Some plants manage on their own, don’t they?

Stick them in the ground and they get on with it. Sometimes they get on with the entire plot. We approve of them these days, these ‘hero’ plants. And perhaps some of us look favourably on ‘thugs’? I love a thug.

Cleavers in yellow bamboo Pleioblastus viridistriatus at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Here’s one that will take over the world if we let it: cleavers. (Galium aparine) With dwarf bamboo (Pleioblastus viridistriatus): an excellent thug which might beat it.

But the rest. They get all dependent and fragile, demanding constant attention and activity from us. The worst are any we put in pots. Hopeless! They can’t manage five minutes on their own. Water, food, sunlight, warmth, – they’re always after something.

dead plant in pot

You have to ask yourself: did it try hard enough??


Dying aeonium copyright Anne Wareham

This one complained of too much water! Fussy, or what??

Well, that’s enough. Minimal care is the thing and that’s what they’ll get now.

Absolute minimum. Manage on that or expire, I say. Let’s have self managing ish gardens.

We’re having a drought. Now some people tell you that you mustn’t water too little, or the poor plants will put their roots up into the sprinkling you gave them and promptly expire when they’ve supped that up. We have to be tough – make them search for some water. Put their roots right down into the soil and manage to find some wet, all by themselves. And in the ground they can jolly well search out that elusive moisture by putting some effort into rooting. Shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca), native to the Kalahari Desert, can manage it. It has roots more than 76 yards deep. I see no reason why a geranium can’t do the same.

Wilting inula at Veddw Garden copyright Anne Wareham

Just try harder, will you!

All right. True, they can’t root very far in a pot. They might get a little irrigation if they’re very nice. But if they don’t please me – like flower a bit, for heaven’s sake, – then shrivel up is their doom. They haven’t earned the effort. Try harder was what they told us at school and we blossomed on that, didn’t we?

And food! Some of them want food!!!

Some of them think we are going to chop up some comfrey and steep it in water until it stinks to high heaven, then feed that to them. Well, as if! They can hunt for their own smelly nitrogen, that’s what I think. The smaller and tougher the better. We don’t want obese plants, especially those that fall over if you don’t prop them up with sticks and string.

Edging and staking copyright Anne Wareham


Freedom should be our watch word.

Freedom from plant tyranny. Freedom from hosepipes and spades and bending down. Time to sit in the shade and enjoy reading a gardening book, about all the things you are never going to do again. While it all shrivels around us?

Maybe it will all cope better than we can imagine.

Wheelbarrow full of dead yew copyright Anne Wareham

Hm. Less said about that the better.