A few days ago I was taking part in a discussion on the Gardeners’ Guild forum about plans for retirement. My own feeling was that retirement was probably not something to think about for two reasons. Firstly, the chances of being able to think about stopping working seem to recede with every year that passes. If I do retire, I am probably going to be at least 70. And, secondly – more importantly, perhaps – having come to gardening as a job quite late in the day, I don’t really want to give it up too soon. As long as my knees and fingers don’t let me down, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t keep going: I love it, and it is good for me – and I get paid for doing it: what, as they say, is not to like?
This seemed to be a common pattern among others joining the on-line discussion – a degree of scepticism about the likelihood of ever being able to give up working, coupled with a love of the work we do.
One thread which did emerge was the desire of many, myself included, to ‘settle down’ with one garden – to be able to concentrate one’s energies into a single plot and to think about the future. A garden which could occupy all of our working time, large enough to support us financially and keep us busy all year round. As gardeners we are unlikely to be able to afford such a garden ourselves – though we can all dream… But to be the steward of a single garden, working with its owner (providing he or she is appreciative, and sees the value of the investment of time and some money), is surely the next best thing?
It has to be said, though, that even this may be wishful thinking: as the salaries offered to many gardeners are notoriously small, not to say insulting (to those with hard-earned experience and qualifications) – even when the employers are wealthy individuals and institutions. The idea that gardening is somehow ‘its own reward’, and that consequently remuneration does not need to be realistic, is surprisingly prevalent it seems.This will possibly always afflict those doing for a job an activity which others regard as a hobby or a pastime…
So – we’re looking for an interesting, fulfilling garden to work in – with an enlightened and generous owner – that’s not too much to ask is it? If that is where I see my gardening (second) career taking me, perhaps I had best start looking now? There might be a queue.