from winter cold and will do things weeks earlier than suggested. The book takes as its reference point a garden which is in the very middle of England, 60 m/200 ft above sea level with uninterrupted views across water that can be whipped by east or west winds. There is a preponderance of plants for the alkaline soil with which I am most familiar, but many others are included which prefer an acidic soil.
On many occasions in the index of plants only the genus is listed, although occasionally species within a genus are given separate entries. While some species (and indeed cultivars) are hardier than others within the same genus, it would be impossible in a book of this size to propose care for every one. If this book were not general in its approach, The Apprehensive Gardener would be drowned in caveats. Equally, were there to be an entry for every plant in every month it would become encyclopaedic in size and intolerably repetitious. The presumption throughout is that unless the text refers to the care of a young plant, it has been established for at least two years.
I generally give Latin names except where the English name is in common usage, so, for example, holly is used instead of ilex, lime instead of tilia, box not buxus, snowdrop not galanthus. The English common names for many plants are given in a separate list at the back, so that if the Latin name is unfamiliar, it can be found. Thus, catmint will take you to nepeta, dogwood to cornus. The glossary explains, and where necessary gives examples of, many of the terms which are used in the book. A recommendation to ‘mulch’, ‘feed’, ‘use a balanced fertilizer’ or indeed to ‘take a root cutting’ or ‘prick out’ could be irritating if you are not sure what that was calling for.
From time to time more instruction will be needed from a specialist book: this does not set out to be a gardening compendium. Prompted to prune, you may want more detail, for example, in respect of fan-trained fruit trees or the formative pruning of young trees. A good pruning book, one on pests and diseases, another on propagation, one on fruit and vegetables, and a book on basic garden techniques will create an invaluable reference library.
In ‘Tradescant’s Diary’ in The Garden magazine of April 2004, Hugh Johnson wrote, ‘The aim is for a garden where plants seem happy to have met . . . it sounds like Eden but is just lovely gardening.’ These words have been a beacon of light for me since then. Maintenance is important because it contributes to the atmosphere and health of a garden – everyone likes to see plants growing well – but dullness creeps in when maintenance becomes the driving force. Rather than being driven by lists (I do very greatly dislike the word ‘task’ in relation to a garden), I hope you will find reassurance in The Apprehensive Gardener of what could be done to encourage your plants along and will find the journey of gardening a releasing and invigorating one, engendering a sense of joy in the creation of a place, however tiny or big, where plants do indeed seem happy to have met.
8 • THE APPREHENSIVE GARDENER
The author in her garden under a sweet cherry, Prunus avium ‘Grosvenor Wood’ (flowering mid-spring)