MAN’S WORLD: Capability browned off with garden tasks

Easter did not start well for me.

Some time in March I had a moment of temporary insanity. “I’m going to help you in the garden this year,” I said.

“You mean you’re going to watch the World Cup and wander out when the games finish?”

“No, I mean really help you.” I checked. Yep, it was definitely me speaking.

And I found I did mean it. That’s how it should be. Husband and wife, side by side, working together, reaping the fruit of the land. I felt quite emotional…

…Until Good Friday. I walked the dog, took Jane a cup of tea and put my old jeans on. “Right,” I said, “Where do I start?”

Something creative I thought. Design a pond. Research new varieties of tomatoes.

“Pick up the dog turds,” my wife said.


“Your dog. Your job. Then you can do some weeding.”

That couldn’t be right. Was my father not a direct descendant of Capability Brown himself? Did my grandmother not learn everything she knew at the knee of Gertrude Jekyll? Was I not born with the greenest of green fingers?

Well, no on all counts. But I did once listen to Gardeners’ Question Time as I was driving home.

What I don’t know about Creeping Jalponicus isn’t worth knowing.

Sadly my credibility as a gardening expert was dealt a fatal blow early in my relationship with Jane.

Somehow I’d seen Gardener’s World one night. They’d featured some sort of purple plant. And blimey, there it was as we drove through a country village.

“Look at all that,” I said, eager to impress my new bride. “Isn’t that alopecia beautiful?”

“The word you’re searching for,” she said, “Is Aubrietia. Alopecia is another word for baldness.”

I realised there and then that a lifetime of labouring lay before me.

“You don’t have much faith in my ability do you?” I said.

“No,” my wife replied.

“And I have even less faith in your stamina. You’ll do twenty minutes, then you’ll decide you need a coffee and a bacon sandwich.

“Then you’ll have a bad back. Then you’ll need to watch football. You might wander out at half time and smash something for me but then you’ll realise you need a beer and that’ll be it.”

I started on a high. Took the trampoline to pieces – or what had once been a trampoline. Now it was simply a stretched canvas displaying a rich mosaic of bird poo and mould.

But I took it apart – with a satisfying amount of violence – and consigned it to the tip.

But I couldn’t put it off indefinitely. “Weeding,” my wife decreed.

What is it with ground elder? Why does it need roots that stretch to North Korea? I dug up a small clump, found the root, started to pull it out. All of a sudden I was hauling on a 20 foot rope that ran the length of our garden. And then Jane pointed out a particularly irksome infestation.

“Just there, under that bush. It’ll be hard to get at.”

Hard? It was like mediaeval torture. If I tried digging it out I risked a branch taking my eye out. But duck under the branches and I might as well put the chiropractor on speed dial.

Anyway, that was Easter. Now it’s Saturday morning. A three day weekend and the weather forecast for us gardeners is good.

Jane’s still in bed but I’m going to make an early start. Not that my list of jobs has improved.

My talent is still unrecognised. I can’t believe Capability Brown ever started the weekend with ‘pick up dog poo…’