I’m convinced that there is an unspoken language between plant and gardener, and even plant to plant. But proving this little theory of mine to you is going to be difficult.
Have you ever wondered why some people have more success with plants than others? In this country we call these folk that are blessed with a gardening talent having green fingers. On the other side of the pond, Americans call them green thumbs.
My reasoning doesn’t have to hang on your belief in magic, although it might help. I often tell the tale of the Irish farmer who, on finding a bird-planted hawthorn tree in the middle of a cornfield field will leave it there. He will go to great lengths to plough around it, leaving the tree undisturbed. Why? Because all self-respecting farmers believe that the fairies live at the base of the tree and others who have evicted the plant have suffered extreme (and I mean extreme) bad luck.
Some think that green fingers are an extension of a verdant heart, and that plants respond well only to gardeners who understand plants in a very real sense. However, there have been others who believe that love was the vital source of nourishment essential to plant raising.
One American breeder of note would regularly assure his plants of his appreciation of them, and asked them for help in producing new cultivars. His relationship with plants was so legendary that during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, although much of the city was destroyed, not a single pane of glass in his greenhouses was broken nor a single plant injured.
More recently, someone in Dorset was living in a house with a fine and healthy willow in the front garden. They sold up and moved to another village close-by. After about eight years, they met the new owners in the street who asked them about what special food they had given the willow tree, as it was now suffering badly. Knowing that some willows like to be talked to, the original owners returned to have a chat with the ailing tree. After that, the willow revived, but it obviously needed more than one conversation. It later died. Surely this was a good example of a lonely tree pining for its lost love?
So, if you’re asked to water your neighbour’s plants while they are away on a long holiday, especially if there is a willow tree in the garden, take heed. Even if you do little to love the other plants, do please pay special attention to the willow. Water it well, talk to it kindly, acknowledge that it could be pining for its holidaying gardeners and reassure it that Fred and Vera (whoever) will be back soon, otherwise expect the worst!