Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Armchair Gardener

On the patio there stands a forlorn group of herbaceous perennials all waiting to go into my new herbaceous border.   Each is a named variety.
In the new bed there are seven or eight already planted and they are named too.   I love the Latin names of plants and the way they slide off the tongue - there is a Helleborus niger, an Astrantia Shaggy - it gives them such a sense of importance.

The group already in the garden have plant tags attached.   The ones waiting on the patio have their names written on their pots, so this morning on the way to the manicurist I called in and bought some plastic plant tags.   When the rain stops (if it ever does) I shall go out and write the names roughly on a sheet of paper and then come in and  print them neatly on the tags.   That way, when my gardener puts them into the garden, we shall be able to call them by name.

My father was a great armchair gardener.   He loved his garden and, most of all, he loved to be able to rattle the Latin names off his tongue.  He won a scholarship to go to Grammar School in the early nineteen hundreds but there was no way his parents could afford for him to go.    But he became self-educated, reading the classics, learning reams of poetry off by heart and learning the rudiments of Latin.

I remember very little Latin from my Grammar School days (amo, amas, amat:  Mensa, mensa, mensam just about covers it) but I   do love those Latin plant names and I shall have them in my garden for posterity.

Here is a little poem I wrote about my father in 2007:
The Armchair Gardener.

Swathes of poppies,
banks of delphimium,
frondy ferns, and a
cascade of ponds.

He planned it all from the
comfort of his armchair.
the golden dandelions
and a rash of purple thistles
painted their own canvas.



Mac n' Janet said...

So far this year I've had to be an armchair gardener and I'm hoping by next month I'll be able to get out and grub in the soil.

Christina said...

A beautiful poem, pat. I love to garden, it's a real passion of mine but these days I have to admit, the weather has to be "just right".
I look forward to seeing your garden in photos, later in the year.

gz said...

with so many different common names,the Latin ones have a use.
Hoping for better gardening weather here too. Good days here are still interspersed with days of grey and cold biting wind

Rachel Phillips said...

The poem is quite funny. Shame he wasn't alive when you wrote it to share the laugh with you, which I assume he would have done.

Minigranny said...

Lovely poem - I think we all can be armchair gardeners at times. Even with the best will in the world the weeds can beat us to it!

Librarian said...

Your poem is a lovely and funny little tribute to your father. I'm afraid my Dad will sooner or later have to turn into an armchair gardener, too; not by choice but by health limits.
Latin plant names are a bit like everyday magic, aren't they! In Germany, people use them very rarely, which is a shame.
I have never learned Latin at school, as I opted for French when we had the choice between the two. But since I speak Italian, I understand most Latin inscriptions I come across in old churches and so on.

angryparsnip said...

I too love the Latin Names of plants. I wish I would have taken Latin in school.
Since I live in a desert, the lovely English lush gardens you have are just a dream. I can not wait to see what you have done with your back yard.
I am an Armchair Gardner as I can only tell Son and the Gardners what I want. The years of digging, planting and moving plants are now gone.
The poem was lovely. I think your Father would have enjoyed it.

cheers, parsnip

the veg artist said...

My Latin teacher also used to take our Welsh class once a week for conversational Welsh - something that can be quite different to 'book' Welsh. I remember her throwing a board rubber towards my head one day (she missed), saying "You can do Welsh. Why the **** can't you do Latin?" Some of it did stick, though, and I'm grateful that we had the chance.

Granny Sue said...

Such a good description, a man who could see great things, even if he could not do them himself.

My gardening is dwindling, I am afraid. Each year I look for easier and easier ways to get the color I want. This year it may be sad indeed as my main gardener--my husband--will have knee surgery soon. Fresh veggies will be a a premium too I'm afraid. But in the end, I hope, he will feel much better and that is good.

Joanne Noragon said...

If you're an armchair gardener, raise you hand! Mine is high.

Jennyff said...

I too studied Latin at school and promptly forgot it all when I left but I do love the Latin names for plants and it comes in useful when in Italy to know them. Here in the UK I am pretty much an armchair gardener too, though often raging as our paid 'gardener' gets it all wrong.

Amanda said...

My grandparents, like your father, had their educations curtailed by life's hardships; like him, they kept reading all their lives. My grandfather adored Shakespeare - which you would not expect of a dirt farmer in Southwest Virginia. One of my few memories of him is him sitting on the front porch after dark, reciting the prologue from Henry V. My mother got the bright idea to start bringing my Grandmother library books, which she about gobbled up. We never could talk her into letting us take her to the library. As much as we loved the idea of her seeing all those books, I think she found the idea a bit overwhelming.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks everyone.

hart said...

Love the poem.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Nice poem and memories of your father. My dad was something of a landing window gardener - he would stand gazing out and planning what he was going to do when he got outside.

Tom Stephenson said...

I love your poem, Weave.

Heather said...

I love your poem to your father. My father was a keen gardener and aged 13, while his father was serving in the Army during WW1, he kept the family veg.patch going. Later in life he reclaimed a very overgrown garden and brought it back to life, feeding his own family and growing wonderful flowers.

Bea said...

Nice memory of your father. My pop learned the Latin plant names as well and always spiked his potted plants with said names. He gardened up a storm at our family home. A lawn would come in, then go out. Perennial flowers would go in, then be replaced with annuals. You name, he'd plant it.

Anonymous said...

Do you know the poetry of Jacques Prévert?