Thursday, 27 February 2014

Clear up and clear out

As my study was slowly filling up with what can only be politely termed as crap, yesterday was the day to push back the rising tide of clutter and clobber which threatens to overwhelm us. My paper recycling is now overflowing and at last I have space on my shelves.  I've finally embraced the digital age and decided that my back catalogue of gardening cuttings and old magazines can be pulped to generate new newsprint.

Time to clear out old gardening articles in the digital age.So why throw away my carefully hoarded and meticulously filed ring binders of  gardening wisdom and inspiration? The dust on the folders alone states the most obvious cause for this drastic action. And how has this dust come to accumulate? As my knowledge of gardening has increased, my need to refer has dwindled and when I do need to check something, these days I have quite a wel-thumbed library of reference books on horticultural topics.

Reference book collection has grown over the years.Also, since I started these files about 20 years ago, a awful lot has changed and things once deemed the apotheosis of garden fashion now have the stylistic resonance of 'the mullet'. It brought a smile to my face looking at the clippings and articles as I consigned them to the recycling bin: seeing a youthful Toby Buckland with gelled blond hair beaming over a 'water feature' made from a terracotta urn with blue glass beads spilling out of it to represent gentle rivulets; chuckling at those 90s paint effects which daubed every bit of exposed woodwork an interesting shade of Cuprinol; and reflecting on my own experimentation in that era with my bright blue fence and wine bottle lawn edging - a contemporary marvel until it was time to actually get the mower anywhere near it...

But not only have hairstyles, gardening themes and plant fashions changed over time, also the way we keep notes and records of our gardening life has been massively influenced by the availability of technology.  Digital cameras mean we can record the changes in our gardens weekly without the expense of having to post strange torpedoes of unexposed film to Truprint, only for them to be revealed a week later as a collection of murky hued shots, blurred due to being tripped up by a cat or to our subjects being blown by a gust the wind as we depressed the shutter.

My narrative garden diaries have been replaced by this blog (and its much easier to find things by searching the labels, rather than having to guess the time of year when I might have thought enough about something to actually write it down).

Wishlists still exist (how could they not with so many gorgeous plants out there) - but I was very surprised to find that I now possess most of the flowers I once dreamed of as I surveyed my pocket handkerchief London garden in the 1990s.  And now my wishlists are electronic too - Pinterest is the place where I put them as it provides the same visual bookmarking system as my folder, without consuming the same quantity of shelf space or poly-pockets, and enabling me to navigate straight to the place I can actually buy the plants from. Dangerous...

Outside the virtual world, my next big task in the garden is to perform a similar sort of purge on my plantings.  I'm going to be casting a critical eye over the specimens which are really now past their best. Woody, leggy lavenders will get snipped for cuttings and chucked out.  Perennials will be divided to reinvest them with vigour and whole patches will be cleared, fed and replanted with annuals later in the season.  Old tulip bulbs can have their last small headed fling and then they will be quietly removed and spirited away to the compost bin. The only question that remains is whether the early fart of colour provided by the 1970s purple and yellow primulas will be enough to keep them in the flower border. I hate them, but love them because they remind me of being a kid (and I obviously like to pretend I only have tasteful plants in my garden, because the only photo I have of them is the one below where they are hiding beneath a gorgeous anemone!).

Purple and yellow primulas with more restrained spring flowers in a bunch.


  1. Lovely to have a look on your gardenbook shelf, you understand my favorite books. I could not help laughing about your 'seventies' primulas. My father, 94 years old, has them in a row along the gardenpath. He always collects the seeds for me so I have to sow them in my garden. I have them (not so many) in my garden. I don't hate them but I also don't like them very much, they are just memories....

    1. Mine seem to just multiply by magic and sneak into more space. I always mean to dig some out, but then can never quite do it as they provide early cheer when there's nothing else around, even though they're garish. You know what I was saying in a previous post about colour clashes… maybe yellow and purple could be the new scheme….!

  2. Reading this reminded me that I too have a huge collection of old gardening magazines that I never look at - might be time for a spring clean!