There are many who consider gardening The Gentle Pastime:
a peaceful, unflustered and unhurried personal interaction between man/woman and nature as the year spins its course through the seasons. Pottering about the garden shed, tidying up the spring and summer bedding, weeding herbaceous borders, pruning clematises roses and wisteria, sowing pots of salad leaves and radishes and looking forward to a small bounty from the strawberry plants strategically trailing from ideally positioned wicker baskets bought in Woodies or B&Q at Easter time.
And then there’s the gentle rhythmic see-sawing of push cylinder lawnmowers, the clippity clip snippity snip of the shears, and the waft of fresh cut grass! And if the summer really proves itself, who knows, perhaps the odd glass of slightly chilled prosecco with added splash of elderflower cordial ál fresco whilst idly leafing the Collin’s coffee table Guide to Garden Flora of the British Isles and soaking up the heady scent of night-stock and jasmine, with the promise of home-grown tomatoes from the growbags on the patio should the weather hold through till September.
Gardening is the gentle art, endless with possibilities and countless capabilities. Harmonious and therapeutic gardening is the slightly dirty activity that helps to cultivate the soul. Hopeful and optimistic and limited only by the gardener’s imagination it is a moderate-intensity exercise with the added benefits of fresh air; a stress buster and improver of mental health and (if you happen to grow your own vegetables) your garden can be a source of organically grown pesticide free and no air-miles produce, and all by means of your own effort.
Then of course, there’s the Allotment Garden, where everything aforesaid can be composted immediately and where every single gardening, landscaping and urban farming concept is quite conspicuously and unceremoniously turned on its head.
If gardeners be considered swans, then allotmenteers be the walking waddling swimming quacking blood-thirsty soul-sucking teradactyducktils who’ll readily declare war on their fellow plot holders based on nothing more than a Swiss chard whim or a dislike for the neighbours blue delphiniums, and who all too easily will resort to terror tactics if it is thought someone else’s cabbages and beetroots are performing better than their own. Not all allotmenteers are of this genus, but every plot holder will instantly recognise the classification.
If gardening be the gentle pastime, then allotmenteering is the disreputable underbelly of the gardening world. A great deal of the time allotment sites are promoted as council or civic projects with the misleading façade of a community development initiative, but this all too often turns out to be dubious pitch, and all too often the downright dirty and two-faced side of the horticultural hobby world is easily exposed on the allotment site.
The modern allotment site is where yummy mummy’s get to meet and greet the retired retiring policeman, and mild mannered council workers get to rub shoulders with foreign bank clerks; where lifelong bus driver meets chartered physiotherapist or architect; where Tesco meets Lidl meets Aldi meets Facebook meets Ryan Air, and where everyone is an expert in their own field, but no-one has a clue what to do on their little plot. It’s where throngs of disparate strangers with too much time on their hands and absolutely no ideas about gardening are suddenly thrust into the same demarcated site and expected to…well…garden? It’s boom time for new tool sales in the big outlet stores. And it’s all shiny new wheelbarrows, and Cath Kidston co-ordinated wellies and gloves, it’s hand forged forks and stainless steel dibbers, metric tonne cubic meter bags of compost and soil improver; and Fothergill’s, and Thompson’s and Morgan, and Sutton’s and Mr Middleton’s, and before a single sod is turned it certainly looks the part…Or so it is thought.
Of course, there are those with all the gardening ability of a Terrestrial Gastropod Mollusc who’ll quickly lose interest in the getting the hands dirty aspect of allotment life, but who, in their desire to remain connected with all things allotmenty, will content themselves with the plotted and potted politics of the allotment garden and are slowly and inexorably drawn to life on the allotment site steering committee. And just when you thought life on a city council allotment site couldn’t deteriorate much more, you suddenly learn you have to contend with the small-minded group think willing to invest hundreds of €’s or £’s in printing laminated corrie-board rules on composting whilst forgetting that rocks and stones don’t compost too easily , or who’ll spend months on end devising duty rosters and grass cutting schedules for other plot holders to help maintain council communal areas, or or who send endless group texts advertising pub quizzes and fundraisers to help generate the funds they say are needed to develop future projects and yet somehow fail to invest more than €10.00 in actual green-stock, and this only on seed being sold cheaply in the early season sales mainly because it is past its sow by date…
So, you search for a hat to take off, and you bite your tongue, you watch as all the flower beds are zapped with round-up and replaced with 3rd rate grass seed, and you just wait…
and you bite down, hard. You don’t throw your hat at it yet, but, you find it difficult not to lose the head and to help you hold your tongue you bite down hard…