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In praise of - plant life.

Not that long ago, when I told a friend that I had my name down on the allotment list, she informed me that I had better prove I could keep at least one of those potted plants in my yard alive or she was going to write to the allotment people and warn them about me.

My friend is a gardener. She knows about plants. Every time she comes to our house she starts rearranging our drooping flowers, or watering our window boxes, and sighing gravely, as if perhaps she's stumbled upon a mange-covered dog that hasn't been fed for weeks.

But, I have, if you'll excuse the pun, turned over a new leaf. I have begun to feel that I would like to be one of those smart, green-fingered types who knows what to do with their begonias when it comes to autumn.

Partly responsible for this conversion was the man who runs the plant nursery next to the National Trust for Scotland's Newhailes House. He has been there since 1975 and often seems to be the sole figure wandering through his rows of plant-life. Though he didn't say all that very much, he said enough to have me hooked and walking away with a large box of plants.

My mum would be shocked. She has been known to surreptitiously smuggle plants into my backyard, "just for a bit of colour". One of our bigger arguments was over my rejection of a car-boot load of green stuff she tried to give me, on the grounds that they were just clutter.

Of course, it's still early days. I may be stocking up a whole yard's worth of future neglect. My friend still may end up writing to the allotment council. But right now I'm not thinking about it. I'm taking it one bulb at a time.

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