I have been having a bit of fun with my Telegraph page (a gardening agony column) recently.
Totally fed up with readers sending me endless pictures of crisply dying bay trees (sometimes without even any accompanying question), expecting clairvoyancy on the subject of their teetering-on-the-brink hydrangeas and whingeing about myriad buds dropping off camellias and about primrose-vandalising sparrows, I blew a fuse (partially extinguished pre-publication by my Tact Inspector, Telegraph Gardening‘s editor Joanna Fortnam).
‘…This is the greatest gardening nation on earth’, I was permitted to bark ’so do perk up readers or I will lose my job’.
Within hours of publication my startled regulars rallied and all sorts of more interesting stuff started pinging into the inbox – a real shot in the arm. To be fair, I had tempered my ill temper with slightly more good-humoured, lengthy observations on the subject of the four stages in a gardeners life (1) shopping, 2) over-nurturing, 3) loosening the stays then finally 4) losing the plot), which seemed to go down rather well.
So by return, in addition to the more energetic Thorny Problems, I received some wonderful letters from several empathetic stage 3 gardeners (which is where I am at), and even more valiant silver-surfing stage 4′s in their eighties and beyond, when having your cataracts done is a mixed blessing, according to Jan from Harrogate, because you can actually then see the growing chaos.
But such is nature of Telegraph Gardening (I write my bit about 10 days in advance of publication) that before readers could benefit from the horticultural blood transfusion they had given me (to continue, slightly off-course, the metaphor), I had stuck another little needle into my column aimed at a reader who asked me to recommend the best make of plastic grass to replace his ailing lawn.
“ The writer of Thorny problems”, I advised him archly, “has no truck with such fakery” and he should “try writing to a different agony column”. Quick as a flash comes back a barb from another reader who distinctly recalls me recommending, a few years back, that someone should prop plastic Strelitzia flowers in amongst the leaves of her plant that refused to produce its own. Ouch!
And today another octagenarian, Ken from Loughborough, observing that I seemed of late to have been rather ‘down in the dumps’ (you are too kind, Ken, I have been horrid) sent me a glorious picture of Exochorda ‘The Bride’ in his front garden just to cheer me up. My job as Thorny Problems columnist has some wonderful moments – thanks Ken – and thanks, too, to everyone else who contributes. I’ll try and be nicer.
And just a brief post post script. On Saturday 30th April I shall be a the Weald of Kent Craft Show at Penshurst Place near Tonbridge, Kent., signing books and giving gardening advice. Please… no more dead bay trees…