When the lump of asteroid went blazing across the sky some sixty five million years ago, destination Chicxulub, do you suppose that the dinosaurs knew that it was a chunk of Baptistina, knocked off the old block by a cosmic collision, eons before? I can’t tell you how I know the name of the originator of the disaster; I have a mind like an attic sale, there is all sorts of interesting stuff up there but much is dusty and a lot is of uncertain provenance. Did Tyrannosaurus Rex look at the celestial light show and think “Oh poop, why me?” I’m quite a nice person, kind to animals and children provided that they are polite. I try to stick to speed limits when driving and return library books on time. One of my hellebores has black death. What did I do to deserve this?
Black death on hellebores
The malady is a virus probably spread by aphids, unlike bubonic plague which was a bacterial infection distributed by rats. The diseased bits are streaked with black along veins and appear much darker and quite different from the usual brown blotches which turn up on old leaves, fungal in origin and thus treatable. No, unlike that other Black Death which some fortunate souls survived, this is utterly terminal and unless I dig up a favourite pretty double flower, I risk the spread of the sickness to the rest of my forty strong collection of Lenten roses. Many of them came from an advert in a horticultural magazine, which promised sturdy specimens, well grown. When they arrived they were newly germinated seedlings, bare rooted, wilting and minuscule. I potted them up, grew them on and spent years agonising over their progress. Last spring was the first time that I achieved a decent show of bloom.
I’m not ruthless enough for this game. I always nurture something sick, in the thin hope that it will make a last minute recovery. I dare not fart about in this case, as all of the experts give unyielding and unequivocal instructions to destroy affected plants, sterilize equipment, incinerate the foliage and get measured up for a containment suit.
Cynara cardunculus (artichoke) – new spring growth
Right, now I’ve postponed and procrastinated, even written about it; finally I have mustered my inner terminator and done the deed. The ailing plant was pathetically small and not worth instigating a bonfire pyre so I’ve loaded up the wood burning stove and dropped the sad corpse into the flames like a sacrifice to the household Gods. I’m not a happy gardener. I’m basically vegetarian, so will not be making offerings of live chickens or slaughtering other livestock in an attempt to affect the future, however I need something upon which to vent my spleen. Should next door’s scrofulous little yappy dog jump over the fence and commit heinous and insanitary acts in my vegetable patch it may find itself, like the dinosaurs, out of luck.