Fighting Back!

In the latest of her series Clippings From A Small Garden, travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

When I began to create the garden I now have, I was mindlessly grateful for anything that grew with wild abandon, and spread with unfettered ease. Today, I am according three such plants zero tolerance. They are campanula carpatica, ivy and soleirolia soleirolii or Helxine soleirolil, which is more commonly known as ‘mind-your-own- business’ or ‘baby’s tears’.

Yes, the latter name does suggest a delightful innocence, but don’t be taken in: getting rid of this tiny terror is proving more of a challenge than the other two thugs pose. I encouraged it to grow between patio paving stones; now much of my once lush lawn is ‘baby’s tears’ and they weep buckets. Every single stem – and it produces a multitude – takes root. Fail to remove every last one and the battle is lost; each survivor goes forth and multiplies. I am racing to dig it out before it gets into the flowerbeds. And there is hope: one small section which was sprayed with brushwood killer appears to have died the death…

The brushwood killer was intended to eliminate the fourth foe in my garden – bamboo. If man could harness the energy with which this plant spreads, we might have a workable alternative to wind farms, nuclear power plants and solar panels, in the hunt for clean energy. My predecessors chose to plant it here; only a panda would thank them. A decade ago, I paid to have it uprooted and all its runners destroyed – or so I thought. One ran into my neighbour’s garden and a new root mass formed. This he eventually dug out, but not before numerous runners came running back my way. Today’s recommended weapon against bamboo is brushwood killer. And it works, but with new growth frequently appearing, constant vigilance is also required.

The ivy monster is less stealthy. I clip the stems that tumble down my fences, and rip out those that knit themselves into lawn and flowerbeds. As for the campanula, which I naively thought would politely remain in its pots, pulling it out by the roots has reduced its blue carpet overflow to a few small rugs.

The best argument for not having these horrors in my garden is the amount of time that would be freed up to garden productively if I weren’t endlessly battling to be rid of them. To anyone starting out, my advice is don’t even think of having these plants in your plot.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.