Hard Pruning

FOR SALE: ONE GARDEN STRIMMER, USED ONLY EVERY NINTH SUNDAY

WANTED: SIX OR SEVEN HUNGRY SHEEP.

Three years ago, the first summer here, I was all gung ho about the prospect of having a garden. Simple, I thought - pull weeds, plant stuff. Then stand back and admire.

But gardening is insanely hard work. Time-consuming, bone-wearying. Then you go away and everything you worked on is all grown over and strangled with weeds and vines.

That's what I've learned - you can't walk away from a garden. You have to tend it carefully, be out there all the time working. Which is fine if you can pay someone else to do all your other work.

I've had such pleasure from the few roses that have managed to poke through the tangled mess. Pulling weeds gives momentary satisfaction. Aah, that looks better, that clear patch there. A real feeling of progress.

Turn around and there they are again.

In my mind, I'm wearing a floaty chiffon dress, platform espadrilles, a picture hat and soft clean gardening gloves as I snip a little here and there, and butterflies circle in the soft evening light.

In reality I'm hacking with a rusty scythe, shrieking as rose thorns pierce my arms and legs, spitting out pollen and shreds of grass.

I'd been looking at books and asking advice. Trying to cut this bush and that stem two buds down to encourage maximum growth. Our friend Mick informed us yesterday that tests done on rose bushes showed they grew exactly the same whether pruned carefully or cut with a chainsaw.

WANTED: ONE CHAINSAW. OR BLOWTORCH.