Friday, 21 October 2016

The Generosity of Gardeners

The generosity of gardeners is a special thing. Sure, many plants grow and spread, a little can be divided off, but it's more than that, it's a sharing of something you love, 'here, have some, I want you to enjoy it too.'
I may have written before about my friend J who is probably as passionate about her plot of plants as I am, and enjoys looking around mine, and for whom I really like heaving up a bit of this or that perennial. But I can't walk around with a spade - then she says `I can't admire anything or you'll just dig it up' (my prerogative, surely?). No, a little trowel works better. J relaxes, she gets smaller pieces of plants, there pride involved? Guilt? It's such a shame.

And yet I know how she feels. I am in a garden club and have known one of its members for nearly 25 years. V has been gardening longer than me and, let's be honest, is a better gardener, too. (She doesn't get put off by mere headaches or tiredness, she does this thing called Looking After her Plants.) It just so happens that V and I love the same sorts of plants, share the same tastes, like the same colours. Too often, I seem to fall in love with one of her treasures and beg a piece...and we've both realised that we share a very similar taste, and she knows I don't bother other people (or admire their choices) half as often! So...I try to limit my enthusiasm (I don't want to be 'grabby') and if I think I have something special, I'll try to give a piece to V as an occasional thank you.
Recently I wrote an article in `Country Life Yarra Valley and Ranges' about a really lovely native garden; its owner propagated plants and whenever I visited she gave me little plants (like a native Libertia, delicate, white, sweet); so generous from a lady I didn't know. I think society is richer for these acts of kindness.
I visited a new garden-design-client this week who not only gave me a bunch of sweet smelling sweet peas, shell-pink, but, so generous! - gave me 2 fat tubers of Gloriosa rothschildiana (top) as well. She couldn't know that I have two metal tripods (hexapods, really), centred in each cut-flower bed, on which I grow clematis (beginning its spring show right now), but I've long thought that Gloriosa would look, well, glorious, on these, too.

This gardener turned out to be as passionate about plants as me, which was a likeable meeting of minds. It was simplicity itself to offer her some of my handsome variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum  `Variegatum' (just starting to bloom), below) - which probably needs dividing. I popped by the next day with some - before I forgot.
Gloriosa is from Zimbabwe; it's also known as the African Flame Lily, with flowers somewhere between claret and crimson, with a gold flame along an edge of each petal. I planted them this morning, one under each hexapod, hoping that the weather isn't too cool for doing this in my area. As with so much gardening, time will tell; you may have messed up, or happened upon a great new success - if you remember what you did!

And then you enjoy your choice plant, and remember the lovely donor.
And the act of kindness.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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