God bless you Bill Rodgers. And likewise Midhurst Grammar school. I never was academic, never was minded to study History, Geography or English literature... Liked gardening books though. Inspirational you were Bill, from the practical lessons of double digging, pruning, propagation, and composting, to the wet day blackboard lessons in the glasshouse explaining top soil, sub soil and organic matters (Dung in those days) add in the creation of a good tilth or the sharpening of a scythe and not once did the need to stab my thigh with a pencil or ‘nut’ the desk in a vain attempt to keep awake occur. We hatched eggs in an incubator, collected and labelled bird’s nests, watched sheep shearing, and grew vegetables, then, proudly with our self esteem high carried them home. We never felt like pansies when growing pansies for we were spellbound by the miracle of growth and growing, fruit or flower it was all fantastic. We volunteered to stay back and disbud chrysanths, side-shoot tomatoes or Sweet Peas, even tie-in your beloved Dahlias. They were heady, hazy, wonderful days that started in the summer of 69 and I thank you for your encouragement, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and guiding me onto a path hedged with pure joy.
This month a class of secondary school kids were asked where crisps come from. None could relate crisps to potatoes. None knew how potatoes grew. When told during the course of a lesson that they are likely to have eaten a plant in some form for breakfast, many indignantly stated otherwise....apparently they’d had toast! Where is the gardening in schools now? I don’t mean the pathetic excuse for gardening that’s offered as some kind of lunchtime club with Daphne from drama who keeps a window box, I mean the ‘Full Monty’ with specialist gardening teachers. We make contingency plans for climate change, energy shortages, bird flu etc, so what could be more important than self sufficiency? It is a national crime this subject, incorporating science, maths, art, and physical effort is not compulsory for every school in this kingdom. During World War II it could be argued the ‘dig for victory’ campaign won the war against starvation....but only just, even with a smaller population far less removed from growing food it was touch and go. We ignore this important subject at our peril, and I raise my glass to the good fortune that I and others of my generation were taught by the likes of Bill Rodgers, teachers of gardening who taught about life, for unlike cars, computers, politics and religion, without plants life cannot exist, and therein lies a simple factual truth.
I don’t rest any kind of faith in God or man, I am a devout republican, and do not care much for children, cats and garden designers... It’s not looking good is it, hardly the qualities of a caring flower loving gardener. My arse! You need none of the former to appreciate the wonder of plants, the anticipation of their growth and eventual maturity. Were I to be offered my life again I would change nothing, do it all over again and enjoy every moment. I have found calm amongst plants, peace in pottering, and self expression in the creation of a garden. What more could a man or woman ask for? As an end to a blessed life I will grow the most wonderful plants I’ve personally encountered and hope my choice appeals and inspires others, I will teach when I am able, and write when I’m inclined....I hope you find something on this website, be it a thought, a description, or a plant that will remain with you. Good health, good gardening, and amongst all the turmoil in this world try not to feel guilty for being alive. Harm none, seek peace and find paradise through your garden. I know it sounds like a load of flowery shite....doesn’t make it any the less true though.