The Big Issue : Edition 488
THE BIG ISSUE 10 – 23 JULY 2015 13 of a dangerous slide into amateur horticulture were visible to everyone. It all started innocently, as most consuming passions do. There were occasional asides about germinating violas. Then there were more frequent references to the acquisition of specialty gardening items. In 2011, I plainly mentioned the purchase of a garden sieve. A GARDEN SIEVE. Who owns a garden sieve other than mad garden ladies given to obsessive refinement of mulch? NO-ONE. It has been four years since I offered proof of a serious problem and not one of you has interceded. Of course, you might reasonably suspect that it is in the remit of my supervisor to send me to the Betty Ford Centre For Trowel Abuse. But I can tell you that he, too, suffers a little-discussed illness that drives us so regularly to the dirt. When I submitted my first works on gardening, Mr Attwood did not do as his position would otherwise demand and recommend a course of gardening aversion therapy, but instead sent me a picture of his yellow standard roses. “Lovely, aren’t they?” he wrote by email, extending the offer of some cuttings. I had never attempted to grow a plant from a cutting before this exchange. Now, the telltale white powder of rooting hormone is strewn about my garden shed as testimony to the terrible disease this enabler encouraged. Few who have fallen victim to this life- altering ill can resist encouraging garden addiction in others – “Just try this one woodland iris, you can give up anytime” – and few who observe our decline into filthy madness see fit to intervene. It is up to me to talk and ask openly for understanding. It falls to me to break the silence on nitrogen supplements. While I understand that the behaviour of people like me, my editor and that bloke at Number 17 (who can talk only about the inadequacy of the ‘mist’ function on commercially available trigger nozzles) can be trying, I beseech your understanding. Yes, we are difficult and it is true that we often smell like sheep excrement. Certainly, we have spoken for 45 minutes straight about the difficulty of last season’s tomato crop and have not paused from our sermon on fungus to note that you would rather take your own life with a recycled garden stake than listen for another minute. But you must understand that the terror we feel exceeds the boredom you feel as we go on about the effectiveness of home-made fungicide. Which, by the way, is baking soda, liquid soap and vegetable oil in an atomiser full of water. OH GENTLE GOD MAKE IT STOP! Even in this, the moment of my most painfully honest disclosure, I find it impossible not to list the ingredients for a homemade cure for blight. As I wrestle with a life overflowing with seed catalogues and soil-testing kits, I simply ask that you think of me and my afflicted fellows with patient concern and perhaps call the authorities when you see that we have had more than one delivery of pelleted chicken manure in a single growing season. “I can say with absolute certainty that all the warning signs of a dangerous slide into amateur horticulture were visible to anyone who cared to look.” RAZER The Green Disease PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND LOOK. I’VE ALWAYS thought of The Big Issue readership as a largely compassionate demographic given to selfless acts of kindness and interest in the pain of others. I am now reconsidering this view. If you cared at all for the suffering of your fellows, by now you would have gathered together to save me from what has become a very grave and evident gardening affliction. For several years now, I have been offering the account of a life spent in the garden. At first it was one spent in the occasional idyll, tending vegetables and flowers. Now it is almost entirely given over to compost. I’ve been leafing (ARGH! “leafing”) through my dispatches and I can say with absolute certainty that all the warning signs » Helen Razer (@HelenRazer) is a writer and intemperate gardener whose memory of past correspondence is far more impressive than her editor’s.