To maintain a life long interest in gardening you need a philosophy , a theme if you like , that you work towards , not a topical trend as for example heathers … who plants the big expanses of heathers coupled with tall slim line conifers now ?
You start out like every budding gardener with annuals and build up to perennials and basically you learn about plants , what they like and dislike , soil conditions and how not to fight nature and try to force plants to grow in impossible locations but then you begin to learn that on the right plant right place principle there is a plant for every location . You get and read a few self help garden books or look up a few gardening sites on the internet , start watching TV Garden programmes like Monty Don on Gardener’s World every Friday night at 8 pm on BBC Two .
You experiment with cottage garden , perennial beds , invest in a few trees for structure etc. and in the process lose a few plants and trees and suddenly it all clicks together … you are now ready for your future interest in gardening … if you are lucky by which I mean a lot of people get stuck at this stage in that they have reached an acceptable level of knowledge where your garden thrives and you don’t lose anymore plants , you keep the lawn mowed regularly on a Saturday morning , dead head a few roses every now and then , have a few insightful garden phrases and complain about black spot and green fly … but that’s it for the next 40 years , you don’t progress …. to the end of his life my Father was a white alyssum/ blue lobelia in strict rotation man and was appalled at my wild gardening efforts which he found very untidy and messy …. to each his/her own !
The next level is to develop your own personal philosophy and your gardening theme ,,, mine is unashamedly naturalistic wild gardening , no regimented wide expanses of perennial planting each dead headed regularly , succession planting up to October and definitely no roses !
I let my plants fight it out for space as in nature and only prune back if there is serious overflowing onto the paths that make it difficult to push through .
I said no roses and that is because I got fed up over the early years losing the battle against black spot which disfigures roses in this country and I tried everything from Jeyes Fluid without success and as for dead heading , this was a real pain in the ass as I had over 200 roses at one time … and then there was the green fly and there is nothing more disgusting in my view than a beautiful rose crawling with green fly … not worth the hardship involved so no roses !
That said there are exceptions and I grow one variety of rose here and I love it … the old fashioned rosa rugosa with its white and pink flower varieties followed by beautiful rose hips . This is a serious foliage plant with its beautiful glaucus green leaf and easy forgiving nature , you can cut it to the ground every spring with a chain saw and back it comes by July as beautiful as ever … and NO black spot or green fly !
An important element in every gardener’s progression is to visit other gardens and learn from their owners . I don’t mean the large Mount Cosgrave type of estate but the smaller private gardens where you pick up great tips about planting combinations and the likes and dislikes of various plants which you can then put into practice in your own garden .
And along the way you need to get used to being wet, muddy , tired and cold , fingers numb ,,, it is not all sunshine out there !