There was a recent article in the Guardian by Sarah Amandolare about how people often have to move house frequently, usually for work reasons and that this leads to a feeling of impermanence and transience.  This was bounded around a discussion about how people do not decorate/furnish their homes with a feeling of staying there but that decoration/furniture is more of a temporary fix.  For some people this temporary fix is about moving on again and for some it is about the current state of their budget.  The article says: “the way we decorate is more often an afterthought than a carefully executed statement. For many of us, “home” feels too uncertain a notion to invest in, decoratively, emotionally, or otherwise”[1]  This article resonated strongly with me as it is something I have been thinking about a lot recently in relation to my current and previous gardens.  Next year I will have lived in this house for ten years, looking back I do not think I have ever lived in a house for this long  including when I was growing up.  This means this is the longest I have lived with a garden and really seen it develop.  Plants I bought nearly ten years ago are maturing, they are becoming what they have the potential to be.  Some mistakes I made in planting years ago are now but wisps of memory.  Other mistakes are just becoming apparent as the plants mature and I realise that my planting was ill thought out and did not look far enough ahead.
My mind then leaps to the article about Monty Don and his apparent ‘war on begonias’.  Monty is quoted as saying in a 2006 article that bedding plants are “a desire for instant colour and makeover effects ... one-stop gardening – disposable, dramatic and needing no knowledge beyond which way up to stick the plant in the ground.” [2]  This in my mind links directly to the point being made above, but in an understanding partly as to why this may be way.  If you know you might only be in the house three or four years (if you are even that lucky) and you have to sort the house out first, for many people the garden is low on the list of priorities.  Now I know many of you will say ‘not low on mine’ and it is not low on my priorities either, but we are not all built the same way (probably best). 

Thinking about this further, about this need to buy for impermanence and the need to garden for impermanence, it can be no surprise that people are not learning how to garden.  It can be no surprise that they buy what they can that instantly looks good but then also no surprise when/if that quick purchase dies on them that they are put off gardening because they are not seeing any positive result.  If your time is limited and that rose bush you bought sulks for a year, you might be lucky to ever see it really perform, so why would you waste your money on something that the next person may well just rip out?  It is also no surprise that families living at great distance from each other no longer can learn how to garden from their grandparents/aunts/uncles.  They also might not get the opportunity to learn to garden from their neighbours as I did as a child as depending on where you live: neighbours can be as distant as if they lived on the moon.  This distance might not be geographic, they might physically just be a semi-detached wall away.

I then wonder if there is a solution to this and of course there is not really.  The only solutions are ones that is not realistic and not open to many in our society as it stands today.  We have to face it that if we have a home/place to stay we are already significantly better off than many not only in our own country but also across the world.  When put into this perspective the worrying about begonias suddenly feels very small beer.  I have no issue with Monty disliking begonias, he is of course wrong as some begonias are rather wonderful but we all have our plants that we dislike that other people cannot understand why.  I am not very keen on cactii and have only recently started to like any hostas.  No gardener is an island as they say.
So let us celebrate every hanging basket stuck to a caravan, every window box, every plant on a window sill.  Gardening is impermanent (I am really not sure I like this word), by its very nature it has a life span.  From the annual marigold to the most long lived tree you can think of, gardening is meant to change.  If a bit of begonia bedding brings some instant brightness to someone’s life then let us glory in this; after all, it has to be better than the paved over alternative.

[1] Amandolare S, The Guardian 26 June 2016


  1. Interesting!... And I imagine that most people buying and planting begonias are elderly?
    'investing in their homes', even if they'll be there decades, is not something they want to spend their precious pensions on, not so sure what tomorrow will bring? Planting something that is an instant shot of colour lifts their spirits, and the fact they can plonk them in the ground and they'll grow without effort is a blessing for anyone unable to bend or kneel. I imagine that many were expert gardeners once, and could teach all of us a thing or two about gardening!

  2. Erm - I don't consider myself as hugely elderly and I grow begonias :)

  3. A very thought provoking post. I agree that any gardening, however small and transitory is an improvement to the environment and may even help wildlife briefly too. I think all gardeners have their likes and dislikes but as you say, we should celebrate those differences and enjoy the gardening that we see - whatever form it takes.
    Best wishes

  4. It's about enjoying the moment, with some 'investment' for the future in mind a bonus :)

  5. A great post. I have moved a lot, but really got into gardening when I stayed put for 18 years. Then moved again, several times, with and without a garden and yes, the house does come first. Now at last I have a garden again and although I said I'd do up the house first I have not been able to stop myself from getting into the garden. As for begonias, they actually might be the one flower I can put on my north-facing patio!


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