Well hello there. I am Helen and I am new at gardening. Very new. Newer than Newton from Stoke Newington on his way to Newton Abbott. So new.

In my capacity as an ultra newbie I will be guest blogging for Thompson & Morgan. I am now your go to absolute-beginner-novice-don’t-know-what-I’m-talking-about gardener. Everyone needs one of those.

beginner gardener

This is me being new and enthusiastic

If you’re new too I’m so glad you’re here! We can be like the loners who bond over the buffet at an event where we don’t know anyone else; discussing the crudités and the cheese and such like. Except in this instance our topics of conversation will be more soil based.

It’s hard not to let the enthusiasm take over when you’re at the starting line isn’t it?! As one of the world’s newest owners of a garden in glorious London I’m like a pushy mum. This garden is my first baby and I have totally over ambitious visions for it that culminate in my mind in some sort of mythical, magical Enid Blyton inspired/Secret Garden level of bloom-tastic wonder. Then I have to remind myself that I am a total novice with a lonnnnng way to go.

The first thing to acknowledge here is that, in the words of Fawlty Towers’ Manuel: ‘I know nothing!!’

I do not know my Perennials from my Alpines (maybe they are the same thing? I don’t know. All I know is they sound posh and I like it) nor do I know why it insists on being called a trowel and not just ‘a small spade’. In fact I have a feeling my foray into gardening for the first time in my life is going to be a little Fawlty Towers-esque.

For instance; I have only owned my garden for approximately 6 weeks and, already, one pretty daisy plant (acquired from the wholly inspiring but scarily over crowded Chelsea Flower Show) has fallen victim to my not-so-green fingers. I think it was the lack of watering that did it… Oops. It does seem to have a few green shoots doing their best to be with us all above ground so it’s not total despair just yet. Hopefully said daisy will be one of those ‘hardy’ plants I keep hearing about and turn back into a thing of beauty instead of this light brown deep fried crispy scenario:

beginner gardener Helen Sorren

Now here is the trouble when you’re brand new; you know nothing and it’s really hard to admit you know nothing. If I’m being honest all I’ve ever actually known about gardening is that lawn mowers exist – and (mostly) dads use them – that honeysuckle smells really nice and that sitting in a garden to eat your breakfast is one of life’s simplest pleasures.

The designing, preparing, planting, growing and tending to bit is the big mystery. How exciting that you can join me at the very beginning of this journey of discovery!

I thought it might be useful at the starting line to share my three realisations for anyone else in my position. We really know nothing do we? But it’s OK.

1) The guilt factor

You kill stuff. You don’t really know what it is or what to do with it so you do the wrong thing (eg ‘look at me! I’m ‘pruning’! Oh I’m so clever to be ‘pruning’! I’m so gardeney. Wow I’m really channelling The Titchmarsh here! Look at me go!’) and inevitably you go too far or it’s the wrong time of year and you destroy it in the process. It’s OK. It’s just a garden. Stuff will grow back.

beginner gardener Helen Sorren

This is me looking positively dangerous with a pair of Secutures (also known as garden scissors. Is that how you spell them?)


2) The loss of the concept of time

When you plant stuff one day and you wake up the next morning like it’s Christmas and you’re six and you think it’s all going to have burst forth over night and you skip to the garden because your beds will surely be filled with colourful delights!… and then you get there and realise most stuff takes weeks if not months if not years to really become anything. It’s OK. Have patience little one.

beginner gardener Helen Sorren

This is me being impatient with my minuscule hydrangea

3) The ‘I know what you mean’ nod

When you mention to a friend or family member or just acquaintance that you have been doing a spot of gardening and they jump in with their latest warning on how their perennials are just ‘out of CONTROL this year ho ho ho’ and you just nod sagely as if to agree but you’re thinking ‘perennial? What’s that?’ Its OK. They probably don’t really know what a perennial is either.

beginner gardener Helen Sorren

This is me wondering whether this is a Perennial…

So it’s time for us beginners to just be beginners!

We wander around B&Q with our new wellies on looking like we know what we’re doing, picking up random pots and great sacks of ‘top soil’ (who knew there were so many different types of soil??) when really we are just a bunch of Manuels trying to avoid the next horticultural disaster.

I think what I’m trying to say is: don’t be scared that you don’t know anything – embrace it!! – because when we start out aren’t we all a little bit Manuel?

Follow my (slow) progress on my blog.

Helen Sorren is an actress and comedian. She also presents on Hoxton Radio every Saturday 10am-12pm Follow on Twitter @helensorren

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