Since Attila took out his angst on the ivy last week, I have been thinking of little jobs that need his brawn, long reach and inability to complain about pain, exhaustion or insanitary working conditions. Because he had given in to his scorched earth policy, I felt free to announce that I no longer cared for the Cortaderia (pampas grass). The plant was supposed to put out magnificent plumes of white, on a modest tuft of leaf. The flowers turned out to be undersized and pink, that is to say they appeared to have been put through the hot wash, with a red jumper. The dingy colour faded fast, to a tatty, grubby grey on a towering ratty stalk. The foliage had swollen to a nest of blades edged with razors, which defied a sane gardener’s grasp. On the old estates, they used to burn the plant to keep it tame. In suburban plots of moderate size, you risk torching the wooden shed.
Acnistus Australis (blue angel’s trumpet)
I didn’t tell my husband about the incendiary option, from self preservation. I gave him a spade, together with clear instructions regarding what was to be left untouched, that is, everything else. Since this was to be a learning exercise, I allowed him the use of a chainsaw but did not relent at his cries of distress whenever the colossal clump got the better of him. I had decided upon the grass’s fate after his destruction of the north facing garden. The re-think caused by the obliteration of the ivy had been so mind expanding, I too was now in the zone. The Cortaderia had grown so successfully because it thrived on a prime site with maximum sunshine. I could think of many more attractive and less dangerous alternatives.
Marginal pond plantings Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla) & Osmunda regalis (royal fern)
In the lee of the rampant rapiers of grass, Humulus lupulus “Aureus” had beaten up its obelisk and was fighting back by taking over next door’s trees. I am of reasonable proportions, in other words I’m short. I tasked my repentant and tall spouse with scuttling up a ladder to retrieve the creeper and confine it to quarters. Golden hop has toothed stems which assist with its attempts at world domination. When these snag on unprotected skin, smarting results. I looked at the bare brick wall, innocent of growth and hardened my heart.
Lilium Longiflorum-Asiatic (hybrid lily) “Eyeliner”
When the ground had been cleared of roots like rocks and stems the size of hawsers, I set about replanting. The plot was a yellow patch, with Sisyrinchium striatum (Aunt May) and Phlomis russeliana (Turkish sage) forming the perennial bulk. I thought that lime green Kniphofia (red hot poker) would make a pleasing addition and passed my contrite lieutenant a couple of forks, with which to split the overgrown masses in the back border. Then he moved the Cornus kousa (Chinese dogwood) which had been suffering on poor, parched soil. He promised to buy me a crab apple “Golden Hornet”, should the space need some tarting up, with the arrival of autumn. We reached the end of the mission with him striped and bloody, his shorts in shreds and the bank account under threat. I myself was somewhat fatigued. I thought that he’d deserved a fine dinner; to every dog his day.