When I’m not out in the garden, or writing about it, it seems I’m listening to things about it… This morning it was a little gem on Woman’s Hour, on Radio Four, that caught my attention. It was an interview with garden historian Jenny Uglow in her suspiciously neat-sounding shed (she could get inside it, along with a radio reporter, for a start).
Jenny’s delightful book, A Little History of British Gardening, is one of the treasures on my bookshelf. It’s full of interesting things, and so was her interview on garden tools – as regular readers will know, I’m a bit of an anorak where the tools of my trade are concerned.
Anyway, did you know, for example, that painting your tools blue keeps flies off? Or that one of the daily tasks for Victorian estate gardeners was squeezing ants?
The report also had a little ditty which I just have to share – I’m sure everyone else has come across it already, but I had the delight of discovering it for the first time:
“From where the old thick laurels grow along the toolshed wall
You find the tool and potting sheds, which are the heart of all.
The cold frames, and the hothouses, the dungpits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts and drainpipes with the barrows and the planks,
And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys,
Told off to do as they are bid, and do it without noise;
For except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The glory of the garden, it abideth not in words.
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing, “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade.
Far better men than we go out and start their working lives
In grubbing weeds from gravel paths, with broken dinner knives.”
I discover from Jenny’s book that this is actually by Rudyard Kipling – it’s called The Glory of the Garden. In case you’re interested (the internet is a wonderful thing… but it does also encourage you to go on a bit) there’s more:
“There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick,
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hand and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!”
That’s quite enough of that – ed.