The Manly Garden Help

Friends in the forum had been talking about the perfect Christmas gift for a gardener. It all started with the following innocent question: 'What do you get a gardening mad Mum for Christmas? She recently refused an all expenses trip to this year's Ellerslie Flower Show because she 'had things to do' in her garden...'

 Note the finely spread compost!
Garden Help and Jester Flax

100 Hours of Manly Help

Suggestions came in thick and fast, and the Moosey mother's Christmas present was decided on - one hundred hours of garden labour (to save those old lady gardener knees), with a plant delivered on each visit. And this wasn't just any old crusty garden help, either - the Moosey Garden was getting a young man in his prime, thirty-something and single, trim and tanned, product of an exclusive Christchurch boys' school...

I was extremely nervous. On my best days, even if I've made myself write a sensible list, I tend to be a rather random gardener. Would I be organised enough to direct another? I am very sensitive about my garden credibility. As a solitary gardener, talking only to cats, kittens and a dog, one gets away with much - like calling red hot pokers 'Kniphobias', and mistaking a pumpkin plant for a Ligularia.

The gift-giver required that I provide suitable tools, planting plans, and over-alls. Garden tools! Aargh! A quick trip with the Visa card produced hand diggers, scratchers, pokers, rakers, nippers, trimmers, weeders - and a six-pack of gardening gloves, super-sized for manly hands.

Nothing Too Girlie

My next problem was in finding suitable garden tasks for Manly Garden Help. I thought about all the TV make-over shows I'd peeped at. All the men did extremely manly things - like wheeling barrows, driving little bulldozers, banging in posts for pergolas, and so on. I couldn't recall seeing a Manly Garden Help sitting in the dirt pulling out all the little weeds, leaving in all the little self sown pansy seedlings. Far too girlie!

My self-seeding programe would create more problems than the preservation of pansies. Could I expect him to carefully scoop out and nurture misplaced foxglove, hollyhock and daisy seedlings, while ripping out lychnis and forget-me-nots?

 He has had plenty of Pittosporum planting practice.
Garden Help and Pittosporum

In the Moosey garden it is not uncommon for a path to be shifted, rather than an offending plant growing en route. Would he understand this ridiculous garden strategy? And then there are the roaming serial stranglers - my Golden Hop and Clematis Montana - which I'd rather not talk about, or even think about, let alone make any sort of sensible pruning decision about. Would he notice them, and lose what little respect he might have had for the head gardener?

No Photographs, Please!

And what about pictures? My old-lady gardener friends were oddly curious. Could I lurk in the gum trees, camera in hand, and then leap out and ask him to 'hold that pose'? It seemed - well, unseemly, and I remembered the trials of that famous 'sex-in-wellies' Irish gardener (mobbed by little old ladies at the Chelsea Flower Show, all wanting candid snaps of his twinkling eyes and dimples). A delicate dilemma, considering at times we do get some dodgy visitors, lured in by the rose 'Sexy Rexy'...

Eventually, the perfect compromise - a body double! Younger son, reluctant but hungry, was coerced into appearing on camera, bribed with left-over pizza. Poses suitable for family viewing were carefully chosen to show off the finely-spread compost and well-planted Pittosporums. Jerome the cat agreed to appear in the daring, full frontal picture...

 Jerome the cat enjoying the warmth of the freshly spread compost.
Full Frontal Replacement Photograph for the Manly Garden Help

Perhaps, one day soon, the Elusive but Terribly Manly Garden Help will appear in the flesh on a Moosey page (perhaps he will also appear in the Moosey garden - it's been nearly a week since his last visit). But thanks to him the Moosey garden is richer and greener than ever before.