Dead heading, dead heading, dead heading! The gardening sections of the newspapers have been on about it for weeks. People have been on about it in blogs. They all have been on about it on twitter.

So when SS visited the garden and said: ‘Hmmmm! You do know you could get a second crop of flowers on many things if you dead headed, don’t you?’ I fear I was a tad snappy. 

‘Harrumph…..you do realise how big this garden is, don’t you?

‘Well yes, but of course at……’ 

Now SS has worked in some extremely smart establishments. And I mean smart. In fact they don’t get any smarter. Yes, I mean that one. And that is a little bit SS’s way. To trot out what happened at, say, Lady Letty Fforbes Trumpington Smythe’s high fallootin’ establishment. When, that is, she doesn’t mention the place that tops them all. Yes that one

And I would like to know what all these places were really like. I fear there is a certain sort of rosey glow of the past about them. If I know anything about noblesse oblige, oblige it does! Unless of course its that one and then the staffing regime in those echelons always use to be one and a half people per job. Ie they were over staffed!

I think gardens and how they perform are very different. Just recently a couple of people commenting on this blog had time to cut off the flowers they didn’t like the colour of. Let alone ones that had actually finished flowering! Here 200 metres above sea level in thin soil over limestone I spent many of the weeks when I could have been dead heading watering plants just to keep them alive! 

But, I didn’t bother to trot out my excuses to SS. They would have been regarded as feeble. May be they are. She would say it would only take five minutes and that would be on top of all the other jobs which would just take five minutes and before you know it’s a whole day’s worth of work and that is just one border. Yes it does sound feeble!

But I wonder whether too much is being expected of us. A bit like Sharon and Tracey down at the Tesco Express being driven to feel that they should look like super models. Are we trying to make our gardens look like Chelsea. Perish the thought some might say! 

The truth is of course that some of us do look quite good and could look better if we had the time and resources which supermodels have. We do do bits and pieces to make ourselves look like National Trust Gardens. I mean I had done the Alchemilla mollis in the drive. But of course it is the things which you have not done which stand out. A bit like Sharon Stone if she had ropey nails and her colour had grown out! 

But in gardens there are advantages to this imperfection. 

You are not flogging yourself crazy. To the extent that you hate the garden and fear a visit from SS. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t and that is fine. These techniques are opportunities, choices which are on offer. Not necessities or curses!

Should we I fact be forcing two seasons out of some plants. Are we trying to make some plants look eternally young as we now expect some humans to be. 

Plants do naturally look past their best later in the year and this makes your garden closer to the nature that it is certainly derived from and is in some senses trying to resemble. I thought not looking like you were trying too hard was cool. 

There are opportunities for wild life in your more naturalistic framework. And there are opportunities for you. After all, if you dead head like crazy where do your surprises come from? 

This is Agapanthus ‘Seedling of Lewis Palmer’:

I grew ‘Lewis Palmer’ for many years in my nursery days. It was blue. I allowed the seeds to fall. Yes time was short then too! And none germinated. And then one year, one did and I have a dwarf, white flowering Agapanthus, with a neat habit, which will grow in a smallish pot and loves it! 

It is a memory of that era and a stunning plant which, in its form, is unique to me. 

So dead head if you can and want to.

But be aware of what you might be missing out on.

And lets not be too precious about it all!

R

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