Botch up Posted on July 4, 2012

My son in law brilliantly described an old house we rented in Wales as representing a hundred years of botching. An archaeologist might have loved the rich evidence of ages past: former décor in curling wallpaper and peeling paint, superseded plumbing, no longer functioning window catches, proof that every room had been converted (but not quite) from some former use.


I am an ace botcher myself. My family calls in a professional if anything needs doing beyond changing a light-bulb. They can manage that. A garden, unless I’m kidding myself, is more forgiving. How do you recognize botching unless you know what was really intended?


I don’t mean gates tied up with baler twine or roses on old bedsteads. That was the scene here forty years ago. The style may well be having a renaissance in certain gardening magazines. Old bikes, jam jars, that kind of thing. No, with me it is largely a matter of tools.

Some mornings or evenings I march into the tool shed full of resolution, sure that I know just what I’ll need. Fork, spade, saw and shears, trowel and twine go in the barrow. I reach the scene of operations and set to when I meet a plant that needs a stake. No stake. Do I retrace my steps? I look around for anything that will serve. I even tie one plant to another, resolving that I’ll be back with a stake very soon.


Most mornings and evenings I saunter out with nothing but my secateurs in their leather holster. They are black steel, forged in Japan, with no fancy business of pretty handles: the gardener’s six-shooter. I don’t find many jobs they won’t do – more or less – from light weeding to banging in nails. They are a precision instrument with a fine edge fit for bonsai, but with a wristy twist they will lop a one-inch branch.


The garden is full of evidence that I’ve surged through, half-doing a hundred jobs. The mercy is that no one but I will know, and I’ll have forgotten.

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