Profile: Veronica was born in Wales in 1943. She has four children and six grandchildren and lives part of the year in Trinidad and part in Ireland. Veronica is an accomplished artist specializing in oil landscapes and still-life pastels. She is trained and works as a Shiatsu practitioner and gardens wherever she can.

What is your first memory of gardening?
I remember being outside the larder window in Dungarvan. I was planting wild flower seeds: corn flowers, love in the mist, and stocks, both night scented and ordinary. Daddy must have prepared the ground and given me mixed seeds. Now I know it was probably too shady there and the soil was too heavy and cold to grow well. It did not have enough manure. I was about age 7 and I was very pleased when things came up.

Why do you garden now?
I am compelled to garden and get very frustrated when I can’t. If I can’t garden, I feel there is something lacking, as though a whole other dimension is missing from my life. In Trinidad, I would plant in plastic pots or work other people’s gardens or even plant on the rubbish heaps – anything to garden. I do it from love and if I can’t garden, I don’t feel grounded. I am always very excited to see what will arrive. In that way, I am not like Dilly or Daddy. I am a very un-controlling gardener, always interested to see what will happen next.

What is your favorite part of gardening?
I like looking after and feeding plants with compost and soil amendments. I think about the comfort of the plants. Although I am not that interested in harvesting I can’t waste anything. So, I don’t enjoy the harvest but I hate waste. I mostly like looking at the garden – all the mixed flowers and vegetables together. I want to see what arrives in the garden carried by birds or self-seeding. In that way, I am very like Anna, my daughter, who is a very talented natural gardener.

What do you hate about gardening?
I can’t bear to pull up flowers between plants that have grown there naturally. I don’t like naked ground or bare earth so I will put anything on it – even leave the weeds lying there. I am very untidy, so I don’t like rows and will thin around plants that come up by themselves. Those plants are most likely to survive by themselves. I don’t actually like planting seeds in case they don’t come up. There are so many pests that attack the young plants and I hate it when they get eaten so young. I hate gardening books – I am allergic to them and only look up something when I absolutely have to.

What are you favorite types or varieties of plants?
Perennial flowers – pansies, primulas, viola, salvia – herbaceous flowers. I prefer ordinary plants and flowers, not those fussy hybrid kinds; they have to be easy to grow and common. Of course, I like vegetables, but the ordinary kinds: Ragged Jack Kale is one of my favorites. In Trinidad, I like the coconuts and bananas that grow easily, but I never learned the names of the flowers over there – no one seemed to know them.

What are you really good at in the garden?
I am very good at pruning roses though I haven’t done it in a long time. It is very intuitive for me. I am good with soil – helping it become very fertile through composting and feeding it. I will go to great lengths to make compost – stealing grass cuttings and thrown away organic stuff – anything to add to the compost pile. I am good at growing things. I have green fingers and can make plants grow well.

What are you still learning?
I am always learning every year—all kinds of thing like discovering what the soil needs and what to grow where. I am still learning that you have to be careful where you put your plants in the beginning. Habitat is important: the plant has to be happy. I have a tendency to let things rip, be too chaotic in my approach. So, the hard lesson to learn is that you must not allow plants too free a rein. They can get away from you and take over.

>What is your overall gardening philosophy?
I am totally organic, natural and believe in permaculture, that everything is connected to nature. Every plant has a spirit or fairy, so I say a prayer as I plant each seed. I have a strong relationship with the plant world – an affinity over many years. Plants are magical and a wonderful expression of the Life Force or Spirit. I love to paint them.

What is your personal approach to gardening?
The plants themselves tell me what to do. I learn from experience and through the pores of my skin. My approach is: if you feel like doing something, just do it. Don’t ever have a plan!

What do you gain from gardening?
Peace of mind. One time I got an inner message: “If you allow it, nature will always help you.” Once you get your hands into the garden, you get peace of mind – by just doing it. Don’t think about it!