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Which comes first – the plants or the garden?

Plants – that’s the whole point of having a garden, isn’t it? Or is it? I only questioned this after reading Anne Wareham’s The Bad Tempered Gardener. Like all great books, it makes you think long after you’ve finished it.

Two chapters, in particular, struck a chord – first, ‘I Hate Gardening’ with the great quote: “Gardening is talked-up housework that you have to do outside… Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework.”

Then there’s ‘Plant Obsessives’: “People describe themselves as ‘plantaholics’ without any of the shame you’d think such a term should provoke.”

It is here that I hold up my hands and blush profusely. I am one of those people who impulse buys plants and I have done since I was a child. I can’t explain it – a bit like I imagine a drug rush, I suppose.

She’s quite right of course – Anne’s garden, The Veddw, has simple, clean, elegant lines and nothing looks bitty. It is properly designed – no oddities shoehorned in.

Cluttered disaster area

My garden is not properly designed. Well, it is in my head, but so much gets in the way. Plant obsessive + small garden = cluttered disaster area.

I start each season, when the catalogues come out, and plan what I am going to grow, then place my orders early.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), there arrives an influx of plants and seeds to trial, which I’m not grumbling about, but does upset the apple cart a bit.

Red Abyssinian and two Dwarf Cavendish bananas – the red is an excellent drinking buddy
The Bad Tempered Gardener by Anne Wareham
The Bad Tempered Gardener

Then there are the shows. Harrogate (Spring and Autumn) shows are my greatest downfall – lovely specialist nurseries offering special deals. It’s not so bad if I go there with a pal or long-suffering Gary – I have transport.

My finest hour was the Autumn show 2015 – I travelled down by taxi, two trains and a bus (each way). I couldn’t resist an Abyssinian Red Banana from the Lost World Nursery – about 4ft tall with two leaves. There’s a smashing photo of the banana enjoying a pint at Harrogate railway station on the way home. I have ‘form’ in idiot buying.

This section concentrates on plant families, or plants groups that perform the same function, such as evergreens or hardy climbers. I hope you find it a useful reference point for plants to grow in your garden – with a much firmer design ethic than me.