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Gardens Blog

Sighs and wunders


A friend recently introduced me to the magical German word ‘heranwundern’ which translates as the process of praising something so persistently and yearningly that eventually the owner gives you whatever it is. There is nothing that I can think of in the English language which describes it so fittingly.

In gardening terms this can be applied to plants right across the spectrum and, if you are lucky, will result in the query (occasionally sarcastic – which may mean you have slightly overdone it) of whether you might like a cutting? It is not perhaps in the best form to accompany your instant and heartfelt acceptance with a plastic bag complete with tie, label and a sharp knife, but in my book, if you are fortunate enough to be offered a piece of a plant, the best time to take a cutting is right away.

I have also ‘herangewundert’ (don’t you just love compound verbs?) at garden tools, in particular a long handled trowel which I gave to my Co-Gardener many years ago in an effort to encourage him to garden. (NB: it worked beyond all expectation.) Hand forged, a sensibly useful size with a strong, smooth wooden handle which fitted directly into the trowel it was both functional and good to look at. I suspect William Morris would have approved. Having borrowed it for a bit of extemporary border rootling, I fell in love with it and tried to find one for myself without success – the supplier no longer stocked them. The version I did buy had a slim steel neck between trowel and handle which first of all bent and then sheared off completely. I won’t make that mistake again. And thus I started a subtle – and then not so subtle – campaign of admiration and propaganda which has now resulted in the receipt of a very similar model to that owned by the Co-Gardener, leading me to believe that you need not necessarily deprive someone of something provided they buy you one as well.

Were I to list items worthy of a personal session of heranwundern this Christmas I could effusively admire a Hori Hori from Jake Hobson’s wonderful Niwaki store (the Damascus version takes trowel-envy to a whole new dimension and is far too special to even think of putting it into the ground), a ball of tarred string from Wells and Winter for its smell, redolent of creosoted fencing in the sunshine and the fact that it lasts for ages, Gaze Burvill’s oak Meander conversation seat – surely the most enchanting way to enjoy a cup of coffee and the Saturday papers with your significant other, and it looks sculptural when unoccupied – and finally a Silver Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia argentea, just because it is the most perfectly beautiful tree I know.

What I do not yet know is whether there is a German verb to describe the satisfied feeling of successfully carrying off the desired item in triumph. But I shall find out and let you know.

Wishing you and your families a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.



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