All Passion Spent (or lets say 'redirected')

I’m really missing the days of untrammelled plant acquisitiveness.  They were the glory days – that period of time when I lived in one big happy world of new and interesting plants – all of which had to be purchased and trialled.

I’m just way too sensible about it all now.  No, it’s not sensible, as such.  It’s a new place – a place in which plants aren’t so much enjoyed for themselves, as what they contribute to the larger scheme.  I don’t think there’s been a net passion loss.  The passion has moved to other things.

There was a moment way back when I had a thing for growing Lewisias from seed. Where would I ever plant them now? Does anyone have any cool, slightly damp stone walls to tickle them into?

This must be due, at least partly, to the guilt of having killed way too many of my impulsive purchases.  They’d sit around in their pots for a year or two, and that would mean almost certain (but probably slow and painful) death for any plants in my care.  I’m in awe of friends of mine who keep a huge collection of plants in pots and never – and I really mean never – overlook their need for water.

I’ve come to see that the non-planting of my plants was never about laziness.  It was always (well nearly always) a result of not having an appropriate spot in the garden to put them.  They shouldn’t have been purchased in the first place.  And when I say that there wasn’t a spot, I don’t mean that there wasn’t any room for them, as you can nearly always find room for anything you can’t live without.  The challenge is providing a suitable context.  The fact is that I’m never likely to have a rock garden (though as I write, and start to wonder…why not?),  and there’s so many diminutive alpines and bulbs that simply have no other place to go.  They’re not at all cut out for the rough and tumble of garden-life around here, being bullied by the explosive growth of nearby grasses that go from ground level to three or four metres in a couple of months.

Nor is there likely to be a good place for any really large shrubs or trees that take my fancy.

I could really go a Cornus alternifolia argentea, but I’d need a vast wall or two of modest greenery for background to make it look any good, and I’m a bit short on those

So you see the problem.  You’re probably facing it yourself.

But I really miss those days of irresponsible, irrepressible plant lust.


  1. Michael, I still can’t resist spending on my passion but by way of redemption I try and spend with knowledge and acumen.
    My garden is small but every year I am tempted by bulb catalogues and I willingly queue with excitement at Plant Fairs. I have never kept a log ,or garden diary as some of my esteemed peers have done since arriving in this country some 60 years ago. There would be too many records of demise, i would be too disillusioned and would probably never buy another plant again.
    Thirty years ago I gardened in Richmond. i wanted to grow Astrantia major. There was probably only one cultivar available then. To try and induce dormancy every evening i piled ice blocks on it’s crown. Blue poppies have never been my aspiration though much endeavoured by many. Now I would rather flower N. viridiflora as my friends in Redesdale do , but thankfully my summers are not sufficiently hot.
    Halesia monticola is very desirable shrub but i would never advise it to be planted on the coast , or away from cooler mountainous areas , so I kept my mouth shut when a friend told me she had just purchased one for her garden up on the Murray.

    Maybe we should be grateful for our horticultural isolation for in England, undoubtedly the choice would be overwhelming. However if our choice is made with serious reference to ” climate, context and companions ” then indubitably no purchase can be denied and so the pleasure persists.

    1. Choices being made with “serious reference to ‘climate, context and companions'” is exactly the sort of measured, non-spontaneous approach that now afflicts me, Cathy. It’s what I’m bemoaning, rather than what I’m aiming for.
      But it’s a nice list, that c x 3. Even if we get the climate thing early on, it usually takes us years to start considering context and companions. It may mean less impulsive purchasing, but will certainly result in a much better garden

  2. Thank you! You’ve eased my troubled conscience a little, I too have many guilty plant deaths to my name. I have slowly come to recognise the danger periods for impulsive purchases though, the cooling days of autumn are a prime candidate. How soon we forget the scorching droughty days of summer and all of a sudden anything seems possible, the now damp leaf mould would be a perfect home for all those woodland plants….and then the catalogues and magazines start arriving. What hope have we got? Not sure if it is stupidity or the eternally optimistic nature of gardeners…maybe this time it will grow!

    1. I love that idea – recognising the danger periods. The only thing for it, then, would be to spend as much of that danger period on a tropical island, or perhaps lounging around in gardens on the other side of the planet, as a serious self-protective measure.

  3. C x 3. Think I’ll hang on to that one. Love a good maxim, though technically, I’ve just read that it would be triple times correct to describe it as a ‘Gnome’.

    This from wikipedia –

    Gnome (Greek: gnome, from gignoskein, to know). A type of saying, especially an aphorism or a maxim, that is designed to provide instruction in a compact form.

    …anyways I never make a decision on anything in the garden till I’ve run this maxim by my neo-frontal cortex from the Late, Great, Robert Hughes. –

    “Lucidity, deliberation, probity and calm are still the chief virtues of painting”

    Trouble is – given my propensity for vacillation, nothing really happens, I get frustrated and so I do a random plonk.

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