Last night I couldn’t sleep. I am no stranger to insomnia. Ten years ago I would often lie awake for hours, paralysed with fear.
But last night I was thinking about Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae. Yes, I know, a plant.
I had already made a mental note (in Absolutely Fabulous) that the Euphorbia needed to come out of the bright border.
It is a plant which does not respect boundaries. A plant that somehow charms you and wheedles its way into every nook and cranny. When you suspect that something is going on, it denies all responsibility. Who, me? It distracts you and undermines your resolve; it turns on the charm and convinces you that you’ve got it all wrong.
But beware: all who are touched by this plant are weakened. They become shadows of their former selves. They barely have the strength to hold on. There seems no means of escape.
I was seduced by this plant’s spectacular lime green infloresences (you can see them here in their full glory in Euphorbia euphoria). I was attracted to its confidence, and its swagger.
Pretty soon I was having my doubts. There were warning signs.
This Euphorbia sends out runners which start to intertwine with its neighbours. It weaves itself around their lush growth, draining them of water and nutrients. It pops up everywhere, where it isn’t invited. Those nearest begin to lack vigour. They don’t flower like they used used to; their foliage is dull. Their roots are constrained.
Meanwhile the Euphorbia marches on, getting bigger and bolder, taking more and more for itself.
It took a while. But the evidence became undeniable.
The Euphorbia reacted angrily if I questioned its behaviour. It rose up, spitting poison. It strengthened its grip.
I knew something needed to be done. This was a question of survival.
In the midst of my insomnia, I was going through every scenario.
How will I deal with its sap, which seeps out of cut stems, and can spray in your eyes and face? How am I going to tease out all of those roots? If I miss any, they will regrow and I’d be back where I started. And then what to do with the wreckage? Could it contaminate the compost heap? Could I put it in the bin, or will someone else then have to deal with it?
And then I had a word with myself. I can wear gloves and long sleeves, and glasses to protect my eyes. I can dig deep. I can root out the tendrils. I can leave the whole lot in a pile at the bottom of the garden, far away, whilst I catch my breath. We can have a bonfire.
Today I made a start. I aimed to clear one patch. I donned gloves, sleeves and glasses. I used my trusted spade. It’s small, but sharp.
The Euphorbia was outraged. Bullies get nasty when they realise you are on to them. When its brute force didn’t work, it wheedled. I shut my eyes to its pleas. I would not be distracted this time. I kept my nerve. I found inner strength.
I kept at it. I flung armfuls of the stuff into my wheelbarrow.
It felt good. It felt… liberating.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Why didn’t I do this earlier? I moved on the second patch. The Euphorbia was moving in on my beloved Benjamin Britten. I could not have this. It brought out the tigress in me.
There was a sweaty and dirty lunch-break, and then back to it.
And somehow, I cleared three patches.
I know it will pop up again. This Euphorbia will not go quietly. But I am in this for the long-haul. I will root it out every time it makes an incursion into my protected space.
I can feel the bright border breathing a sigh of relief.
This is Persicaria ‘Blackfield’, throwing its arms up in celebration.
I will sleep more soundly tonight.
One witness took to the stand yesterday with quiet dignity. Her integrity shone through.
Another witness took to the stand. His didn’t.
Let’s take a look at boundaries. Where we have trampled on others, let us say sorry. Let us focus on what we have done to them, rather than how getting found out has made us mad.
Sometimes we think that because we invited a malign presence into our lives we are to blame. We feel responsible, and we feel stupid. We really want to believe this person when they dismiss our concerns and they minimise the harm they are doing.
Trust your instincts. Write it down; talk to someone you trust; believe yourself. You are stronger than you think.
Once you break free, you feel the sun on your face. You no longer have the life drained from you. You grow. You can be who you were always meant to be.
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