At last! After all the mists, the rain, the sodden leaves squelching underfoot, the urge to stay indoors by the stove, a clear day. At last some bitter weather, the air so still and clear that it seems possible to see every twig on a tree five miles distant.
And then the mad, long put off, rush to get the tender plants indoors, and then the madder difficulty of trying to find where on earth to put them. And do I really need three large pots of identical cymbidiums to overwinter indoors, and any more that one rosette each of all those echeverias, and I’ve forgotten to take cutting of the geranium that swagged the huge celadon vases with glittering leaves and bronze-red flowers. And so on…
There are protests if I balance more pots on the kitchen windowsills, and so I will have to turn executioner in the garden room. Do we need the Hoya that sprawls over yards of wall, or its cousin, so like Spanish moss, but whose flowers, wildly beautiful when held upright, but which normally always face towards the floor, then fill our gardening boots with sticky rubbish when they shrivel and fall. Or the gorgeous Fuchsia boliviana, now at two yards tall, and going fast, gone gangly and flowerless… Murder, I’m afraid.
Well, not quite murder. I think of Romulus and Remus abandoned on a hillside by their chill mother. The same chill forgetfulness on my part has seen off splendid things: several overweening oleanders, grotesque begonias, justicias, even a cactus or two that I’d grown for forty years and which tended to topple into our arms if we passed it without sufficient care. Left outside in the yard, with the promise of rescue, I simply forget until a frost does away with them for me. Ideally, the frost kills the plant before it cracks the pot.
Of course, some plants have murder in mind anyway. Ours, not theirs. From a balcony in Italy’s deep south, I pinched a fragment from a huge tangle of skinny, only slightly spiny, cactus stems. Heliocactus I think. I should have taken note when it rooted swiftly after several vicissitudes, and then produced several yard long stems in its first season. Forgotten for a season or two, it now almost bars the exit to the garden and, worse, where it has propped itself up against the garden room uprights, has produce a whole network of aerial roots that are stuck irretrievably to glass and woodwork, and combine into ropework thongs that look as if they penetrate the very wood itself.
Ah well…. Off with their heads!