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Green up Your Fingers - The Basics

Fuchsia Giants Collection AFuchsia Giants Collection
5 young plants
- £5
Turbo-charged plants, guaranteed to give a stunning display. Fill your containers with colour all summer.

You too can have hands that look like this!There's nothing mystical or magical about having "green fingers". Gardening like everything else is a mixture of inspiration and perspiration, and is biased towards the second of these.

Green-fingeredness is not something you are or aren't born with, and it can certainly be learnt. Like other skills - golf, ballroom dancing, cookery, rock-climbing etc. some people will be naturally better than others. If you put in the time and effort and are prepared to learn, then you can develop the verdant digits so envied by those for whom everything botanical seems to perish as soon as their back is turned.

Successful gardeners aren't really magiciansGardening certainly isn't a black art and can be learnt by any-one, it just sometimes requires a mental leap into believing that you really can understand these funny plants and their peculiar foreign ways.

The key is that you enjoy what you are doing, and want to learn.

Others will differ, but I think that there are three aspects to green-fingeredness;

    Effort        Empathy        Knowledge


Everything I touch turns green!    Effort - One rule of thumb I use is "don't use a trowel if you can get a spade in". People frequently garden on too small a scale, tickling the soil as it's easier, rather than getting deeper down into it. The effort can be spread over more than one day and is probably better that way so you get to look at your plants more often. I've always tried to look at it like a free visit to the gym with an end result other than just a pool of sweat on the floor.

 Frequently inspect your plants so that you know as soon as possible when they need attention. When planting, prepare the soil well, and do it every time you plant. Weed frequently, dig out the roots of perennial weeds, don't just cut off the top-growth. Make borders wide, they look so much better. Dead-head frequently for a continuous show of blooms. OK you get the idea now.


Take time to commune with your plants    Empathy - This is the most difficult aspect to learn. It entails looking at life from the plants point of view, seeing why it is happy or unhappy in its current position. Thinking about the impact of flowering, pruning, pests etc. But at least it's easy because you can relax when you do it.

Plants are living things, and like other living things - you, your cat, children, parents etc. they have their foibles and preferences. The commonest reasons that plants fail are that they are planted in the wrong place (some-times the wrong country) and they are not allowed to establish themselves properly. Look at them like children when you first get them, appropriate attention early on is worth ten times the remedial help when things have gone wrong due to a lack of care.


    Knowledge - While it is certainly very useful to carry around a knowledge base of plants, soil conditions, pests etc. in your head, it's not necessary with so many books being available. As long you know when and where to find the information.

If you can't afford to buy books then there are plenty of web sites to get the information from, though books do have their conveniences! Another important thing is to apply the knowledge up front, think about what plants you are going to buy before you buy them, and where they are going to go before you plant them.


The following is reproduced with thanks to Roger Noakes.

"Christopher Lloyd is almost 80, is a great gardener and plants man, has an encyclopaedic knowledge and love of plants, writes for newspapers and magazines and has a number of books to his credit.  So he knows a thing or two. I also like his attitude to gardens and gardening.  Here are two quotes from Lloyd that appeal to me:

  • "If you want to learn how to slow down in your garden, you have come to the right person.  The first essential is to get other people to do the work for you.  To this end, at least one of them needs to be young and muscular and they must be either very fond of you or be well paid by you."
  •  "The garden's chief attraction is for sitting in and relaxing with champagne or some other sparkling wine, if it is morning, or some stronger spirit in the evening, and good conversation with friends."
Now that's what gardens are for!!  Contrast that with the following: Now I know that some people are obsessive about their gardens but the other day I read that one Jim Crace who is a novelist cuts the edges of his lawn with a pair of scissors!!  He explains, "Having tidy edges is important to me.  They make the garden look sharp, spruce and ready for inspection".  And there I was thinking that gardens were to be enjoyed rather than inspected like an army private's kit."

A couple more things;

Don't be afraid, get stuck in!

Don't be impatient!


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