Learning from the best - Rob the Gardener


Salvia officinalis, known for it’s deep peppery aroma, is best grown in a sunny spot and in well-drained soils. It’s bee and butterfly friendly and a great deterrent for many unwanted garden pests. It’s culinary uses find it well-paired with fatty meats, most commonly the humble pork sausage; though it is equally excellent shredded with fresh gnocchi. Take advantage of new scientific findings that suggest it’s effects on cognitive function are comparable to caffeine. In short, an amazing plant. Come and find me if you want more sage advice.

Personally, I crave advice and these days when it flies about in the form of ‘lifehacks’ and well worded but shallow must-read feeds (“List of 40:, number 23 will blow your mind” sort of thing), I’d just really like it distilled through the channel of a trusted mentor. In folklore, everyone has a mentor: Frodo has Gandalf, Harry has Dumbledore, Katniss has Haymitch and Kim has Paris. They seem kind of essential. As a fresh-faced plantsman on a quest to cover our fair* city in gardens and gardeners, I felt I was short of a mentor and in need of someone to pass me the proverbial light saber.

So feeling that, I turned on my computer and went looking.

Given that most clever folk in agriculture are obsessed with pesticides, intensive yields and the past, I knew I wanted someone that spoke to those lesser values, things like: community, good health and good times. I had hoped these keywords would narrow my search, but they didn’t. (I’m not the first person to point out there’s a lot of guff on the internet). Heeding my vacant stare as a sign of failure, I started closing the tabs of my browser, when an advert popped up in another window. It was such a brilliant one I actually had a bit of respect for their impudence and knew right away they had all the credentials of a great mentor - so I immediately arranged to meet them. As luck would have it, they were available later that day and I was fortunate enough to visit their place of work, where I was of course completely awestruck! (They’re very successful at what they do). I’ll deviate here and tell you that they have impeccable taste too, every single item there felt carefully designed yet effortlessly placed, no line was out and everything fitted together perfectly. This kind of spatial harmony says a great deal; I already felt like I was in the presence of a master. Infinitely detailed and incredibly simple. I wanted to learn everything from them. I sat with them for some time and did just that. To try and share the depth of learning here would do them and you an injustice, suffice to say that they do seem to have the answers to literally everything from how to choose a colour scheme to how to gain that all-important competitive advantage. I’m stoked, above all else they have the answers to my questions on what plants in the city can do for community, good times and good health.

The only unanswered question I left with was ‘Am I a good student?’ They didn’t make any judgement on that, though I know I’m welcome back whenever I want. I also know that the advice isn’t only reserved for me, they’ll give it to anyone, anywhere at anytime. Even at the same time... Ok so no, they can’t be a man, nor even a woman (though more likely); they are, as you may have guessed, the birds and the bees and the wind in the trees - all of nature’s funky forms themselves. Their advert in my window had been a purple magnolia bud caught in the Spring sun, always a sure sign that it’s time to get the boots on and go out for an inspiring woodland walk. So that’s my mentor. Sure, I sound disappointingly new-age right now, and sure there are a whole heap of real mentors I’ve had that I owe a lot to but you know the best thing about this mentor's advice?

Well. It’s free.