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Gardening With Attitude
By Mike Clark

Gardeners Question Time (?)

Loyal as he is to Caithness.org, we sent Mike - at his own expense - to seek out and interview minor celebrities the world o’er, And by Fair Isle means or Foula, despite the serious state of the world’s political affairs, Caithness.org’s gardening correspondent managed to talk dung with the world’s leaders. Their gardening questions follow.

Q. (from Managing Director, BEAR (Scotland)). I have great difficulty with weather forecasting, but I understand that many gardeners can predict the weather by natural means. Any tips you can give me will be welcome.

A. It is indeed true that we gardeners can predict weather conditions. For example, if, after three days, I haven’t seen a snowplough, I can tell that I’m snowed in. Again.

Q. (from A Regular Guy, Lybster). I find rhubarb an essential part of my diet, and suffer greatly when it is out of season. I have heard of Rhubarb Forcers. Can you tell me more?

A. Sadly, Rhubarb Forcing is no longer politically correct. I believe we are still allowed to practise Rhubarb Encouraging, or Rhubarb Coaxing. Rhubarb Asylum Seeking and Rhubarb-on-the-Dole are also acceptable. But the practice of forcing rhubarb to perform out of season is now contrary to Rhubarb Rights legislation, and as you are part of a majority faction, with no rights at all, the penalty for infringement is having your b*lls cut off.

Q. (from Anonymous Gaffer, Wick Christmas Tree Lights Maintenance Unit). I have been researching the properties of various Christmas Tree species in connection with the effects certain conifer resins have on associated electrical functions. I believe certain species have resins which cause failure, or at least partial failure, of adjacent electrical systems (eg Christmas Lights). Is this correct?

A. B*llocks. Get a competent electrician.

Q. (from A Titchmarsh, Barleywood, England). As I have resigned from my previous positions as presenter of Gardener’s World, and host of Ground Force, I am now free to undertake commissions. Therefore, I enclose my CV, and ask that I may be considered for the position of Gardening Columnist on Caithness.org.

A. (from Bill Fernie). Sorry, Alan. We’ve got someone much cheaper.

Q. (from Saddam Hussein, Baghdad, Iraq). Respect to your gardening column. I need some advice on pruning. Any suggestions how to cut back a Bush?

A. Saddo, my ol’ pal - good to hear from you again. Hope my advice on pollinating plants was useful in your campaign to dominate the world by universal sneezing. As regards your current question, I suggest you send George a gift in the form of a Russian Vine. But label it only with the botanical name. By the time he has worn his index finger out reading Polygonum baldschuanicum, he’ll be dead. And so will you. And Tony Blair, Vlad the Impaler, Bill Fernie, and all other present world leaders. And me. But if you’re still worried, send him a Virginia Creeper as well - Parthenocissus quinquefolia.

Q. (from Cherie Booth QC). I got a cheap sub to this site through a friend. Whaddya mean, it’s free? Oh b*gger.

A. And your question is . . .? Sorry, drunken, sobbing, should-I-call-the-Samaritans late-night posts, will be deleted by the Moderator. (Of the site, obviously, not the Church of Scotland)

Q. (from L Sutherland, Dunnet). A year ago, I hired a gardener. It was my intention that he tidied up a bit, then left me to it. Now I can’t get rid of him. He has butchered my willows, decimated my shelterbelts, and continues to attack mercilessly my beloved Rosa rugosa. He has even befriended my guard dogs. How do I get rid of him?

A. Sorry, but I think I know the demon to whom you refer. And if I am right, the only answer is to move. In fact, to move far away. Indeed, Spain may not be far enough.

Q. (from “ A Scrabster resident”). I have a Pieris which should have flowered months ago. But it just doesn’t seem to be making any progress.

A. Funny, that. Your local “Pier is” much the same.

Q. (from D Taylor, c/o SFA). I have considered every possibility, and I have come to the conclusion that the reason for the failure of our Euro 2008 bid must lie in the soil. Were our stadia not turf enough to compete?

A. From a gardeners point of view, grass is always greener when its actually growing. I have seen enough Planners’, Architects’, and Landscape Designers’ wish-lists to last me a sceptical lifetime. We had, at the most, three on the ground. The rest of the eight were pipe-dreams. David, if you’re still in post when the time comes, may I humbly suggest your 2012 bid is based on grass growing in stadia which exist?

Q. (from Bill Gates, on behalf of Microsoft’s universal and incontrovertible Spellchecker). I do not understand your use of the word “stadia”. Perhaps you mean “stud” or “steroid”.

A. Sorry Bill, but it’s no contest. American English will come second to Scottish Latin every time.

Q. (from Bill Gates, on behalf of Microsoft’s universal and incontrovertible Spellchecker). I do not understand your use of the word “spellchecker”. I have no suggestions.

A. Thanks for that, Bill. I have no suggestions for you, either.

. . . ( Well, maybe I do have one or two, but either they are not appropriate to a family website, or they may form the inspiration for a future article. Time will tell. Tell me, within the hubbub of your business empire, do you find any therapeutic moments to meander through your garden?)

Q. (from the Director, UKEA). I have been following this thread, and it seems to have done exceptionally well in moving a long way off it’s original subject matter. This is an ability for which I have the greatest respect, and try to emulate at every opportunity. But I do have a problem which perhaps you can help me with. We are very environmentally conscious here, as you will realise, but the Dounreay site is a wee bit . . . erm . . .bald. We would like to make it more enviro-friendly. Not in the sense of bugs and beasties having run of the place, more in the sense of a media-friendly green-ness, when seen and photographed from a distance. Can you suggest how we can make things look greener here?

A. In the dark? Keep doin’ your thing, man.

© Mike Clark 2002.

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