rather than brown and crispy, as most of my houseplants generally were after five days) several months after she had unwisely left it in my care.

Before I knew it, I was at a garden centre buying items that had once been alien to me: compost (apparently it isn’t ‘mud’). Some kind of plant feed involving pulverised bone (is that OK for a vegetarian?). A tiny spade-type thing. Some gloves. My first hose. Pots. Scary outdoor plants. A trellis.

I can’t claim that the process of gardening – which for me involves putting things in pots – is something I hugely enjoy, and I am still squeamish about having mud compost under my fingernails and dealing with multi-legged things and slugs, but I do like the end result and I even quite enjoy the ritual of dead-heading and watering in the evening, which until the last few days included watering myself to cope with the heat.

Who am I? Who is this person that no longer kills plants? Have I been bewitched? Will the next enchantment be when I start appreciating opera or ballet? Am I abgout to start planning my meals a week ahead and actually enjoying listening to children sing, as opposed to pretending to? Is this what being grown-up is all about? Is there some kind of manual I can read so I can know what else to expect?

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