What are you doing?
I’m cutting down these plants. They look awful.
What about the lawn?
I don’t have a lawnmower.
Are you going to climb the high ladder?
And so it went on. The problem is that our gardener retired on health grounds. He was not the best gardener I have ever met but he was efficient, polite and over time grew to understand that it was a waste of time asking me if he could scatter Chinese pesticides all over the place to stop the worms (= caterpillars) eating all the foliage. What happened next was supposed to be along the lines of:
In his brother’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
The younger brother took over in the absence of a page. He was everything the elder brother was not. His gardening implement of preference, indeed possibly his only tool, was the chain saw. That and a sack of Chinese pesticide. I could not believe the carnage. And he wanted to charge us more money. After the second visitation confirmed there was no hope of redemption we fired him. Bang.
And so began the quest for the holy
grail gardener. We had one sniff of a lead but it withered on the vine. Mrs. Ha saw a gardener going to another house and asked them if they would “do” for us. Can I do you now, sir? Enter a rather short, portly man with a distinctly patronising air.
Its not a very good garden is it? he said.
My immediate thought was that if I had wanted him to critique the garden Marco and I had designed I would have said so. Discretion for once was the better part of pruning.
Well it hasn’t been tended much for some time, I replied. We rather thought you were the man to get it back in shape.
Its not a very good garden is it? he repeated. I don’t want to do it.
After much cajoling and the threat of Lulu biting his ankles the patronising, portly pruner agreed to do us an enormous favour and come and do us once. And of course he wanted more money. When we called later to fix a date and time he was unavailable. Lulu isn’t much of a sniffer dog so there was little chance of her hunting him down. She is reluctant to play Pedro to my Sexton Blake. And that meant there was only one other solution. DIY. That thought went through my mind when Mrs. Ha asked if I was finally going to do the garden. She trumped me however by threatening to recall younger brother with chain saw.
It was Dragon Boat day today. My choice was go out in 35C heat and photograph dragon boat racing or cut down a few bits and pieces in the hope that I would get time off for good behaviour. Out came the secateurs. And that is where we came in.
When we left Britain I left behind in the garage for the new owners of my old house a veritable treasure trove of gardening tools. From lawnmower to long-handled shears, from edging cutters to garden forks, bright, shiny, stainless steel Wilkinson Sword blades sharp enough to cut through anything nature could put in the way. Oh how I wish I had those tools now.
I wilted in the heat and before I do much more I shall have to find a shop that sells all those horticultural trinkets. Or find another gardener. I am in despair.
So what do you think about when its the hottest day of the year outside? Well I thought about Antarctica and how much easier the gardening would be down there. I could ditch the lawnmower for a start. And so as I don’t have a picture of The Three Tenors for M.R., here are The Three Skuas. In a pesticide free rock garden. (Cue Percy Grainger).