Monday 11 November 2019

Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a horticulturalist spurned

David Medcalf
David Medcalf

By David Medcalf

Rage is an emotion generally not associated with dearest, sweet-tempered, darling Hermione.

Serene is more her thing, though life throws more than its fair share of exasperation and annoyance her way.

Let son and heir Eldrick tramp dirt from the sports field on to her carpet and she will respond with no more than a murmured 'tut tut' as she points him firmly towards the vacuum cleaner, showing just the merest hint of sternness.

Let young Persephone raid her mother's cosmetics box to leave a trail of clumsily smudged mascara all over the sink and the incident will scarcely prompt a furrow on the matchless brow. Rather than rant or rave, she will take the time to sit with her daughter to demonstrate how the child may best gild lily with make-up correctly applied. Cue peals of girlish laughter.

Let her husband stumble home in boisterous good humour at an ungodly hour and she will overlook his rowdiness, offering no chastisement beyond a bemused shake of the head next morning over the breakfast table.

Hermione keeps her cool when others burn the onions or neglect their household chores. She forgives without question or confrontation the dog which pees (yet again) on the sofa or the cat which licks the butter on the dining table. A fleeting flicker of annoyance may cross her face on such occasions but the saintly smile is soon restored and calmness reigns.

Just don't mess with her labels…

Hermione brings a measure of organisation, method and science to the garden. She has plans built on foundations of logical order. Meanwhie, her husband is just so thrilled to see a plant, any plant, growing that he is about as much help as an over-excited labrador pup in a porcelain ornament showroom.

There are thousands of varieties of tomato cultivated by mankind. Fair, far-sighted, infinitely wise Hermione settled this year on just five, all reared with diligent good husbandry from seed.

She chose ones designed to yield, respectively, a big beef tomato with wrinkles, a plain tomato of average size and smooth skin, a 'mini' tomato which comes on a mini plant, a plum shaped tomato of Italian extraction and a novelty yellow tomato to brighten up salads. Like Snow White with a reduced cast of Five Dwarfs - Beefy, Smoothy, Mini, Berly (as in Berlusconi) and Goldy. Got It?

I nodded eagerly as the adored one patiently explained her choice over a mound of compost and seedlings. I vowed silently to assist her in every way possible. The problem is that, though they may produce completely different fruit at the end of the summer, at the start of their lives, each variety appears pretty much identical.

The day came when I decided to surprise her and plant out the tomatoes, gaily mixing Goldy with Beefy, Smoothy with Mini, totally at random, throwing Berlusconi about with abandon. Hermione arrived to find her precious stock scattered between grow-bags and soil, between greenhouse and patio, with some potted specimens distributed as gifts to lucky friends.

All pattern was destroyed, all logic blown away. The blood drained from her lovely face and then she howled: 'Did you not see the labels?'

Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a horticulturalist spurned.

Yes, I had of course seen the labels but thought nothing of them - a mistake I will not be repeating next year, though still not quite sure what is so terribly wrong with the pick 'mix approach.

If Hermione was roused to fury over the tomatoes, then she was positively volcanic over the cucumbers. Except it was not just cucumbers.

Telling a cucumber apart from a melon, or a cucumber from a marrow, or a cucumber from a squash, is laughably straightforward by the time they are ready to be eaten. Unfortunately, as with the tomatoes, the plants are more or less identical in the early stages. When she discovered that they too had all been jumbled up, identifying labels casually discarded, Hermione was beyond speech, this time turning a most alarming shade of brick red.

I won't be doing that again either.

Wexford People