The Curse of Gardeners' Question Time

2 matched conifers no longer matching :(

A few days ago Aunt Debbi did a great post on Murphy's Law for Gardeners. You know the kind of thing - there's never enough compost; if you water plants in the morning, it rains in the afternoon; it'll turn cold as soon as you plant out your more delicate specimens etc. etc. She asked for other observations to add to her list, so I contributed my one on Houdini Plants - i.e. a plant you mentally decide to get rid of because it's not thriving, makes a miraculous recovery.

Her post reminded me that I'd been planning a follow-up one to my Houdini Plants, on another irrefutable law as far as my garden is concerned: publicly voice your misgivings about a plant and it will surely die. A few years back, Chippenham Garden and Allotment Society hosted Gardeners' Question Time (GQT)* and I was invited not only to be a member of the audience, but also to provide some of the 'soundbites' aired as the scene setter at the start of the programme. The questions are provided by members of the audience, and NAH and I duly filled out our cards for consideration by the chairman (Eric Robson) and the panel that night (John Cushnie, Bob Flowerdew and Anne Swithinbank) before the recording started. Imagine our surprise when my name was called out as the first questioner and NAH's as the first reserve i.e. an extra question in case the edited programme fell short of its allotted broadcast time.

So we asked our questions - mine was how to train a wisteria as a standard 'tree' (a question NAH had said would never get accepted as the programme's question guidelines had said ones on wisteria flowering were a complete no-no - hah!); NAH's about the sentinel conifers either side of the middle patio steps. One of them had been damaged by an insect the year previously and was growing into a loose, 'flared' shape, whilst the other was retaining its tightknit form.

Our questions were answered to our satisfaction: John Cushnie describing me as too young to be contemplating a project that takes at least 20 years to complete, though the other two were much more encouraging. NAH and I also nearly fell off our chairs when we realised that the programme's microphone holder (and deputy producer) was a woman called Jo King. Her steely glare when she gave us her name, prevented us from actually laughing out loud though. So we went home happy after gaining an insight into how one of our radio's great institutions works and duly listened to the broadcast a few months later. NAH's question didn't make the cut.

So what happened next? Well, my 20-year long project never really happened as 2 years later my wisteria died. And this year (another 3 years on), the conifers are beginning to die back and will have to be removed. I reckon because my question was actually broadcast, the effects of the 'Curse of Gardeners' Question Time' was much more potent than it was for our conifers.

So remember this irrefutable law: mentally get rid of your plants and they will thrive; publicly voice your concerns about them and they will give up the ghost. Broadcast your concern on the radio and the potency of this law is increased 10-fold.

* = broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 every Sunday afternoon and one of our longest running radio programmes (since 1947). Most of the recordings are hosted by gardening clubs and the waiting list for a visit by the production team is several years long. NB if you click on the GQT link, it includes the opportunity to listen to the latest programme.


  1. OK .. VP ... it took me a second or two to think what was wrong with "Jo King" .. and then I nearly fell off my chair laughing .. go figure .. slow Sunday ? .. anywho, wisteria .. fatal attraction that will come to no good .. I envied our Dutch neighbor's vine over their pergola DAILY while we lived in Holland ..yes .. I had contracted the dreaded wisteria ENVY syndrome .. got back to Canada ..
    and no way would I even discuss it with hubby . I prefer to live in that past dream world !
    I still have to tour your garden intensely girl ! .. I have been busy deconstructing and reconstructing parts of my garden .. dead tired .. but the wicked shall not rest .. so on I go !
    Cute post .. and that was truly funny !

  2. Hi VP, very funny, MS. King with the steely squint, one has to laugh. Your theory sounds right though, and please accept my condolences on your sentinels and wisteria.

  3. Ms King's brother Wayne is regularly on the programme, going under the name of Peter Gibbs.

  4. I am laughing so hard at garden monkeys comment that I can barely thank you for the linky love. This was priceless.

  5. At the risk of sounding like an embroidered cushion, I always try to tell myself that the death of a plant is the birth of an opportunity. I've got a fan-trained plum that's grown out of its fan and is driving me crazy. Anna P told me to cut it in half, which might solve the problem, or on the other hand, might finish it off. I find these kill or cure dilemmas quite exciting in a horrible sort of way.

  6. So funny ! And so true!

    I can't tell you the times I've mentally checked a plant or tree off my list...and it came back.

  7. A curse ! That explains everything...
    As if I didnt have enough to deal with yucky, mucky, clay non-soil, lovingly composted layers running down-hill to the property down the road every monsoon season, weeds on tropical growth potion, and gruesome, scary creepie-crawlies !
    I've often felt that we're in the wrong business... a jungle safari in my garden would really rake in the pocket-fillers. But idiot that I am, I keep trying to tame the wilderness !

  8. Joy - I suspect Canadian winters are too much for you to have a wisteria?

    Frances - we still laugh about it, even now

    GM - that's very naughty, though still very funny from the last time we discussed Ms King!

    Deb - It's great sin't it? And only to glad to return some of the linky luv you've shown me over at yours :)

    Victoria - I cannot imagine you as an embroidered cushion! I too am relishing the opportunity, but I'm also a little sad at losing trees that have welcomed me from my walks home from the station for the past 8 years.

    Granny Miller - welcome! It's an irrefutable law we gardeners should take note of :)

    Sunita - welcome too! We all tame the wilderness in one way or the other, though yours is a particularly tricky one. Don't give up my friend!

  9. Cute, cute post! Reminds me of a similar topic I have considered writing up someday. Well, I guess I've lived too long in La La Land, for I have no idea what is amusing about that name. Oh, well.

  10. Hi Barbee - welcome!

    I've had this post on my To Do list too. It took Debbi to remind me and get on with it :)

  11. LOL - Jo King, I swear I would have asked if that seriously was her name. (I wouldn't be able to help myself.) I'll keep this curse in mind. My particular garden curse is plant 3 of anything & 1 will always die. I guess that's why I don't do knot gardens.

  12. Funny and so true. If I act worried about a plant it will die. I have another law. If I brag on a plant, it will often die too.~~Dee

  13. I always thought John Cushnie was and @rse!

  14. MMD - it still makes us laugh even now. Strange about your rule of 1 plant in 3 dying - perhaps you need to do your knot gardens 1 or 2 plants at a time and build them up gradually ;)

    Dee - perhaps we just need to keep quiet about our plants and then they'll flourish for us no problem?

    Jane - welcome! Yes I was a bit miffed by his reply. After all, I would have thought youth would have been an asset for a longer term gardening project!


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