The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Veg: It’s gardening, but not as I know it


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The very last of the snowdrops have just gone over. Delayed flowering has made for the loveliest and unlikeliest of bedfellows: snowdrops on crocus, daffodils and tulips emerging together with the hyacinths, and delphinium foliage that’s now growing like a rocket. With so much noisy life finally breaking the winter silence, I’ll be free of all the planning and the purchasing — mostly bulbs, mostly unnecessary, but what else was I supposed to do in January? — and can start planting.

My enthusiasm for the Eatin’ Project is growing — just. After all the faff with early vegetable seedlings and sorting the raised bed, I’m feeling protective towards these baby plants. That said, I have turfed them into the bed already — heavily protected winter cos lettuce, with a pot of carrot seedlings at the middle — both to see if they’re made of strong stuff and because the lettuce, for one, really did look ready. The carrot container is raised that extra bit above carrot fly altitude, and the seedlings are inter-planted with spring onions to throw any highfliers off the scent.

It just doesn’t feel like gardening. In my greenhouse are glossy hellebore seedlings, hair-like snakeshead fritillary seedlings that have just emerged after a year in pots, and white cosmos planted just weeks ago which is already pushing up its first leaves. I look at them and I feel actual joy. They’re all sharing the greenhouse with the newer cos lettuce seedlings — but I look at them and I feel nothing.

I think it’s because the lettuce has no prospect of being beautiful. This afternoon I let out a yelp when I saw my first morning glory “Grandpa Otts” seedling raise its heart-shaped head. I consider this the most beautiful seed-grown plant in my garden, with violet flowers so intense they make me feel my vision is being pulled to the end the spectrum. My passion for roses, too, is down to the aesthetics: the first time I saw the David Austin Roses catalog, I couldn’t believe anything could be so beautiful.
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I do like the ferny carrot foliage, and the strawberries I’ve edged the bed with (thanks for the idea, Grace) are pleasingly pleated. But the aesthetic aspect of the vegetables I’m growing is pretty rubbish. The two pear trees I’ve put in are a different story: I love the progress of their lengthening, pointy buds and I know blossom is on the way.

I need to persist with this project. And last weekend it was a bit thrilling to plant some vegetable seeds with my three-year-old daughter. “I’m a gardener!” she said. That’s my girl.

What’s your feeling about the beauty of vegetables? Do you need beauty in the plants you care for? Can you give plants the love they need if you don’t admire them?

8 Comments to

“Veg: It’s gardening, but not as I know it”

  1. On March 29th, 2010 at 11:04 am Mairead Devlin Says:

    While I like the pretty stuff, I’m not willing to spend much time on it. They are ornaments I don’t want to dust. I get excited about growing veg the way you get excited about “Grandpa Otts”! I’m more than happy to spend time on veg. Waiting to eat the first courgette, wondering how the tomatoes will do this year, planting peas for the first time – all exciting stuff to me.

  2. On March 29th, 2010 at 11:27 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Mairead – interesting, & totally different from my perspective! Sometimes I think I am going to start to enjoy the fruit and vegetable growing, especially as I consider the few remaining vertical surfaces around the garden and start to realize that something edible would be a better use of the warm, sunny position than something purely ornamental. But right now I still love my ornaments much, much more than my edibles. I’ve planted a climbing scented rose between the potato bags at the side of the raised bed, to give myself a fix of scent while I’m doing the vegetable jobs. This is not the action of a person with the heart of a vegetable gardener. I’m hoping my first harvest will convert me, especially since Sally has asked again if we can “plant more carrot seeds.” What the daughter wants, the daughter gets!

  3. On March 30th, 2010 at 12:25 pm Kara Says:

    I feel the same about all my plants. Vegetables and fruit are fun to watch and picked at the moment of peak ripeness. Flowers add interest the rest of the year. When you combine veg, flowers and herbs together, you have an all-season garden of interest. All kinds of scents, textures, colors and flavor.

  4. On March 30th, 2010 at 1:47 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Kara – I’m becoming more convinced that if I mix the vegetables and flowers together I will have a lot more satisfaction. Btw I have just visited your blog and you might like to hear this lecture if you haven’t heard it — Peter Seabrook Vista lecture part one and two, where he talks about getting involved years ago with the Victory Garden. Those antique illustrations on your website are beautiful!

  5. On April 1st, 2010 at 1:09 pm HappyMouffetard Says:

    I understand what you mean – there isn’t that lurch in the stomach with veg. But sit amongst rows of broad beans in flower on a warm summer day, with the bees flying around, and the glorious perfume wafting over you and I challenge you not to be moved.

  6. On April 1st, 2010 at 1:26 pm Kate Bradbury Says:

    I know it sounds silly, but I get the same excitement from the first flowers on my broad beans, peas and tomatoes, knowing it won’t be that long until I’m eating the fruits of my labour. And the flowers are quite pretty too – I know they’ll never be as lovely as morning glory, but you can’t eat morning glory. There’s something really special about raising a plant from seed and seeing to through to eating its produce. Stick with it I’m sure you’ll learn to love it!! Kate

  7. On April 1st, 2010 at 2:42 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Happy, Kate: you guys are going to get me wanting to grow broad beans – especially the glorious perfume bit. Can I admit something terrible? I don’t know what to do with them when they’re ready to pick. Any ideas?

  8. On June 9th, 2010 at 9:12 pm Kate Bradbury Says:

    My favourite way to eat broad beans is with a warm potato salad (potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, capers and a dash of vinegar). I toss fresh peas and broad beans among them (not cooked, the potatoes warm them through enough). Then I top with a sprig of mint. I dream about that dish all through winter…Kate

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