Please note: this post contains descriptions of graphic violence against bamboo and hybrid tea roses.
I am capable of a certain level of violence.
There are crimes of passion when I have been pushed too far. Bamboo, for instance. I hate bamboo. We inherited a thicket of it growing along a short stretch of fence. Bamboo does not belong here. It sends out a pipework of roots in all directions and will soon be invading flowerbeds and lawns. Which is what it was doing, at the rate of several centimetres per day. I nearly busted a gut pulling these up. It didn’t help that they were sunk into the claggiest clay and anchored by spikes of sub-roots. It was like the enormous turnip in the end, taking Stevie, me, my dad, and three children (even Ziggy bouncing around offering encouragement) to finally uproot this utter swine that calls itself a plant. Never, EVER plant bamboo.
Dogwood is growing perfectly happily in its place. Please, gardeners of the world, plant dogwood, not bamboo! You will have bountiful, glowing stems in winter and plump little shrubs for the rest of the time. They will stay in one place, and respect boundaries. Make love, not war.
There are those deaths that could be looked on as a mercy killing, as in the perennial sunflower being strangled by bindweed. I panicked. Gardening manuals made me terrified of bindweed, so I removed all trace of bindweed and sunflower, with the cold precision of inside knowledge.
The flowering quince was self-defence. It had lacerated me one too many times.
And then there are the proper killing sprees. Heuchera. Achillea. Hybrid Teas. Sometimes you just don’t get on with a plant. Heuchera is ok in someone else’s garden. Achillea fades annoyingly in the sun and looks like an old tapestry in a dusty attic. You can hack off the offending flowers. But then you are left with the dry old husk of hairy foliage. There is nothing to do but finish the job off.
If I know that one of my assassinations will be controversial, I wait until Stevie is safely out of the way, so that he doesn’t have to witness my blood-lust. He might come back from the barbers on a Saturday morning to find me dragging the carcass to the bonfire. Or if I am feeling really devious, I will chop it up small and bury it in the dalek compost bins, out of sight. I might even have a new peony ready to drop into the vacant hole, so that there will be no give-away crater to arouse suspicion.
(Replant disease is where you can’t replant the same species of plant in the same hole twice. Something to do with the build-up of viruses in the soil. So plant a peony where a rose was, or a rose where a peony was. Job done.)
Nobody’s perfect. Don’t beat yourself up. As long as you are helping more plants to live than you are exterminating. Don’t use weed-killer. Chemical warfare is a definite no-no. If possible use your bare hands, but if you must use a weapon, make it proportionate. And mind your toes.
For big beasts, I dig all around the root-ball, if necessary sawing or secateuring through the thicker roots. There might even be a pick-axe involved to excavate around the roots so I can see what I’m doing. If you pull the monster a bit you can feel where it’s clinging on, and sever its fingertips.
There might be a little bit of cussing. I might even whimper quietly and wring my hands. Only when I am really stuck will I involve an accomplice. If I’m proud of my prey, I will, like a cat, bring it to the back door, my hand around its neck, holding it out to show my family.
What plants have you assassinated? Did you feel remorse? Were you brought to justice? Did you try to make amends my planting something else in its place?