Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Courtesy of new drive and pathway, we now have a nice, but narrow, border full of shiny new topsoil. It's going to be dry and it's relatively shady, and I have a hankering for epimediums as I think they'll grow there very nicely.

So, a question, if you don't mind? Can you recommend any epimediums that are pretty much evergreen, which have a bit of colour to their leaves for at least part of the year? We currently have Epimedium x warleyense in another thin narrow border at the back, and they've done well there for the past few years but I'd like something a little different. Are there plants that like similar conditions that combine well with epimediums? 

So many questions...

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Many people get excited by gardening in the spring, when plants start to grow again, flowers pierce through the grey of winter and sun (maybe) warms the land's bones.

For some reason, I'm more excited by autumn. Hence the resurrection (probably albeit briefly) of this blog. It's 10C at the moment, and raining, but my interest in the garden is reawakening. I suspect many of us go through stages of disenchantment with our gardens; for me this has led to disinterest over the past few seasons, exacerbated by my ongoing course and all those other bits of life that get in the way. But a new driveway and path in the front garden, which has slightly reduced the size of the borders, has led to a reassessment of what we have and a reawakening of interest.

In late spring in recent years the front garden has been a chaotic climax of colour, with foxgloves, peonies, forget-me-nots and many other late spring flowers. Then flump. A big gap of overgrown greenness until late summer when the asters start, fighting to be seen between the ever-spreading Japanese anemones. Now we've had a few shrubs removed, and a couple of dwarf apple trees are also to go. This has prompted me to re-evaluate other overgrown shrubs and come to the conclusion that the whole area needs opening out again. Light and air. Shrubs planted quite closely when the front garden was new and bare are now intermingled and crowded, usurping the herbaceous plants that I love. The same has happened in the back garden. From herbaceous border to shrubbery; and right now, I'm not of the same mind of the Knights that go Ni. I do not want a shrubbery.

So, this autumn and winter there will be reappraisal, opening up, and a lifting of canopies. Time for a reawakening.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Poor pay in gardening? Blame Aristotle.

I couldn’t make a living from gardening. There are many reasons for this, the main one being that I’m a bit too slap-dash, not taking quite enough time and care to do things properly and, importantly, tidy up properly afterwards. However, there’s also another reason. Money.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a high flier with a huge salary. I work part-time, term time and my salary reflects that. It doesn’t really reflect the experience and qualifications I’ve got, but it does me fine and lets me have school holidays off for looking after (not so) small child. But look at the pay of something like the National Trust. A head gardener can expect £27,000 pa. Not bad, but that head gardener has to have experience not just in all aspects of gardening, but also managing staff and volunteers, balancing budgets, delivering activities to visitors, managing contracts and ensuring the health and safety of staff and visitors. A gardener can earn £18,700 and an assistant gardener £8.46/hour (£16,500 if it weren’t a 6 month fixed term contract). For the assistant gardener role, you need qualifications, equipment use certificates and experience, so not exactly a job for an unqualified new starter.


So why is gardening so poorly paid? Well, I blame Aristotle.

You see, Aristotle believed there were five types of knowledge. I’ll talk about two. First, and what Aristotle considered the highest form of knowledge, is episteme – true (theoretical) knowledge. The sort you go off to university to study. Then there’s techne – skill. Over the approximately 2300 years since Aristotle, theoretical knowledge has always been privileged over technical knowledge. As much as we can’t live without builders, plumbers, and other skills-based jobs, including gardening, we really don’t value them. Just think how we categorise education – A levels good, BTECs bad. ‘Proper’ (academic) degrees good, vocational degrees are categorised as ‘Mickey Mouse degrees’ (the exceptions being things like medicine, which are vocational but, as Aristotle stressed, also involved theory and so were a ‘good thing’). So gardening? Bah, just techne, skills, to be looked down upon and paid poorly. Yes, yes, there’s a lot of knowledge in something like gardening (especially if we call it horticulture) but, you see, for those in power and who make up the rules, it’s the fact that at some point you get your hands dirty. It’s a skill. It’s manual. So, it has a lowly position and lowly pay.

That Aristotle, eh? What a card.

(Be thankful you haven't received the full 8,000 word exploration of forms of knowledge in relation to perception of academic roles...)