Well, I think that we know the answer to that one. I don’t care about the slugs and snails, for the most part. There is enough green stuff to go around, generally speaking and usually I am content to share. I must confess to getting resentful after spending a couple of years germinating Delphiniums from seed, growing them on, overwintering, planting out when they are heavily burdened with buds, only to suffer gastropod attack on their first night in the border. If the stomach footed sods stuck to shearing a few leaves, I could cope. Too often, they bite through the flower stalk, like a spoiled gourmet supping the soft bit of asparagus. Call me anal but that just seems unmannerly.
Helianthus ‘Happy Days’ (perennial sunflower)
By contrast, in the conservatory I am at war. I have mealy bug on the Magnolia grandiflora and vine weevil in the soil surrounding the roots of the Passiflora. I have sprayed the foliage of the former with systemic insecticide but the wildlife seems undismayed. Next stop is egg cups full of methylated spirit, to be daubed on the blobs of white fluff for the remainder of the season. Eventually this method does work but the hand to hand combat leaves me with a cold blooded killer instinct which would put the wind up Vin Diesel and an expression that could scare Stallone. The smell of the chemicals tends to linger and I fear will add fuel to local rumours that I’ve taken up drinking red biddy. Which I wish to deny categorically, of course. With some cactus, the cure is worse than the malady; the Astrophytums shrivel when under insect assault and turn to black rot when anointed with meths.
Arum maculatum (Lords & Ladies)
I don’t know where the weevils came from. Some new specimen will have had eggs or larvae secreted in the soil and now they have eaten the essential bits of Empress Eugenie. I don’t usually mourn the passing of Russian aristocrats but in this case, I’m sorrowful indeed. She’s had a glorious year, having flowered her portyanki off since April. Two weeks ago, the blooms died suddenly and the greenery withered. I’ve soaked her pot in gallons of sticky, smelly yellow drench but can find no corpses. I will not know if I’ve conducted a successful massacre unless she sends out fresh shoots or a new planting thrives, probably next year. In the meantime, the adult beetles keep emerging from their hidden cubbyhole to sunbathe on a sunny wall. They persist in creeping into the sitting room, waving their antennae in an insulting manner and their body language says “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.” I think I am. Their rigid brown bodies give in to the application of a hard shoe with a satisfying pop. Their carcasses swirl in the lavatory bowl in a pleasing manner and unlike dead spiders, don’t float.
There’s a pond in there somewhere
Perhaps we may return to my original question. Were they properly introduced, by a second cousin or a family friend of longstanding? Probably not, apart from bees where he was a friend of her sister. Were their parents joined in formal matrimony? No. Are they the result of a furtive, clandestine assignation amongst insalubrious surroundings? Yes. In my book, that makes them bona fide bastards.