Yesterday, as we were coming back from our afternoon walk, I noticed one of my neighbours pottering around his front garden. He seemed to be chatting happily away to someone out of my line of sight. As I got closer I realised there was actually no-one else around. Perhaps he was talking to a cat hiding in the bushes? Or perhaps he had seen me first and just assumed I could hear him from where I was?
I called out, “Oh hi. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Were you talking to me?” He jumped, visibly. So . . . not talking to me then.
“Afternoon, love. Didn’t see you there. Just out giving the rose bushes a good talking too. They just haven’t been trying lately, you know? Needed a bit of a pep talk.”
Ooookaaay . . . . “Well, that’s good then. I hope you pull them all into line.” I smiled, waved, and continued on down the street, and as I went I heard him resume his animated conversation with his errant roses.
By the time I reached my poor-excuse for a front garden I was already wondering when, if at all, I had ever given any of my plants ‘a good talking to’.
I myself have a ‘potted’ garden of succulents (which are, happily, extremely hard to kill) and that is enough for me. I am very happy just to tend to my pots. I water them when they need it, pull off any dead bits, and stand them upright again if they topple over—and that’s about it. If one of my plants puts one hairy root out of that lovingly-cared-for-pot, it’s on its own. I’m done. Once a plant makes a break for freedom into the wild ‘beyond’, I have no time for it. Now that may sound harsh, but I just don’t really trust plants at all when they start to get out and about on their own. They tend to get all a bit uppity and either turn into some huge monstrous triffid, or spread themselves liberally all about the place and get into all sorts of nooks and crannies and spots where they just aren’t welcome.
In spite of the fact that I seem to have missed out on the ‘gardening gene’, I do realise that some other people have a deep-seated, almost visceral need to get out and wallow in their gardens. And I get that. I really do. I like gardens. Other people’s gardens. I am always very happy to sit in someone’s gorgeous garden (preferably with some lovely nibblies and glass of wine in hand) and admire their geraniums—just don’t ask me to help dig, prune, hoe, rake, or mulch along with you (or shout at me about the massive crater my new puppy just dug while we weren’t looking. She really didn’t mean to dig up that gorgeous purple thing you had just managed to get established—she thought she was ‘helping’ . . . and besides, what is a garden without a couple of doggie-pot holes anyway . . . )
And now I wonder—how many of those people who tend their gardens so passionately, also go outside and have animated conversations and ‘pep talks’ with their begonias (and do they actually listen to see if the plants answer back?)
People talking to their plants is not a new thing of course. Prince Charles was widely derided after a 1986 interview where he famously said it was “very important” to talk to plants and that they “respond” when spoken to. People aren’t laughing so much now though and it seems that ‘plant whispering’ is all the rage. I wonder though if anyone asked P.C. after that interview— ‘What does one actually say to one’s plants?’
I assume there are rules? Things you should and should not say to your plants? I mean, you would presumably want to stay positive, wouldn’t you? You know, talk about how the weather is lovely for this time of year, or that you are going out to buy them some whiz-bang new fertilizer you just came across for them to try, or ‘Perhaps you might like to be moved from here to under that lovely sunny spot over, there?’
(Unless of course you are sneakily using reverse psychology and surreptitiously trying to kill off everything in the rockery to make room for a new garden shed. Then you could probably fill them in on the possible global extinction of honeybees and the devastating effect that might have on all plant life on earth. I should think that would be enough to send even the hardiest of plants into serious decline.)
It does make you wonder though. If plants can indeed hear and respond to our voices, how might it be if we could hear and respond to theirs? What would they tell us if they could?
Maybe Eeyore has the right idea. Maybe we should do more listening, and less talking . . .