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Half Man Half Garden article|
|Patrick Vickery is a Scottish gardner and garden writer. This article
is reprinted on these pages with his permission. To read a bit about Patrick
go here. You can visit his page at
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|Garden Blether - Half Man, Half GardenOctober 2002
By Patrick Vickery (Copyright reserved Patrick Vicery) Drawings by Louise Peacock
I remember Mr. Slayter well. He must have been about seventy if
a day, rolled his own cigarettes, was never seen in public without a soft
brimmed hat and rode a bicycle that was at least as old as himself. He 'did'
the garden weekly - Tuesdays if I recall - covering the 5 miles from 'his'
to 'ours' on his bicycle, an Old Holborn dangling from his mouth and his trouser
bottoms tied tightly with twine, a sort of do-it-yourself bicycle clip notion.
Years later, when I became interested in gardening myself and came across the ornamental grass 'Gardener's Garter' (Phalaris arundinacae 'Picta'), an evergreen perennial with broad white-striped leaves, I realized that this was how he tied his trouser legs, not with twine at all but with an invasive ornamental perennial. A Gardener of the 'Old School', unlikely to frequent new-fangled Garden Centre places, he possessed the serenity and wisdom of one who knew what he was about. In essence: 'half-man, half-garden'. Even in his youth, many years ago, I can still imagine him as being a 'half-man, half-garden' sort of person. And they certainly don't make them like that anymore, do they?
Now this brings me on to Mr. Sprats, who - in a similar vein - could
be described as a 'half-man, half-ladder' sort of person on a bicycle, if
you follow me.
"A superb pass from George Best, a cracking shot from Pele, tipped over the bar by Banks and bang goes the bathroom window."
(Parents can be very understanding, can't they? "Was it an accident?......well
accidents will happen......try not to do it again.")
Now occasionally Mr. Sprats and Mr. Slayter would be in the garden together, one mending the windows, the other hoeing the flower beds, and both possibly muttering good-naturedly to each other about football, kids, weeds and the meaning of life. But at half-past three everything stopped for biscuits, tea and a cigarette. Not much change there. The Council Workers have been digging up a nearby road recently and, at prescribed times, times known universally to Council Workers, Carpenters, Brickies, Gardeners and JCB Drivers to mention but a few, everything still grinds to a halt for tea. And quite right too. Some traditions should last forever, shouldn't they? The only difference these days is the transport employed. Instead of bicycles, it's vans.
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Mr Slayter had a remarkably simple and effective device for eliminating weeds: the garden hoe. He used this for fifteen minutes weekly, and not just in the areas where weeds were clearly visible, oh no, but in weed-free areas too. As a result, weeds were a rare occurrence whenever he was around. The moral of the tale: do your weeding before the weeds appear!
Mr Slayter was born, brought up and lived his life as a gardening
man in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England. I knew him well.
Copyright 2002 Patrick Vickery
|This page was updated August 8/04|