Caught by the River

To The Greenhouse

Tracey Thorn | 20th April 2010

It’s always good to announce a new regular feature on Caught by the River and today we can take great pleasure in doing just that as Tracey Thorn begins a monthly column talking about her passion for gardening..

by Tracey Thorn


I get a bit mystical in the greenhouse. Which isn’t like me at all. I’m very down to earth, hence my love of gardening, and a bit too sarcastic by nature to buy into an overtly “spiritual” take on life. But I make an exception for this moment in the morning, at this time of year, when you go out with a coffee and step into the slightly steamy musty smell of the greenhouse and you wonder what will have happened overnight. The jobs that need doing really only take about five minutes, but once I’m in here I’m lost to the day. I’ll stand and stare at a little pot which has a few green shoots pushing through, a pot which yesterday was “just mud”. If you looked up in the kitchen, and glanced out the window and saw me there you’d think, “What IS she doing?” and all I am doing is looking at it in wonder and thinking that most banal thought, “It’s a kind of miracle isn’t it?”.

Kids of course can all be impressed by being allowed to plop a seed into a pot and then be shown it a few days later, a fairy tale bean uncurling before their very eyes, but if you like gardening I don’t think you ever grow out of that feeling of amazement. The prosaic fact that it WORKS, that what it says on the back of the seed packet will happen, does happen. That little bit of dried-up nothingness will turn out to contain an unstoppable force. And spring is the best moment of the gardening year in every single way. Everything is possible. All the leaves are long since cleared away, the veg beds are empty and dug, no mildew, no whitefly, no slugs. This year, yes THIS year, it will all go right, I will correct all the previous years’ mistakes, and nature will be kind and smile upon my every effort, and it will all look like it looks in the books.

It won’t of course. I’ll start out with the best intentions, and then get carried away. I’ll be swayed by a picture and try something “tricky” or something that doesn’t really like my soil, or something that needs steady constant nurturing, not the binge-gardening approach that my poor plants get from me. Last year there were too few lettuces (slugs), too many cucumbers (ended up giving them away in the street) and some dahlia disappointment. But the carrots were hole-free, and the Cuore di Bue tomatoes were totally heart-shaped, and the courgettes and aubergines were great, and the mammoth basil was ginormous even if it did smell funny. I keep a diary of it all and note down the failures and successes and vow each year to learn from my mistakes and to become wiser and just BETTER at it all. And maybe I do, maybe I do, but after the neatness and perfection and possibility of spring I know enough now to know that it will all get messy in the end and nature will do whatever it bloody wants to, despite me.

Tracey’s new single, ‘Oh, The Divorces!’ is out now as a free download from or as a limited edition 7” (b/w a cover of Vampire Weekend’s ‘Taxi Cab’) from Apr 17, and the album, ‘Love And Its Opposite’, is out on May 17.