Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Before potting up, flowering hyacinths should be thoroughly wilted, preferably in hot sun. (See text for more helpful advice about experts.)

I've been getting worried about experts. Not only are they oftentimes wrong, and frequently a pain in the fundament, but they also – judging by the facial expressions that some of them adopt, when advising – appear to be not quite happy.

Let's begin with a non-gardening thing. By far the worst and most dangerous non-horticultural expert is your economist. None of them has a bloody clue, frankly, and yet they speak with such weighty authority that we – mugs that we are – tend to assume they know what they're talking about.

Here's an example of Econo-twoddle:
You should spend a great deal of taxpayers' money on useless enterprises because that will make the nation richer. Keynes came up with that one in the 1930s and is credited with ending the great depression by applying those very principles. Hmmm? Did it really work, or did World War Two do it? Or would the whole thing have fizzled out anyway?

And now our thrice blessed, slack-jowelled, non-bullying leader – he of the curious inhalation mannerisms – is pursuing similar spend-or-bust notions with frenzied gusto. And in spite of this Government's illogical approach to debt and economic health, Her Maj's Opposition are slipping towards a coveted second place in the coming cricket match some time in May. It's as if the last thing they want is actually to win the election.

In the 70s, a hard-hitting Chicago econo-twoddlist called Milton Friedman, told us that if we spend more mazoola than we've actually got, we'll soon be in trouble. (Well there's a surprise!) And if you print extra funny-money, to make up for the real dosh that you spent but didn't have, you'll invite disaster. Soon, you'll need a wheelbarrow full of used tenners to buy loaf and a can of beans. The poor old £ is on the way there already.

So where does that leave us today? Well, broke, obviously. And worse. 'Quantitative Easing' is a euphemism for printing funny money - just like Little Herr Friedman said we shouldn't - so the value of the spondies in our pockets has plummetted in the face of the dollar - which is sort of understandable - and also in the face of the Euro which makes absolutely no sense whatever. I mean, just look at the Euro!!! It's even more Mickey Mouse than the Pound, so what the Sam Hell is going on??? Look at it another way, if you like: the Greek currency is harder than ours!! That's never right, surely! Or is it?

Absolutely no one who should know the answer to these questions, does. Ask a dozen economists or business experts and you'll get at least twelve different answers - probably more. But ask your average London Cabbie, and you'll get a pretty accurate analysis which might go like this:
'We're in the cack, Gov, fair 'n' square, an' there's sod all anyone can do abaht it. By the way, is it alright if I take you via Islington, only Trafalgar Square's been a bloomin' nightmare all mornin'?'

Which is a roundabout way of casting doubt on the efficacy of your average expert. Including gardening ones.

Trillium luteum - a swine to grow but something to crow about if it succeeds

I can be legitimately rude about these - unlike economonaniacs - because I've earned most of my income, in the past few decades, by being one. And I've been coming to the conclusion that it is really important to question absolutely everything.

For instance, you'll find a wonderful posting about pruning a wisteria here. You'll need to have seen the post to understand the following, but hurry back!

Received wisdom, on this wisteria topic tells me. . .
1. Wisteria should be pruned - or in 'expert parlance' - the correct time to prune wisteria is in August, and again in January.

2. One should never prune during frost or snow, as the cold might cause damage to pruning scars.


3. Anyone who, in the face of weather like that, who is not tucked up by the fire with a good book - preferably a Dickens - is completely mad.

And yet, what the Garden Faerie was doing, is absolutely spot-on excellent. No doubt the wisteria in question will thrive, despite being pruned in the frost and in the wrong month. And for anyone to volunteer for hard, outdoor work in such extreme weather conditions should be awarded medals for self-sacrifice, even if weather that cold is normal for March in that part of Michigan.

I remember watching a top-rate professional gardener transplanting a young medlar tree in late summer. 'Aren't you supposed to wait until the leaves have fallen, before you do that,' I asked, astonished at his brutality in digging up the actively green and growing tree.

'So you are,' he replied, and proceeded to pull off every leaf by hand, leaving the poor medlar bald and twiggy, before its due time.

That was donkey's ears ago, and the medlar still lives, though sadly, not the gardener. I'm thinking of analysing all I've recommended, in the past, and then producing an iconoclastic book, showing how rules can be broken, often to everyone's advantage. But the trouble is, that would just replace one version of expertise with another, and that won't do.

Anarchy is all very well, in theory, but as soon as you try to practise it, a legal framework rears up out of nowhere and bites you in the arse.

I'm listening to Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes - probably explains my misanthropic mood.

This week's film was Guys and Dolls. What a load mediocre rubbish! Sinatra was in it but only sang about one song; Marlon Brando, who couldn't really sing, sang too dam' many songs - if it was him singing, and not a plant; the characters were so unsympathetic that one wanted them all to die, so the thing could end. And the choreography was silly, stagey and completely unconvincing.

On a more positive note: Lenny Henry, playing Othello on BBC Radio Four was absolutely brilliant.

This day in 2007 was the morning after the first night of the world famous stage show, Green With Envy - when James Le Chapeau and I shared an audience - the first of many delightful jaunts into the world of thesps, fusty dressing rooms, curled sandwiches and exhausted but helpful stage managers.



  1. Ah experts, experts. The world is indeed full of experts.Say something with enough conviction and it must be true, right? Best consult and then properly ignore them.
    And yes, Lenny Henry was very good, especially as he came so late to Shakespeare.Or maybe because he did.

  2. Gosh. Three years ago. We were so young, dahling.
    I am glad that somebody else has noticed Mr Brown's odd breathing: I have an unproven and revolutionary theory that, when he was a child, one of his school fellows pushed a minty humbug up one of young Gordon's nostrils and it has remained there - peaceful and unobserved - ever since.
    Another fine rant, bravo.

  3. I followed Monica's step by step on that stepladder as she pruned the wisteria on snow covered ground wearing snow boots no less! She is quite the woman! And has given perfect advice. Her book about winter sowing is a treasure, thorough and a joy to read as well.

  4. A particularly fine rant I think.

    The only year my ex-wisteria flowered nicely was when I stopped following the accepted rules and generally hacked it about when and where I wanted.

    I can't forgive Gordon Brown for selling the country's gold reserves to Dale Winton.

    I love that trillium.

  5. Its really useful post.Thanks for it.

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