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I'm turning into my mother

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

Alys Fowler and her mum

The other habit my mother has given me, staring at the ground for lost orchids.

Argh! I'm turning into my mother. Specifically I seem to have, in the last two years, adopted her stance on holidays. That is to say you're not allowed one between the 1st of April and the 2nd of October because that would mean leaving things GROWING ON THEIR OWN.

My mother is of the opinion that it is madness to leave England when the weather is so fine (that in her mind merely means it's just not cold and windy, she seems impervious to rain). So she put a ban on any holidays throughout the summer saying all she needed was her garden. And here I am 20 years later agreeing with her.


There's one problem with this in less than 24 hours I need to be in Italy to teach for a week. It is a lovely job, good food, and good wine, some of the most beautiful gardens in the world and other so strange and beguiling that the whole thing is a feast.

I'll come back several pounds heavier (Naples pizza and Ischia ice-cream) with too many packets of Italian tomatoes I'll never have space to grow. I'll also come back to a garden and allotment that will have been unsupervised for a week and god only knows what that will look like?

Tender things with nowhere to go.

But right now I need to worry about squashes, courgettes, pumpkins and achocha (look it up, it's a weird south American cucumber). I have a small army that is getting ready to take on the allotment, but they are not quite there yet. That and for the first week or so that the cucurbits go out you have to go on squirrel duty.

Our band of squirrels take great joy in snapping off the stems of anything that might look appealing to eat but turns out not to be. They particularly like to leave the stems half dangling as if to mock your efforts.

It requires vigilance, many plastic bottle cloches, trip wires, sparkly things, rude notes (no joke one of the old boys writes notes to the squirrels, it's genius really) and any other conceivable and generally useless method to hand.

Do I leave them to the dice with drought at the hands of my husband or to be ripped to shreds by the squirrels or spend a night shivering if the temperature drops? I feel truly torn between the thought of ice cream, fountains and roses and a dozen or so small plants.

Still there is nothing like a week away to let you see the garden afresh again. It's perhaps the most important part of the journey. You see it anew, it successes and failures can be assessed without the clutters of yesterday's thoughts. The most surprisingly thing is? It almost always does fine without you, in fact in thrives on the independence.

Alys Fowler is a writer and broadcaster.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am jealous of your trip to Italy it sounds perfect gardens food and ice cream. I know what you mean about turning into your mother I am too! BUT my darling kids tell me "it's really good that I am so like Grandma" that I reckon I must be getting all her best bits!

  • Comment number 2.

    Your garden and your husband will both survive your week in Italy! Enjoy and return refreshed and ready for battle with squirrels and weeds. By the way, I am turning into your mother too - I have wild orchids in my lawn in Toronto. They are tiny little things, but I like to point them out to passerbys, who think I am mad.

  • Comment number 3.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 4.

    My trouble is a rabbit it came through he hedge from next door & started digging into the earthed up rows of potatoes, I kept filling the rows in but it kept on opening them up. In the end I was getting desperate but I suddenly came up with a bright idea, I covered the rows with roof tiles left from when I built the house in 1979, no trouble since.

  • Comment number 5.

    I do hope you are having a good time in Italy, I'm just about to plant my squash and courgettes outside as there appears to be no frost forecast for the next week!!

  • Comment number 6.

    hi your video"growing peas and beans on the allotment" you use a tool for making holes, in the ground, is it a one off, or is it possible to purchase, one of those would make my life so much easier! thank you

  • Comment number 7.

    I have just returned from a holiday lasting ten days to find my garden totally overgrown. Which should I tackle first, the washing or my plants? A bit of both I think!

  • Comment number 8.

    i like the way the family gets mentioned so often in your writing. especially the meddlars article. arividerci!

  • Comment number 9.

    sounds wonderful

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello Alys.
    You've probably mentioned this somewhere but why aren't you on Gardeners' World this series?
    I miss seeing your chickens and garden. Hope they're doing well. I'd love to get some chucks but there's some dodgy clause in our house deeds which says we can't keep them which seems a bit unfair.
    Hope to see you on screen again soon.

  • Comment number 11.


    THe clever tool was made by Sally's husband. I think i might persuade him to go into business I've been asked that many times about it. I'm stuck using an old washing line pole! Still it works.

    jonpclarke- sorry you can't keep chooks. I'd write and complain. If enough do so they may change the rules. Gardeners' WOrld had a reshuffle. I'm on my allotment in blissful quiet ;-)

  • Comment number 12.

    I rent my house. The garden was a blank canvas of two lawns, some decking and the rest is gravelled. I have put in some shrubs and the rest is in pots and containers, along with a few vegetables and fruits in grow bags. I am visiting the house where I was born tomorrow. My mother had a glorious garden and I hope I can bring home some cuttings from there, although I'm still not sure that going back is ever a good thing.

  • Comment number 13.

    i know this feeling well, but sometimes i think we need to force ourselves to do that. times out mean so much inspiration your garden will love you for :) i need to go for a week doing camping with my boys in summer and i know my garden will be a green sweet hell when i am back. enjoy your time in wonderful italy, i will go as well soon to visit my bf in rome..but this means just 3 days ;)
    warm regards from germany, you are such an inspiration!

  • Comment number 14.

    Alys - I hope I don't get struck down and refused a place in Gardening Heaven for saying this, but I was very pleased to come across your blog, and to find that it isn't talking about the Chelsea Flower Show (there I've said it!)

    I share your fear of leaving the garden for extended periods of time, and think what wise words your mother says. However, more importantly, I am very interested in the squirrel skirmishes you have been experiencing and your various plans of defence - I too suffer similar attacks but from next door's murdering moggie.

    I spent Bank Holiday Saturday contentedly planting out my hand reared pumpkins, courgettes and tomato plants into my little veggie patch. However, when I returned from one night away in Greenwich (no week in Italy for me) carrying my fancy new bistro garden set from Argos, looking forward to christening said furniture with a cup of take-away latte and a slab of homemade carrot cake - horror struck. The forest of twigs, my main line of defence against the cute but deadly cat next door, had failed me, and my little bonsai-sized pumpkin plant - that had already survived my heavy handed over watering, shortly followed by a near fatal fungal infection - had finally ended its short existence under the hind legs of next door's cat!

    I like the bravery of your parting comments that all will be fine without you, but from my recent experience of 'pumpkin-gate' would advise that you leave your husband fully armed with a pad full of rude notes to keep those pesky squirrels from destroying your little hand reared vegetable army.

    Read my blog:


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