I’ve had enough of your behaviour

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.

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The Euphorbia’s creeping has been insidious. You can’t see it, but it’s there.

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.

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Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, looking all innocent and hard to spot, but holding onto its neighbouring hellebores and crocosmia rather too tight.

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.

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This is going to take some time. It’s worse than I thought.

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.

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Ta da! Euphorbia Euphoria!

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.

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Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, trying to get its tentacles into Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’. I don’t think so.

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.

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The Bright Border, celebrating.

This is Persicaria ‘Blackfield’, throwing its arms up in celebration.

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Persicaria ‘Blackfield’ setting off some fireworks.

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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41 Comments Add yours

  1. Last garden we owned, we inherited the purple form. We soon learned what a curse it is! Its pictured so beautifully in lots of garden books and magazines. Don’t these people actually do any gardening themselves!!!

    1. Ali says:

      I have the purple form too, but that seems to behave better. Thanks for the warning though – I will keep a close eye on it. X

  2. Linda Casper says:

    Oh no! I intended to buy one but had too much to carry at the time. I may think again but I do like the structure of its leaves.
    I love your stories.

    1. Ali says:

      It is beautiful, but such a rogue. I find E.palustris, E. schlingii, E. wulfenii and E. griffithii to be much better mannered.

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I too, have had my issues with euphorbia misbehaving in the garden, and spent a lot of time removing it. You should sleep well now!

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Jane! 🙏

  4. Ann Mackay says:

    A friend has given me a euphorbia from her garden – reckon it’ll be going into a pot!

  5. john smith says:

    You often mention Euphorbia in your blogs; it is just this variety that is a particular problem? Doing Yoga helps you consider these type of problems.

    1. Ali says:

      The others I grow are much better behaved. Only E. amygdaloides var. robbiae has overstepped the mark; the others spread a little, but are not invasive.

  6. Heyjude says:

    Euphorbia a thug? Oh, I hope it is just this particular one as I have planted some in a bed. I think mine is the common Euphorbia oblongata and I think it is a short-lived perennial so maybe not so thuggish. But I do know about being kept awake worrying about a problem! Sleep well tonight.

    1. Ali says:

      The short-lived ones are fine. It is only this one that I feel the need to banish.

      1. Heyjude says:

        Phew! Though I need to recreate that bed anyway.

  7. bcparkison says:

    Ah! The under current leaves questions.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes; there are many undercurrents. This affects us all in complicated ways.

  8. A subtle piece with a powerful message. A powerful metaphor hidden in a garden. I’m feeling a bit weepy today, so your message digs to the root of my anger and sorrow. (Or is it self pity?) Thank you, Ali.

    1. Ali says:

      No, not self-pity. I think today is just a very very sad day. I send you my love and support, friend. We’re all in this together.

    2. Ali says:

      I can’t imagine how Ms Ford feels, but I hope she is aware of the tide of support out here for her. What a brave woman.

  9. Brilliant as usual! I love a miniature euphorbia with corally red tops – no idea of the name and I don’t think I’ve spotted it in your posts. You did the right thing!!

    1. Ali says:

      That sounds lovely – like a smaller, more subtle version of Euphorbia ‘Fireglow’…

      1. I’ll take a look at Fireglow. Love the name

  10. FlowerAlley says:

    Thank you for this. I too did not sleep. I too have been wooed by a bully plant. ( Jewels of Opar) I too heard the clear honest voice of a woman and the deflecting outbursts of an entitled man. We know what we know. We feel what we feel. I had bad dreams of someone digging up all my bulbs…when I finally did sleep. I feel I have no control over my government or my garden. But I will chose what is best for me. Today it is turn OFF the TV and go outside and try to bring some order to my messy garden. That I can do.

    1. Ali says:

      I find it disturbing that there is a boys’ club at the highest level of government and the judiciary pulling together to protect one another. That they would sacrifice their own morals to promote such an unsavoury character. That he will hold such power over peoples’ lives.

      I couldn’t believe the way he addressed people questioning him. That is just not how you behave.

      What does provide some comfort is to know that there are so many people that feel exactly like us. Not just women, but men who respect women, and recognise instinctively when respect is not there. I feel so much for Christine Blaney Ford, and hope she knows she has an army of people backing her up.

      1. FlowerAlley says:

        An army of people LIKE her. That is my comfort.

    2. Ali says:

      You are right to turn the tv off. We do need to give ourselves a break from the toxic arguments.

  11. FlowerAlley says:

    AND yes we are kindred spirits…told you so.

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    Nothing worse than a thug in the garden. I have a few myself. 😦

  13. Cathy says:

    Ali, as usual you have given us a wonderful piece of writing about your garden with an additional message applicable to all of us – such wise words… Here, I heve been ruthless with most euphorbia over the years, as even the more well-behaved ones are pretty good at distributing their seed around, which still appear years after their removal

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Cathy; you are always so generous with your comments.

  14. Mud Cakes and Wine says:

    Wow i never knew it was such a bad boy and well done for getting it done and not being beaten by that bully. Keep going when it tries to raise its cheeky head again x

    1. Ali says:

      I will! I’m on a mission now!

  15. Oh man. What a perfect political allegory. Thanks, Love.

  16. Tear in eyes…We are moving on November 7th, but you can bet I’ll be voting on November 6! It’s been very difficult for me to keep politics out of my heart since 2016. Never has it affected my emotions in such a way. I feel so good when I read or hear someone express what I’m feeling in such a profound way as you have here. Sending a hug

    1. Ali says:

      I have only once cried at the result of an election, and it was yours in 2016! It just feels so personal. I feel it for myself, for my daughters and for friends like you. x

      1. I snuck away for a quick visit with my daughter at college and I was just telling her about you and a few other WP friends in Australia and N.Z. You are all as bummed out as we are here and I find that amazing. I’m sorry the pain extends across the miles. I take comfort in the fact that because our system in the U.S. is so antiquated, it is the minority who are in power now. The majority of people in this country did not vote Trump and do not like the direction we are moving in. I am trying to keep the faith. BTW…where do you live? I’ve visited London several times and a village near Leeds Castle.

      2. Ali says:

        We’re on the outskirts of Staplehurst. You were very close! Stop by next time! ❤️

      3. You don’t have to ask twice!

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