Gardening Magazine

Gardening Mistakes, Foolishness And Falling Over

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

The path of every gardener is strewn with mistake cowpats and not-knowing-any-better-trip-wires.  Or at least mine is.  Here’s a handful which I’ve ‘enjoyed’ over the years.

Rushing about during a chaotic house move, I grabbed an old bucket of water to pour on a much-loved and very thirsty, container-grown bamboo.  It was only as the bucket emptied, that I realised it also held several inches of rock salt.  Impossible to get out of its metal container and with no time to properly flush away the saline, the bamboo died.  That was upsetting.

It wasn’t my biggest mistake but spilling an opened, full box of grass seed across a freshly planted border was foolish and in the days to come, I could rue my carelessness at leisure … whilst pulling up and smudging-out hundreds of tiny grass seedlings.  That was boring.

Transplanting several miscanthus into a mostly weed-free bed only to notice, much later, that I’d also transplanted pernicious couch grass wasn’t great either.  (Still battling that one).

Or how about planting horseradish into The Priory vegetable garden, despite knowing how very invasive it is?  I thought, very cleverly, that if I sunk them still in their plastic pots, very cleverly they wouldn’t get established and very cleverly I need simply lift out to harvest.  Sheer yet simple genius.  Except, it didn’t work out like that; and don’t try my very clever idea at home.  Horseradish roots burrow straight down through the holes of a plastic pot and aim for the warmth of Australia.  Rip the pots out by all means but you’ll leave behind impossible-to-dig-out-roots going deeper than is botanically possible; and from which new growth will spring back to taunt you.  In one of the six veg beds, horseradish is here for good and will probably outlive me.  And you.

I added a pretty olive tree to a small lawn and then stood by in callous ignorance as it faded unto death.  A few hundred yards away, in my own garden on top of the hill, a similar olive romped away beguilingly; and I had assumed that this one would too.  But down in The Priory’s fierce frost pocket, one winter I murdered that little tree.  Rather than moving it to safety, as it faltered and withered, I convinced myself that it would soon overcome its transplant sulk and romp away.  But it didn’t and I hung on to obstinate delusion until after the little thing was dead.  Willing something to live isn’t always enough.  (Six or seven years later, and after replacing the olive with a Dawyck Gold beech tree, I still call that patch of grass, ‘The Olive Lawn’  – much to the bewilderment of others).

Deer are a perennial foe but I was grateful at least that they weren’t tempted by eucalypts.  Encouraged by their indifference to three young E. gunnii, I planted another eucalyptus – a beautiful young snow gum – on The Priory drive.  But a deer’s taste is a fickle thing and one morning a year or so later, the small gum tree had been decisively destroyed.  I dug up the stump, put it an a pot to recover and a couple of years later it was big enough to plant within the slightly safer confines of the garden … where, after it had grown higher than my head, deer decisively destroyed it again.  Now, a few months later and still in situ, it has re-sprouted to a height of eight inches; and the deer are licking their lips.

Once, I was haring about the meadow on the ride-on mower and in a hurry, swung round at full pelt to cross the wooden bridge spanning a ditch.  I hit the bridge’s slight step stupidly fast and the mower bucked alarmingly.  As I fought to stay aboard, limbs windmilling, my mobile phone shot from a pocket, described a lovely arc and ker-plunked into three-foot of water – never to work again.  That was expensive.

Or there was the time I lit a smallish bonfire in my garden and, in no time, a fire engine pulled up outside the house, with flashing lights and everything, and a troop of firemen came running at me.  They were terrifically dashing and charming; and after satisfying themselves that the fire was tended by someone borderline competent, shot off again … leaving me a little breathless and wondering whether it all hadn’t been a rather delicious dream.

And years ago, I was browsing the reduced bargains in a plant nursery when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a particularly cheap black bamboo.  Swivelling around to grab it – before anyone else could – I smartly, and in a manner I couldn’t possibly now emulate, tangled up my feet and crashed to the ground.  To this day, when I tell Jim I’m off to inspect the sale items in a garden centre, he’ll softly call after me, “OK but do try not to fall over, dear.”

No major mistakes then, no life-changing circumstance, no death-defying tales but a brief litany of plans not going to plan or plain silly mishaps.

What mistakes have you made?  What buffoonery?  And we know you have, so please do share.  There are no prizes for the best, I’m afraid … only a pat on the shoulder and a consoling “There, there.

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