Gardening matters more than ever before

Pots of dahlias

Dahlias are so simple and low maintenance. - Credit: Press Association Images

Now that we have found ourselves living at an unprecedented frenetic pace, gardening has somehow become the antidote to that. Making us slow down aligned with the seasons, daylight and rain.

Who would have thought that such a pedestrian pastime could ever be described as radical or even alternative, but that’s exactly what it has become in the digital age.

Growing up, I can remember older men returning from their allotments with armfuls of dahlias or proudly, if not always accidentally, marching down through the main street of the village with buckets of soil-dusted vegetables like badges of honour.

I was often in awe of these men and wondered what secrets they held to create leeks that were sometimes taller than the grandchildren running behind.

The actual secret, if there is one, is that it’s all very simple and straightforward in most cases.

Dahlias are so simple and low maintenance it is untrue. Dig a hole, put them in and add water now and again. You'll be buying more vases than you ever thought possible come August and September.

You can, of course, make growing them a zen-like occupation but ‘good enough’ is my standard most of the time.

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As much as I’d love to promote the different colours, shapes and sizes of the exotic flowers and vegetables we can grow with little effort in South Devon, there is a plant that crosses both divides.

Like many passions or even idle interests, plants can lead us on to wider knowledge and increase our chances of happiness and sidestepping the mundane.

Gardening has close links with cooking, wildlife, communities, history and creative arts.

The globe artichoke would tick each of these boxes if you had the inclination - please don’t - to create a spreadsheet of such plants.

It was introduced to this country by the Romans in order to cheer up and feed their Centurions working abroad.

For several years before growing them I had to build the courage. They always seemed to look like something someone else should grow. On reflection I was intimidated by them. Most books describe them as ‘architectural’ and cooking them can be time consuming but satisfyingly worth it in the end, almost like dismantling a crab.

I have to say, I wasted about four years of dancing around the globe artichoke and bought a packet only for it to be opened by the mice and go out of date.

Purple artichoke in its first year

Purple artichoke in its first year - Credit: Archant

When I did find the courage, they started to grow quicker than any other non weed I've known before or since.

Not only that but once they are planted in situ they will present you with impressive green and purple spiked orbs on an emerald sceptre that taste like nothing else.

If you were to ascribe a flavour to 40 shades of green, it would be exactly like this. I urge you to grow at least one on your plot.

Once established, after the first year when you should cut off the heads to direct nutrients to the roots they will provide you with something remarkable to look at and ensure you slow down while eating them.

Dipping them in butter and scraping the flesh out is one way but this needs to be done in full sun with a glass of something cold and possibly Italian.

Should you decide not to devour them slowly, allow them to go to seed where the heads turn purple almost without you knowing.

You might not notice but the bees will and soon start their own version of air traffic control is established so they can all share the nectar and cover their hairy knees in pollen. The birds will also love you for it.

Most garden centres sell a several varieties of globe artichoke seeds, and reliable varieties are Green Globe and Purple Sicilian.