a ramble through the woods

I have to start this post with the hilarious news that a search landing on my page this week read “how can a 57 year old celibate woman get her sexy back”. Love it! Apparently I HAVE found my key demographic!

But really I want to talk about Gardeners.

Do you have a favourite Gardener?

Of course I do, but do you? You should. Your choice probably says a lot about you.

My choice reveals nothing surprising about me. Simply that I am as bi-focal as ever because I have two favourite Gardeners, and I can’t pick between them! It’s too haaaaaaaard!

Now, what’s the pool of talent to pick from?

Well you’ve got your Jamie Duries for starters, basically bland landscaping with the odd Buddha statue, mostly aimed at maximising the investment potential on your “outdoor room”. Not really a gardener, just a guy who decorates with plants.

Then you’ve got your Charlie Albones. I don’t want to insult him by saying he’s the Bondi Vet equivalent of Australian Gardening, but it says a lot that if you start typing his name into google it immediately suggests “Charlie Albone wife”.

Now Charlie is fabulous. He’s buff, tattooed, seems like a good guy and actually knows stuff about plants. Y’know, those things IN the garden. He’s high up the list purely for combining landscaping skills with botanical know how and a good work ethic. Yum!

But, my favourites, the two I simply can’t choose between are Costa Georgiadis and Monty Don.

For those of you who don’t know them, here’s the run-down.

Costa first popped up on SBS leading us through Costas Garden Odyssey, and it was great fun. He has described himself as a talking hedge, and his passion for permaculture, healthy communities, nature care and life itself burns bright in his big brown eyes.

You can check out this quick vid of him here explaining his philosophical approach, “grow life, not death”, and more of his antics as the host of Gardening Australia (where quite a few other Gardeners make it through to my top ten, including Angus, Sophie and Tino).

There are many things I love about Costa, and some which we hold in common. Food is a big part of what drives him, not just as a good Greek boy, but as a human who wants to see us and our planet thrive. I love food too, it’s social and physical benefits are magical, and even though for a long time, gardening was just one more thing to be scared of, one more thing to find strange and new, I am enthralled by the idea of bringing forth and tending nourishing life. Gardening for food.

My Grandma on my mum’s side, and my Pop on my dad’s are the two gardeners in my heritage.

Pop grows flowers, but he’s also always had crops of tomatoes going, and a few other veg too. His garden, as he does, resembles the 50’s and he harvests seed and carefully tends without the aid of many chemicals.

Grandma is all about fruit and veg (Costa would approve heartily), and everywhere she’s moved, she’s grown food. Even when she was up at a copper mine in Central Queensland, she grew beans in steel drums full of soil, and has watered many many plants by hand in all the drought restrictions she’s lived through.

She has only recently admitted she’s at a point of frailty too developed to keep growing her own corn, and I’m sure it’s been a loss for her…

When Grandma serves you peaches and ice cream, the peaches are her own. And when you spread the apricot jam, full of stones, onto your toast in the morning, she’s not only made the jam herself, but grown the fruit too.

Nothing in the world will ever taste the same as Grandma’s homemade jam.

It’s not that these talents skipped a generation in my family, it’s just that the passion to spend time growing and sowing and tending has subsided. And I totally understand; gardening takes space and time, and can be squeezed out when there are many other things to do and many supermarkets within a five k radius.

But Costas siren call sets me going. I am tantalised by the idea of growing life, not death, in the footsteps of my creator, in the pattern of the gospel, in thankfulness for the earth we stand on. The very idea of growing apricots and making jam to share with family and friends comforts me in a way which tells me the desire runs deep, to the soul.

So that’s why Costa is one of my favourites. He’s Grandma and Pop, wrapped up in a beardy bundle of enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, a rugby refereeing, family loving, chicken raising explosion of energy. He’s willing to take everyone gently by the hand and introduce them at the right pace to the arcane, wyrd and wonderful arts of gardening, and I love watching him do it.

Costa’s competitor for top spot is British born, and hard to resist. The Gardening equivalent of Kevin McCloud, he’s another thinking woman’s crumpet, Monty Don.

But as with Costa, I don’t just love him for his good looks.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most in Monty is his inquiring, historical bent. You could have seen him in a Around the World in 80 Gardens or Monty Don’s French Gardens for example, chatting about the development of gardening for ladies in the 19th century, or the landscaping passions on the Continent in the 1700s.

Monty talks most about how gardens make one feel, describing the emotional impact of gardens and gardening.

He suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and like me, was on the Prozac train (which he has now given up in favour of a lightbox). However, he has also said that Earth heals him better than any medicine.

This is the other allure of gardening for me. The fruits of labour, the sensory feast of a garden, the links to our history and togetherness. In sum, the restorative nature of, well, nature…

How fantastical to sit in a garden in Australia in the 21st century next to a monkey-puzzle tree, from South America, which became popular as an ornament in Victorian gardens across Britain. How such a thing came to be here is fascinating, and the garden becomes the lens for economic, social and political history.

Monty will stand in a garden, in faded corduroy, and speak of the mood of the colours and textures, the wisdom in the light and shade, the beauty of the produce, the history of the lay out and plant selection and which famous artworks were inspired by it. Gardening as a feast for the mind as well as body and soul. Delicious!

And so, I can’t decide. I’m stuck with these two similar but different approaches to gardening, holding equal appeal. The aesthetic pleasure rivals the practical service and I want them both! Choosing a fave is too difficult.

So what about you?! Go ahead, choose a gardener! Pick which style you like most!

Do you just want a bench in the sun to sit on? Go for it!

Would you prefer a massive vegie patch, or a classic French potager?

Have you considered the soil you stand on as a gift to be tended and stewarded?

Or, are you like me, soil-less, but hopeful. At least improving the air quality in your flat with a couple of pot-plants, wishing one day for an acre or two? Growing grass for your cat on the window-sill, wishing he could frolic in a bed all his own, full of cat mint, cat nip, cat grass and chook poo?

How does your garden grow?

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