the curse of knowledge













I went to visit a friend’s new house and garden a while ago. She’s never had a garden before and was understandably excited. It’s very long, narrow and enchantingly over grown. She’s a total novice and to her the garden looks lush, green and magical. To me it looked over grown and in need of lots and lots of work. I’m not saying it wasn’t pretty, because it was but I couldn’t see beyond the tasks and the weeds. There was so much Buddleja and it was self seeding itself everywhere. The Lilac had grown up misshapen, leaving behind big areas of dead branches in it’s attempt to reach the light. The Crocosmia wasn’t flowering because it was too congested. The bindweed strangled along the fences. The bamboo was already spreading in that slightly threatening way it has. As I felt a rising sense of panic about how to tackle everything my friend was just all enthusiasm. I thought, I’ve been here before, I was once like that. She has no idea of the enormity of the task that faces her, she is an innocent. There is a youthful joy in her love of the garden that I have lost. Now I have too much knowledge, I am battle scarred. I have suffered too many failures, have fought too long against the tide of nature and it’s left me old. I wondered, is this why gardening has such a fusty image? Is it because gardeners actually are old.

Finally, right at the end of the garden we came to an absolutely mangey old Rosemary that was woody and infiltrated by the ever present bindweed. I’d dig that up I told her, relieved to find one easy job. She was totally taken aback at my lack of sentimentality. She couldn’t countenance the idea of throwing away a plant that had been planted by someone, probably been loved by someone. She worried that it might have commemorated something or been a present. It was so surprising, I never give digging up a plant a second thought. How different are the gardeners and the non gardeners!

I love plants and flowers but at the end of the day I wasn’t sure was who was going to have the nicer time actually in the garden. The happy innocent or the wizened knowledgeable?



  1. Andrea

    Oh, my goodness! How often I bite my tongue to save a friendship from disintegrating right into the starving, compacted soil beneath my feet in a friend’s much loved garden that is crying out for a little detangling, removal, thinning, at least and amending. I don’t have as much trouble keeping my mouth shut as I do keeping my hands out of her garden, when they are itching to get to work. I will continue to hold back my measly bit of garden knowledge and try to see my friend’s garden through her eyes. Thank you for a very enjoyable article.

  2. Wow, the picture you painted of her garden sounds like from a horror movie 🙂 But it’s normal, especially for newbie gardeners, who are just excited, but still have no idea how many responsibilities come with taking care of a garden. I hope she’ll find the right way to gardening eventually.

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