Learning is lifelong. If it stops you are either deceased or stubbornly set in your ways. Neither of these is desirable.
This all hit me on the weekend when I was doing my annual plant of sweet pea seedlings. Whether or not this is the correct time of year is irrelevant. This was the time I had available so this was the time I was doing it. Please do not write in about it.
Mrs D just loves sweet peas. She loves their fluttery butterfly beauty and their sweet fragrance and she is far from alone in her appreciation.
I hope you know that the world's floral imagery extends way beyond Wordsworth's "host of golden daffodils".
"Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o'er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings." (John Keats)
"Sweet peas were the kind of flowers fairies slept in." (Allison Pearson)
"There are few pleasures like really burrowing one's nose into sweet peas." (Angela Thirkell)
So, for at least the last 10 years, I have tried to deliver this pleasure.
• Wyn Drabble: There's no place like home
• Premium - Wyn Drabble: Don't you hate it when that happens?
• Premium - Wyn Drabble: May I now rest my case?
• Premium - Wyn Drabble: It's not time to party yet
But I have never felt thoroughly happy with my harvest. I've planted them along fence lines, I've given them wire netting to crawl up, I have talked lovingly to them, I have fed them essence de kelp. Once I sang them some Billie Holiday.
Yes, I have managed to grow sweet peas and cut them for vases in the house but never at the prolific levels I hoped for.
In true male fashion I have just done it without reading or research. Just bunged them in the soil, you might say. I guess it's the "Men Don't Read Manuals Syndrome".
Today was different. I checked some clips on YouTube and now I believe this year's will be a bumper crop. I discovered something which I had never known and have never been told by nursery retailers.
Mind you, I accept that's not their job. Their job is just to sell them. That admission made, I still wish one of them had said to me over the counter, "You know you need to trim the tip from each plant to encourage lateral growth?"
No, all I ever got was, "Are you a member of our garden club?"
"No, I'm not and, no thanks, I don't want any more cards, passwords, free trials, or email bombardments."
Yes, if I hadn't been such a curmudgeonly old sod (ha ha) and had succumbed to email bombardments, I might have known much earlier about snipping the little tips off.
Now I do know and I'm excited about the rewards I will reap from this knowledge.
I learned something else from the YouTube clips too, something simple which had never occurred to me. Apparently, you can also grow sweet peas from on high – hanging baskets and the like – but I'll wager you still need to clip their little tips off.
I have an outdoor table of plants in pots and I even thought I could add a sweet pea plant to each pot all around the table and I would end up with a plant table wearing at worst a floral apron, at best a sequinned ball gown. It could become a fragrant Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Until, of course, Madam Dog yanked at the hanging offerings and pulled the whole creation down to earth and created the kind of mayhem made famous by Mt Vesuvius.
I could try to teach her but I don't think it's worth risking it. You can't teach an old dog new tricks but you can teach an old curmudgeon to cut off his tips.
Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.