Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Tulip vs. Turnip Row

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Tulip vs. Turnip Row

Article excerpt

I can't quite put my finger on it. But there is something about Carlo's plot that suggests it would be perfectly at home on the slopes of some Tuscan hill town. His plot feels different from anyone else's on these Glasgow allotments. But in fact, everyone's plot (as Red often points out) is different from everyone else's. "Which is what it's all about," he growls softly.

Yet we are all playing much the same game. Growing similar vegetables. Dreaming of meals.

Some people, however (not we plotters, naturally), are a touch snooty about vegetable growing. Seems they consider radishes and broccoli lower forms of horticultural life than, say, rhododendrons or lilies. My wife and I were taken by a friend and her daughter, both keen gardeners, to visit an immaculate private flower garden filled with rarities. Amazingly, Britain has thousands of flower gardens not unlike this - witnesses to a national obsession - which occasionally open their gates to visitors or local garden clubs for charity. The reason for such visits is not, on the whole, to see spinach and sprouts. But sometimes such gardens do include vegetable patches. This one did. I spotted it through some exclusive shrub. As a new, enthusiastic plotter I said: "Ah - vegetables. Must see those!" "Oh, I'm not interested in vegetables," our friend's daughter retorted, "they're all the same." I suppose she meant that, compared with flowering or foliage plants, vegetables are utilitarian and predictable. Maybe she also meant that spacing them in measured rows hardly requires a flair for garden design or eye for color harmonies. One of my older brothers also just came up with a vegetable put- down. For most of his life to date, this brother could hardly have told you the difference between a tulip and a turnip. Visiting gardens was his notion of ultimate boredom. But on retirement he suddenly and surprisingly took on an allotment. …

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