By Jane Henderson
Ever since I have had my own home, I have sub-consciously taught my gardeners things other than weeding and sweeping, as I have the knowledge learned from my mother and feel a responsibility to pass it on. Latin names come easily to me as I was brought up with them. Although a Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is quite descriptive, Brunsfelsia sounds so much more regal! Besides which, as the aging process takes its toll, I am hoping that I can rely on my trainees to fill in the gaps.
Gardening is a practical, hands-on occupation ideally suited to learning on the job. Ten years ago, I became the gardener in charge of one hectare of garden. I don’t think of myself as a landscaper as the property is on Houghton ridge and all the hard landscaping has been done for me in the form of beautiful rocky outcrops . I am more of a plants woman as I try to find plants that will cope with very difficult conditions – no topsoil, rocks, acid soil and shade. Edward, Elvis and Robert started with me and Gift joined us in 2017. I inherited Reuben, who works part time. It has been a long learning curve – some things are still the same after 10 years, but with growing anything, perseverance is the name of the game!
When I was asked to write this article, I decided to interview two of the gardeners. This proved to be an interesting exercise. They became conscious of the various horticultural skills they had learnt, and it gave them pride in their achievements. It was great to know that Robert could list 14 things and Elvis 11. What was even more interesting was that they had both learned different skills and had their own particular specialties: Robert excels at pruning and Elvis is great at identifying a planting pattern. The Latin names are a bit of a challenge, but Edward is good at those! I was also told that I am good at motivating them, which was a win-win!
I also teach two part-time gardeners of friends, plus my own gardener. As well as being on site with the guys, I write a monthly chores list for each gardener, which I SMS to them. I am available to answer any queries – not always at the most convenient of times! My friends have become accustomed to me pausing in a conversation while I SMS answers.
A few mistakes have been made, but then, we all learn from our mistakes and they are not usually major. I have learnt the hard way that I should always be present on a pruning day. Pruning can look alarming but is sometimes unavoidable, so I need to witness the process!
Gardening is cyclical by nature and one January is pretty much the same as any January, so once we have worked through the 12 months of the year, we have a complete set of notes for the year.
This year I am encouraging everyone to learn five new names per week. I will SMS the spelling, so each person will have their own list. My goal is that eventually all the plants in the garden will be known, which makes giving instructions a whole lot easier.
I hope all my trainees are encouraged by the learning of new marketable skills.