Graham Turner: The problem with having garden ‘helpers’

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It was not without a little envy that I perused the pictures taken by our photographer at Sunday’s Hidden Gardens event.

Beautiful displays of flowers and shrubs, perfectly manicured lawns – gardens of all sizes and styles which delighted many hundreds of people.

I take my hat off to the folk who worked so hard to get their gardens in such tip top shape.

There are also gardeners in my village who open their grounds as part of the National Gardens Scheme and I look around in awe, jealous of their skills.

I would love to have a garden worthy of opening to the public but, alas it doesn’t matter how hard I work, my plot never seems to improve.

Of course, not everyone has ‘helpers’ like mine.

My garden apprentices – I have two – each has four paws, a long nose and big ears, and they are, unfortunately, expert diggers.

Needless to say, they rarely, if ever, dig where it would be useful.

No, I’m sure most dog owners will agree when I say that hounds and horticulture don’t really mix.

Janet, our ‘big’ dog, concentrates her efforts on the areas under the larger shrubs. She loves being outdoors and spends as much time in the garden as she can, creating shallow basket-sized holes in which she curls up to shelter from the sun, rain and wind. Each is perfectly positioned to suit a particular weather condition – very clever, but not vey good for the shrubs.

Our other dog, Olive – also known as fatty or ginger– is a terrier and is much more indiscriminate in her digging. She tends to aim for the spots at the bottom of the fence where the local hedgehogs make their way from garden to garden, but she’s equally happy uprooting smaller plants or scraping turf off the lawn.

For a short period, when our chickens also had the free dom of the garden, I tried putting up small wire fences to protect the flower beds. To a degree this worked and the plants looked healthier, but to be honest, the fences were more annoying than the damage the animals inflicted, so they had to go.

So instead, I’m resigned to the fact that as long as I’ve got my canine helpers, my garden will never be host to hordes of folk passing through as they raise money for charity and I’ll just have be happy admiring other people’s handiwork.