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Horticultural Termination
by Patrick Vickery
by Patrick Vickery


Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands and runs a small hardy perennial nursery (part-time). Patrick is also a part-time garden writer, and part-time special needs teacher.

Married to Liz, they have three children, two goats, two dogs, an assortment of small animals, and lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick gardens using a raised bed system and all, of course, chemically free - a chemical free zone!
Visit his blog
His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK:-
"In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)

Also visit his website at

June 10, 2012

There is a house I visit in my capacity as "the gardener" which is accessed from the road via a short driveway lined with rhododendron bushes. Occasionally I prune them. They are fine specimens and as a consequence precision is required to keep them in good shape. A single lapse in concentration with a pair of secateurs can ruin the overall profile. A well pruned shrub is an aesthetic delight, whereas a poorly pruned one is a visual catastrophe that can only be rectified by precision hacking or, as a last resort, horticultural termination.

As "the gardener" I visit many gardens during the working week. This particular morning I was mowing the lawn at the "rhododendron place" when the "terminator" arrived, a pleasant chap called Arnold who was delivering domestic gas. I have no doubt that horticultural termination was the last thing on his mind when he reversed his lorry through the main gates and mashed the Rhododendrons to a pulp, but he certainly did a thorough job.

“Good God, he’s never done that before,” muttered the householder incredulously.

I wasn’t too sure how to respond to this, so I made the sort of noise that I hope adequately reflected the situation. I do unintelligible gibberish well, you know, years of practice, so I did a short burst of that.

Arnold, the lorry driver, leapt from his cab to survey the damage.

“No charge for trimming your shrubs, pal,” he remarked cheerfully and then went about his gas discharging duties with enthusiasm.

The householder was remarkably restrained under the circumstances and simply retreated back into the house to resume breakfast as if nothing untoward had happened. He was in shock perhaps, or simply wary that an enthusiastic man discharging gas might be capable of further wanton destruction if distracted?

As for me, I returned to mowing the lawn. When behaviour of this type occurs a useful strategy is to ignore it. This gives the brain time to process events. Some might call it burying your head in the sand; others might call it survival; I would call it mowing the lawn (although I did move my car out of the way in case he hit that on his way out).

Now what else has been going on? Ross County won promotion to the Scottish Premier League which is good news for Scottish football. Over the years I have kicked many a football on the Ross County indoor pitch, eaten sandwiches and pies in the Ross County hospitality suite and taken part in a few quiz nights with fans and players so I wish them all the best for next season. I wonder if the price of pies will go up?

Japanese Knotweed was discovered in Tain which prompted panic and mayhem amongst the house buying/selling community. But after further investigation by a local botanical expert the knotweed was diagnosed as being a hydrangea. Well done botanical man. The offending hydrangea has since been systematically bludgeoned, poisoned and hacked to a pulp (the ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’ method of gardening) to prevent future misdiagnosis.

And finally I finish with an extract from my shopping list: Olive Oil. Should I buy Palestinian or Israeli, Spanish or Australian? Local shopping has important global implications these days and what we buy affects people in far away places. It’s advisable to read the small print on the back of the product to determine the country of origin and then make a judgement as to whether the purchase contributes in some way to the enhancement or destruction of somebody else’s life. I am a novice in this "local is global" way of thinking, but I have recently discovered that a little research can throw up some shocking results.

On that note, may your Rhododendrons be upstanding, your unintelligible gibberish appropriate, your hydrangeas be hydrangeas and your olive oil ethical.

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