Monday, November 23, 2009


There's one thing they don't tell you about gardening before you start: you only find out once you're well and truly hooked and it's too late. It can be, and almost always is, excruciatingly painful.

Most of the time it's true that we all spend our time wafting about in floaty Laura Ashley dresses and floppy hats (except, in public at least, if we happen to be male gardeners) with trugs overflowing with floral bouquets on our arms exclaiming over plant combinations and quoting poetry at each other.

But it is also undeniably true that I'm almost always bleeding, bruised or aching - sometimes all three - from some gardening-related wound or other.

At the moment it's a blister. And not just any blister: a huge gobstopper of a blister, right slap bang in the middle of my left palm.

Now for any normal person, this would be an odd place to have a blister. On the curve of your thumb, maybe, if you'd been, say, rowing or painting a ceiling; or if you were a particularly keen letter-writer you might develop a carbuncle on your top middle finger joint just where the pen rests. But in the middle of your palm?

Seasoned gardeners will know all about this pecularly November-related affliction, and will probably sympathise. I've been planting tulip bulbs. Hundreds of them (well, 350, to be exact, which isn't a lot by some people's standards but is quite enough by mine). And that spot where the end of the trowel rests as you gouge a 4" hole in the earth over and over again is, you guessed it, right in the middle of your palm.

I've been planting my tulips in bursts so when the central-palm blister got just too painful I decided to transfer over to my hand-held bulb planter, not usually my favoured option as I find it a bit heavy-duty for my purposes, but at least its sturdy wooden handle would lie across the 20p-sized wound on my palm in, I hoped, a soothingly non-abrasive way.

I didn't reckon on the action the sides of the bulb planter would have on each side of my hand where I twisted it into the ground. I now have two more blisters to match: one on the outside of my palm, just where your clenched fist would rest on the table; and the other just on that fleshy bit between thumb and forefinger.

I have to return to my bulb-planting tomorrow for one last push: I'm seriously considering attaching a spike to my foot. But then I'll end up with blisters on the soles of my feet, too.

I won't mention the rose thorns semi-permanently embedded in my fingers (I've lost some of them - where do they go, do you think?) or the barbed-wire lacerations which stripe my arms from January to March and again from about July until September (pruning season). I've even found berberis thorns sticking out of my head. And that's not even counting the sundry rashes, broken nails, skinned knuckles, stone-bruised knees, groaning backs or aching shoulders I've sustained in the course of pursuing the gentle art of growing things.

Actually, I find whenever I get together with other gardeners we almost always end up comparing wounds at some point with a sort of childish fascination. I had a great time earlier this year when I was sporting a livid gash about 6" long on my upper arm. It elicited horrified admiration from all around, who assumed I'd slashed myself with a chainsaw or other viciously sharp pruning implement and only just avoided severing my entire arm.

Unfortunately for my gardening cred, it was actually an oven burn, sustained while reaching across a scalding hot baking tray to get something from the cupboard. But don't tell anyone. It makes a great scar.


Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

Yep - I am with you on this - my arms in the summer look like someone has set upon me with a sharp implement and I always have bruises.

Bulb planting is my worst task of the whole year :(

Hope your hand recovers soon

Anna said...

Oooooh - sounds so painful and I hope that you are soon on the mend. You have my sympathy. As a former pen pusher I suffered from that carbuncle on my middle finger and it did not 'alf hurt. The advent of word processing was a welcome relief !

NellJean said...

Maybe Santa will bring you some really good gardening gloves: different types, some with padding, some nice goatskin. Gloves are as important as shoes and a hat in the garden.

janie said...

I stay in the same condition. My arms are covered with so many scars, little ones, but I would not have imagined they would be little when the injury occurred. I have finally gotten used to wearing gloves, and now I can't garden without them.

Now my only injuries come from my cat, who loves to ambush me. She is just a kitten, still.....

Gail said...

I'm thinking that I have to move to just using a perennial spade since the trowel has causes a thumb injury!
But we carry on~Keep the blister clean and wrapped! gail

VP said...

Oh how I groaned in sympathy and recognition. I find raspberries even peskier than roses and don't talk to me about gooseberries!

1,000 willow wands hand pushed into a Welsh hillside (preparation for university research project re biofuel production and one of the delights on offer during my last MSc field trip) makes for a most impressive wound in the right palm.

Sadly I just can't get to grips (!) with gloves, so am resigned to being permanently wounded in one area or another all year.

My current problem is secateur elbow - see we don't even have to meet to start comparing ailments!

The Constant Gardener said...

Thank you everyone, you're very kind. I forgot to mention that the blister formed despite gardening gloves: I am allergic to soil (no, really....) so I have to wear gloves in the garden and have honed my choice of brand to perfection over the years. Still doesn't stop the blisters though.

Only 20 more bulbs to go now - ran out of light just before finishing the front garden yesterday. Blisters angry but still, mercifully, unbroken so I may get away without actually bleeding.

martyn.cox3 said...

Gardening wounds come with the territory. My main injury is a dodgy left wrist - it got trapped in a potting machine when I was about 18 and has caused me great pain ever since.

James A-S said...

You need a small spade instead of a trowel. Ignore all hand held bulb planters they are a waste of time unless your soil is all fluffy and recently dug over.
It involves a bit more standing up and then crouching but is much quicker.
Bulb planting is really hard on the hemlines of my Laura Ashley dresses: I have to wear a nice broderie Anglaise pinny to protect them.

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