Teenage Kicks

It seems the horticultural world has reached a consensus. A definitive accord has been thrashed out in the national potting shed (/internet) the proclamation –  ‘gardening is good!’. Here hear, I too have seen the light! Gardening civilises the soul and steadies the mind. Studies have repeatedly shown its positive impact on vulnerable people’s mental wellbeing, on community cohesion and on public politeness.

So, how to capitalise on this perfect plantae panacea? The BBC runs Dig In, a vegetable forum designed to help horticultural virgins – good if you like free seeds and high taxes. Garden Organic has just launched the One Pot Pledge, which aims to get 30,000 of the horticulturally uninitiated growing pesticide free  basil – good if you like pesto and slugs. Various community schemes, such as Project Dirt, aim to facilitate fields of fecund flora in places as farfetched as Camberwell and Croydon – good if you like beards and your neighbours. But really? License Fee Payers? Pesto Makers? Hippies? Boris Johnson?!? These people don’t need to be whipped into gardening, they probably all have four allotments already. No, As any hardworking mother will tell you, the group of people would most benefit from a little fresh air are the teenage boys.

Boris, Basil. Basil, Boris

Teenage boys are prone to mental health problems, antisocial behaviour, reclusiveness and couch-potato-ism. I can’t back this up at all, but I’m also pretty certain they are the demographic with the lowest occurrence of gardening per thousand people, probably about 0.005. They are the clump of people who most need to get growing, and they are the group I shall be aiming to help with my 2010 summer campaign, Get Boys Grafting, launched with little fanfare today on this website.

So how to get the sebaceous darlings gardening? How to get them out of their bedrooms? Not easy. As we all know teenage boys have two universal interests, computer games and internet pornography.  Both are inherently bedroom based and garden incompatible.

Weaning them from pornography is just too cruel, and probably contravenes their human rights, so I don’t suggest we try that. However developers have tried to ease the transition from the digital world to the dig-it-all world in the past, by combining Massively Multi Player Online Gaming (MMPOGing) and gardening. GardenParty is one such attempt.

GardenParty - a game of skill

Now it’s been nearly half a decade since I was a teenage boy, but I’m certain that even in those innocent times I would not have been exited by the prospect of playing an online game of paper-scissors-stone with my gardening chums. This is not the right message to sent to juvenile delinquents about what us soil lovers get up to. What’s more it is indicative of the mistake made by the majority of the garden media in everything they have ever produced. It’s all home-knitted cardigans and Blue Peter dogs. Teenagers don’t like knitwear and faithful companions; they like lightning, dragons and death skulls. We need to make our image more like this.

World or Warcraft - a game of skill

Teenage boys need to know that gardening is essentially just about fighting. Not about fighting orks, or trolls, or griffins, or even sexy dark elves, but about fighting bindweed and slugs and hungry pigeons. This style of rebranding has been used effectively by the national parks; by disguising their nature walks as LARP quests (Live Action Role Play quests) they have tentatively began to encourage the pale and internet shrivelled tolkienites into the great outdoors. And as the picture below shows, it seems to be working.

LARP, outdoor computer gaming

The World Of Warcraft is attractive to the average boy for two reasons, firstly you get to crush and destroy things with exiting and faintly ridiculous weapons, and secondly no one cares if you’re morbidly obese or have a face resembling a congealing lava flow. Gardening already has these facets. Yesterday I spent the morning squashing entire civilisations of black fly between my finger and thumb, the afternoon hacking down threats with my long handled hoe, and I struggle to think of a group that places less importance on personal appearance than the gardeners (thank goodness).

So as the first step in my new campaign to give gardening the kick-ass makeover it deserves I have written to Felco, suggesting they change the design of their secateurs so they look less like this:


And more like this:


Wilkinson’s Sword to tell them their hoes should look less like this:


And more like this:


And Gardener’s World to suggest their presenters look less like this.

Presenter mark one

And more like this:

Presenter mark two

Once these small changes have been implemented I‘m sure we will see a huge rise in the number of teenage boys taking up gardening and the world will be a far better place.

I shall be at Chelsea Flower Show this Tuesday where I will be delivering free one-to-one lectures on this fascinating subject. I may even make a pamphlet.


Treachery Made a Monkey out of Me

Treasonous murmurs ripple on Ben’s Garden’s ethereal eardrums. Traitors and yellowish turncoats have been snivelling. They’ve been snivelling that…. there.is.actually.no.gardening in this gardening blog. Philistines! You most un-refined of un-refined crudity! I was building up to it! Have you never heard of foreplay? I was literally just getting to the earthy, dirty-fingered, horticultural tips posts, I was ready to type, and now you’ve put me off. Now I’m afraid we are going to have to start all over again. So…. here is a list of my top ten Darwins of all time.

1)      Erasmus Darwin – See revisionist mini essay and poem below for justification. You see? Do you see what happens when you question a gardening blogs authorial direction? I was going to tell you how to make a hanging basket from a catering sized oil can, now you’ve got a Darwin list, an essay AND a poem.

2)      The Lesser Charles Darwin – This forgotten Darwin died at twenty – but had already written a prize winning thesis on the difference between mucus and pus. Amazing.

3)      Charles Robert Darwin – For The Origin of Species, and for his overwhelming dedication to earthworms, molluscs and beagles.

Darwin #3
Darwin #3

4)      The Darwin Initiative – DEFRA’s aid program for countries rich in biodiversity and poor in financial resources. Providing conservation experts and funding since 1992.

5)      John and Anne Darwin – Canoe scuttling ne’r do wells

6)       1991 Darwin – An asteroid

7)      Darwin of the X-men –  An interracial comic book hero with almost unlimited evolutionary powers. Now, I think that this should mean the ability to procreate at incredible speeds with all things animal and vegetable, which would have made for the one of the best comic strips ever written. Marvel do not understand evolution and so gave him the power to instantly adapt his body to changing situations. For this reason he lies lower in the list than middle aged fraudsters.

Darwin #7

8)      DARwIn –  A 48 cm high robot built for the 2007 robot world cup. Capable of ‘getting up off the floor unassisted, walking around without falling, and kicking balls’ which makes him far more impressive than….

9)      Darwen – a small flood prone town in Lancashire that can’t spell. And…

10)    Darwin’s Deli – A sandwich delivery company based in London, specialising in running out of soup.

So what has Erasmus, the famous Charlie’s Grandfather, done to secure his position at the top of the charts? Well, he wrote The Botanic Garden a majestic scientific treatise comprising of The Economy of Vegetation and The Loves of the Plants. The second of these books  is essentially an outline of the Linnaean system of taxonomic classification and  plant sexing – written in heroic couplets!

I’m pretty certain that many of the problems under browns Brown’s Broken Britain could be blamed on the reluctance of modern day botanists to publish their poetry. But times they are a changing! Parliaments are hung, minority governments majorly disrupt governance and Clegg the Kingmaker frolics behind the throne ,the world is on its head and it’s time the scientists took back the spoken word.

Erasmus claimed his vision was to ‘enlist imagination under the banner of science’.  This is now our shared vision, yours mine and the whole nation’s, and so, with fire burning in my heart and in my head I have embarked upon what I hope will be my great life work – heroically coupletizing  a 1982 version of the classic Readers Digest: The gardening year.

So without as much as any further ado, I give you my first two stanza’s, entitled Introduction I and Introduction II



Gardening Year: A Plan for all Seasons

Salvation at last from climate’s treasons

Help for pee-green lawns, all skinhead shawn

And your herbaceous borders, as yet unborn

So no more planting shrubs upside down

(small wonder they looked that horrid brown)

Blow horticulture reprehensible

The Digest’s here, and it is sensible


So come abide by us, your annual guide

Lap up diagrams we’ve slipped inside

Each one is usefully annotated

Fact is, words alone are too complicated

We even have some monthly charts

To let you know when all the growing starts

In short, for tips on plants and rain and fog

Please buy this book, don’t read Ben’s blog

Thank you, look forward to my next instalment – March

Darwin #1