How I Am Now Really Into Old People Hobbies, Like Gardening

I have killed a plant. A dracaena marginata, no less.

They are impossible to kill, I am told, by the Received Wisdom. You can’t go wrong with one of those palmy things with the spindly leaves. They love ill-treatment and general neglect. There is one in the school reception, and someone actually hung baubles off the delicate and feeble leaves in December like it was a half-dead tropical Christmas tree. AND STILL IT DID NOT DIE.

You see them everywhere, these spindly palms. Every man, woman and dog has one in their house. Even people who have no houseplants have one lurking about somewhere in a dark hallway, where often it has lurked quietly undisturbed for years. There was one in our shared house at university. It mostly drank leftover dregs of beer abandoned in half-drunk cans of cheap lager after parties, and feasted on fag-ends. AND STILL IT DID NOT DIE.

I have killed the unkillable plant.

I tried, I really did. I spent hours over the Christmas holidays repotting most of the plants in the house, including (ouch!) a ten year old cactus. I have developed a love of gardening so complete and all-encompassing that today I took a bus ride to Wilko purely to peruse their selection of little packets of seeds, despite the fact that this involved a certain Piglet patrolling the place for the toy cars, wandering around the paint aisle repeatedly murmuring “Where are the cars?” and having a full on hissy fit at the bus stop over said cars. Oh, and finally refusing, in a fit of pique, to get off the bus, leaving me to stand at the bottom of the stairs shrieking like a fishwife “GET DOWN THOSE STAIRS NOW YOU ARE HOLDING UP THE ENTIRE BUS!”

#Parenting. Does this happen to anyone else, I wonder, or is it only me?

Bus rides aside (I need to pass my driving test now, this is getting ridiculous) I never thought I would ever find myself enjoying gardening. In fact, I have become so committed to the cause that today I found myself purchasing a bottle entitled “Cat and Dog Repellent,” so that I could spray it all around the garden in an attempt to stop the neighbours’ cats from jumping over the fence right into my precious bulbs*

These days, however, gardening-or at least the keeping of houseplants-has morphed into something that could almost be described as a trend, with lavender-haired Insta-millennials draping pots of hanging greenery over every stripped-back mantelpiece and enormous window going. Am I a real, or simply a fair-weather gardener, liable to ditch the hobby as soon as it ceases to be a la mode and becomes once again a way for retirees to retain a base level of health and fitness? I’ll let you know when I retire (aged ninety and virtually dead, at the rate teachers’ pensions are going).

So back to the task at hand, the garden smells faintly of cat faeces, last year’s plants have died off and it remains to be seen whether they will return or whether the words “hardy perennial” simply don’t apply to my beginner status and general lack of green fingerly skill. In the depths of January nothing can be planted yet, although already a few little shoots are popping up here and there (CLIMATE CHANGE KLAXON. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE). However, still I busy myself with the houseplants, checking they are still alive (RIP dracaena marginata) and wondering how little water is too little, and how much is too much.

Gardening. It’s the millennial version of what in my day we called “largin’ it shouting lager, lager, lager, lager” (ah, the 90s). How things have changed, for the young and the old. When I start planting seeds in little black plastic trays in the house, or invest in a polytunnel, then you’ll know I’ve gone too far. I’m not quite there yet though. If I have killed the unkillable plant, there’s still a way to go until I can officially call myself Monty Don.

*Side note to the neighbours: I am not trying to kill your cats. There is a notice on the side of the bottle that reassures the buyer that it is completely “non toxic.” It also says this is “so it won’t cause harm to your own pets,” as though sprayers of cat and dog repellent must automatically want all pets apart from their own exterminated.

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