AS spring is here it’s time to visit the garden centre or nursery of our choice and select the plants we’re going to kill this year.

The great thing about gardening is that there’s no limit – apart from our imaginations – to the species we can spend a load of cash on, bring home and begin the process of turning into next year’s compost.

For people new to that process, perhaps because they’ve only just got a home with a garden, the sheer variety of what’s available can be intimidating even if they’ve previously dabbled on a smaller scale.

It’s all very well reducing a window box to a sad little open coffin of dead stalks, for example, or helplessly watching a forlorn cactus wither on a lavvy windowsill, but a full-sized patch of land is a different thing altogether.

Novices sometimes make the mistake of thinking too big too early and buying some trees. What they fail to realise is that most of the species available share genetic material with wild hardy stock that’s survived ice ages, famines and floods.

This means they can last as many as four or five seasons in even the most dedicated plant-killer’s garden before shedding their leaves and developing the lifeless brittleness that tells us we’ve succeeded.

If you really must buy a tree or two, try to make sure they’re of a delicate species grafted on to much hardier rootstock, which will at least suck all the nutrients from the surrounding area and make the rest of your work a little bit easier.

The number of shrub varieties available increases constantly. Best results for novices are obtained by choosing something which looks a bit exotic and bears a label saying it needs lots of sunshine and thrives best in certain specific types of soil.

If you’re in the garden centre and find yourself unsure about a shrub, look up photos of it on your phone or tablet. If the images tend to show the plant growing like crazy in a desert or rain forest, or its enormous, exotic flowers being sniffed appreciatively by David Attenborough, you know you’re on to a winner.

If luck is on your side, the shrub will be a bit poorly by the time you get it out of the car, very poorly by the time you stick it in your flowerbed, moribund after a week and ready for the compost bin by early June.

More advanced gardeners should also feel free to look up prospective shrub purchases online. If it’s a particular favourite food of water buffalo or elephants, for example, that means it has no natural predators here and will strangle everything else in your garden and your neighbours’ before finally starving.

(You might want to check before purchase that the species in question isn’t known for undermining houses or snaring and absorbing family pets.) Feel free to fill in any gaps in the beds with some nice flowers. The more delicate and beautiful, the better; they tend to be grown solely among their own kind, so as soon as they’re transplanted to the garden they’ll last about as long as an effete Victorian poet in a TB epidemic.

Finally, don’t forget about the lawn. No matter how many dead and dying plants you have in your beds, a healthy lawn will spoil the effect.

For best results, replace bald patches at the start of every season with randomly chosen brands of seed and turf.

Ask guests what your lawn puts them in mind of. If they mention radiation sickness or mange, you know you’re on the right track.

  •  l DID you hear about the success of Record Store Day, an international celebration of independent record shops in general and vinyl in particular? I did, but I found myself wondering why charity shops, those other vendors of vinyl, didn’t take part.

A man involved with Record Store Day explained that it’s because the aim is to support current musicians, labels and the excellent shopkeepers who help to bring their wares to the music-buying public.

Somebody far closer to home told me it’s because, although charity shops are great, there’s limited demand for records such as James Last’s Trumpets A Go-Go, Toad Calls of South Florida and The Marty Riff Association Plays the Hits of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

She added that if I played Threshing and Cultivating by Steam Power one more time, I was a dead man.


HERE are some of the top results you get if you Google the names of various towns and cities followed by the word: “Mayor.”

“Reading Mayor Choir Competition.”
“Norwich Mayor’s Procession.”
“Sunderland Mayor’s Ball.”
“Liverpool Mayoral Development Zones.”
“Portsmouth Mayor’s Office.”
“Bristol Mayor George Ferguson.”
“Southampton Mayor’s Office.”
“Leicester Mayor Petition.”
“Birmingham Mayor’s Office.”
“Lancaster Mayor’s Office.”

And Swindon? I’m not saying, as there’s a certain word I hope never to have to type out again as long as I live.

For one thing, it’s an utterly horrible word; for another, I care about Swindon and don’t want it associated with that word in online searches for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Thanks to all of those people whose sterling efforts ensured our town was associated with the word in the first place.

Well done, every one of you. Another winning move that’s done wonders for our national and international reputation.

After all, in these times of economic uncertainty, reputation is very important.


A GROUP of Swindon bikers staged a peaceful protest over selfish car drivers snaffling the motorcycle bays in a supermarket car park.

They made their point by temporarily counter-snaffling the car bays, and just about everybody went home happy and enlightened.

I only wish somebody could come up with a way of protesting against the folks who come tearing at you the wrong way down one of the lanes between rows. Or the groups who walk five or six abreast and at zombie-pace as you’re trying to get past.