What’s the opposite of green fingered?

Picking cherries in south west France (it turns out I am better at harvesting than I am at growing stuff).

Picking cherries in south west France (it turns out I am rather better at harvesting than I am at growing stuff).

I used to hope that two factors would make me a naturally gifted gardener (once I finally turned my hand to it):

1. My family. Loads of them are brilliant gardeners, ergo, it’s in my blood and I shall therefore be brilliant.

2. I’m a chef. That means I’m good with nature’s bountiful produce and should therefore be good at growing stuff.

Right? Oh, how wrong I was… It turns out that gardening really isn’t a walk in the park. Mother Chef, a revoltingly accomplished gardener, admitted that even the best gardeners have had many disastrous failures along the way, some of which have helped make them the green-fingered wizards they are now. Other misadventures, however, just have to be chalked down to experience – Mother Nature’s way of reminding us who’s really in charge. Gardening, it turns out, requires a lot of knowledge, patience, intuition… and lashings of luck. Right now, a decent, eco-friendly slug killer would probably improve things vastly in my little garden. Rather than buying a selection of potted herbs, petunias, lobelias and geraniums, I may as well have purchased a few bags of mixed salad leaves and scattered them around the garden as the slugs seem to think that it’s their birthday and have attacked my little infant plants with gusto. A few have survived and I’m looking at them hopefully, praying they’ll make it to the flowering stage, but I’m not holding my breath.

Behold the verdant leaves on the left... and the path of the slug's destruction on the right.

Behold the verdant leaves on the left… and the path of the slug’s destruction on the right.

So, with my borders and plant pots hosting a disappointing lack of flowers or herbs, I have cast my eyes further afield… The neighbours’ elderflowers have started blossoming, so I have ‘re-housed’ a few blooms hanging over the garden fence and am now steeping them for three days with lemons, sugar, citric acid and water, ready to decant into bottles – my first ever batch of West London Elderflower Cordial (check out May’s Recipe of the month). I’ve also got my sights set on the magnificent damson tree in my friends’ Highgate garden, which yields a decent crop about once every two years – fingers crossed 2014 is a bountiful one and we can get cracking on some damson ketchup and damson gin this autumn.

Elderflower blooms, ripe for the picking.

Elderflower blooms, tantalisingly ripe for the picking.

Damson gin, made with the bumper Cornish crop a couple of years ago.

Damson gin, made with the bumper Cornish crop of 2012.

But, until then, I will make do with the wonderful local farmers’ market every Sunday… and the gorgeous garden at Treverra Farm this summer (exquisitely designed by Natalie Ashbee), full of gorgeous blooms and succulent fruit. I’ll see if I can pick up a few tips and maybe, this time next year, I’ll be admiring the fruits of my own labours…

Treverra strawberries.

Treverra strawberries.

Jams made with Treverra fruits.

Various jams made with Treverra fruits.