Gardening Disasters Part 2: Has She Lost Her Mind?

I don’t suffer from depression, but I become extremely downcast when my not-so-green-fingered efforts come to nothing. Horticultural success was never my forte, as you discovered in my recent confession (click here) and whenever I have gazed miserably over my bare borders, all I have felt is a sense of utter failure.

One year, when my daughter Sarah was 7 years old, I took her into the blossom-sparse back garden and painstakingly planted 230 bulbs. We then crept out every two days and watered the soil with the expectation of a hungry dog that has smelt a juicy bone on the kitchen worktop. But alas, there was to be no meat and gristle for us. Not one of the bulbs shot through the compost with a green stub. Not a single flower emerged. My devastation was exacerbated by the fact that my poor little offspring had also been waiting patiently to see the product of her labour.

One day in late Autumn, in a fit of rage, I stormed onto the lawn and began yanking out all the bulbs. As tears of disappointment rolled down my cheeks, I began to wonder if I was cursed. I knew we had poor drainage, but not even the robust Aubretia would take root and cascade down our wall like it did everywhere else. This was more than I could bear.

I had tried to reason with myself: so, B&M Bargains isn’t the best shop to obtain bulbs from – didn’t I have to traipse back to the store to replace 3 bags that contained mouldy mush? Maybe the whole lot was bad. Maybe, just maybe, it is their fault and not mine? Did we overwater our shoots? Did we plant them in the same way we did with the climbing roses? (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you haven’t yet clicked on the link in line 3).

All I wanted was a little area of colour – a pleasant place to look upon when I was washing the dishes or basking in the rare sunshine that we get in the UK during the odd April, four days in June, and second week in August.

Desperation had already led me to insanity. A few years earlier, I had purchased a load of plastic and fabric blooms, then smothered them all in varnish to keep them from fading in the sunlight. My fingers were so sticky, I couldn’t bend them for 5 days and neither could the flowers. They were so stiff, even a gust of wind from a storm named with a letter near the end of the alphabet couldn’t cause them to sway. Pleased with my efforts, I ignored the thought that my worried neighbours may be watching me nervously as I forced the fake flowers into the earth.

Was that a twitch of next door’s curtain? In my peripheral vision, I could have sworn that a window was suddenly snapped closed. In my peripheral hearing (is that a thing?) I was sure I heard a female voice mutter, “Come away from the window sweetie. Aunty Sharon is unwell. No, you can’t go out and play right now – she’s still out there. It’s unsafe.”

I have always been keen to teach Sarah to not be concerned about what other people think of you. This was a time when I was determined to not be a hypocrite. Deciding to practice what I preach, I asked myself, “Would it really matter if word got around about my apparent mental state and subsequently caused me to receive weird glances from over the fence, up the street and in the local corner shop? Would it matter if I got a phone call from my G.P. asking me if I was okay?”

I decided that unless I catch my husband searching for bible verses about ‘reasons for divorce’ or on my school-run drive I realise I’m being followed by a driver in a white jacket that says NHS on the lapel, I will hold my head up high and admire the pops of colour peering through soggy autumn leaves and white wintery snow.

And enjoy them I did – for three marvellous years – until the false florets began to turn an unattractive hue of green, owing to moss and mould.

Now, not even I am mad enough to place them in the washing machine, but it did cross my mind that a quick spray of bleach may do the trick. I hovered over a patch of acrylic marigolds with a spray gun and a bottle of Domestos. Next door’s curtain twitched again and this time, I went into hypocrite mode. I didn’t want her to start asking me odd questions when while pegging-out our washing:

“You okay Sharon? Been sleeping well? What did you have for lunch today? Oh, that’s sounds delicious…do you er… ever take vitamins? And are you er…on any medication? You don’t smoke do you? So, er…you’re not on Ganja or anything?”

So, back to the angry outburst. After removing every single bulb from the earth, I wiped my tears and decided that I was cursed after all. I obviously needed to do some ‘in the name of Jesus’ rebuking. Now, what did God say? ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man …’ Ah, that was it, my prayers were either not fervent enough, or I just wasn’t deemed righteous by the one who had power to make a fig tree wither.

A few weeks later, I shared my frustrations with my church house group. This was something I lived to regret.

“Oh, Sharon, didn’t you know? Bulbs sometimes take a year or two to settle in the earth before they produce any flowers. But you didn’t pluck them all out did you? Did you?”

“Hey, would anyone like some more tea?” I interjected, while knowing that I’ve never been able to effectively hide a cringe.

“Er…yes…I did.”

Well friends, despite my utter shame and disgust at my own intemperance, I am pleased to announce to you that I have finally had success! Ooh yes, I currently have 75 pots scattered around outdoors and this morning I spotted that four of them have budded!

I have flowers!

I must restrain my excitement for Part Three, when I can continue the story and show you more pictures of my wee babies.

So don’t go too far – I’ll be back soon!



NHS (The National Health Service)

Domestos (A UK brand of strong bleach)

Ganja (Awe come on, you’re not that naïve!)


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