A Labour Of Love And Friendship
Gardens Illustrated|November 2017

With much gathering and clearing to be done, Frank wonders about the etiquette of engaging visitors to work in the garden

Frank Ronan
Friends descend. Usually the garden must wait. A friend comes before a plant, because when a plant fails another can be bought. The kind of friend that can be replaced is one you don’t want. And then there are friends, the paragons of amity, who arrive and ask what needs doing most in the garden.

It is not an easy question to answer. Not because you don’t know exactly what needs to be done, but because of a sliding scale of inner conflicts. The first is a clash with the laws of hospitality; a friend beneath your roof should not be used for labour: not stir the fire nor clear the table, let alone haul your prunings. I have friends with whom I stay and am immediately, and with pleasant astonishment, indentured to hard labour (fine by me – much better to do something with your hands than think of inoffensive things to say before the excuse of two whiskies). But in my house I give no such quarter: visitors are expected to endure the full time occupation of being guests.

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