Just a gardener? Just?

Alan Titchmarsh caused a bit of a brouhaha yesterday when he commented on a new RHS report about young people and horticulture (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22516087). Gardening, he was quoted as saying, is not just for the ‘thick and the dull’ – a perception which prevails out there, apparently. 

I was reminded of two things people say to me a propos my work as a gardener. Firstly: something along the lines of ‘what did you do before you became a gardener?’, or ‘you’ve obviously not always been a gardener…’. This latter comment I think reflects my modest physique and weak tan, I tend to assume… I don’t wander about with a straw in my mouth, and string holding my trousers up. I read The Guardian and speak with an accent something akin to RP. Does that mean I must be a refugee from some other trade (or, should I assume, profession)? As it happens I am, but the reasons why I am now a gardener are very complicated.

Secondly. the assumption – particularly when I meet people socially, away from their gardens – that I am (surely, must be) a Garden Designer, Landscape Architect or some such. Again, the underlying feeling is that ‘someone like me’ (whatever on earth that might mean) cannot be merely ‘a gardener’. In fact that is what I am. I am just a gardener. I garden, I help people to keep their gardens looking nice, and I help them to make their gardens better if they want me to. I spend most of my time weeding, mowing, pruning – working (shock, horror) with my hands. That is what I am good at, that is what I am (belatedly) qualified to do, and that is what I enjoy. 

If I do any ‘design’ it is making planting schemes and plans, and some basic garden DIY work – edging, paths, fencing – but I don’t especially like it. I have spent time managing building projects, liaising with other trades, sorting out numerous problems along the way – and that is not what I want to do now.  

I am interested in Garden Design, and – who knows – one day I might decide to develop that side of my work. But for now, I am strictly a secateurs and trowel, seed tray and watering can, merchant.

There really should not be any need to apologise for being ‘just a gardener’ (sic)- but, and Alan T has clearly hit a nail on the head here, it seems people think there is.

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