My father had a wonderful vegetable garden and my mother a flower garden. They passed their love of gardening on to me. One of the fondest memories of my father is sitting at the end of the day in the garden with him eating homegrown fruit or tomatoes. Dad got in from work around 3.00pm every day, drank a cup of tea then walked round his garden, often with me by his side, learning what to do and what not to do and how much watering had been done well or otherwise. I do the same thing that he did and take a walk round my garden every day. It’s been a good habit and I’m pleased to see some of my children also do so.
This spring a new plant appeared under one of the buddleias, commonly known as the butterfly tree. The tree is close to the bird feeders and I assumed that the new plant had been introduced into the garden by the birds. It looked like a lily, so I left it. It flourished, the leaves died, and some purple stems appeared with a funnel of green berries sitting on top of the stem and I knew by the look of the berries they were probably poisonous.
Upon looking it up, I discovered that it was an Italian arum and all parts of it are poisonous. Contact with the plant can cause skin irritation and eating any part of the plant can be fatal. Italian arum, also known as ‘lords-and-ladies’, starts popping up in April and May. First, you will see its dark green, waxy leaves with white veins, then in late May it produces white, hood-like flowers which look like a calla lily. Finally, the plant will produce tight clusters of berries which change from light green to orange-red. Italian arum usually reaches a height of 12 – 18 inches. Getting rid of the plant is a pain; even professional land managers struggle with it, which is why early control is very important. Herbicides don’t work well and digging it up is a lot of work. Manual removal is only recommended on small patches because soil disturbance tends to increase the spread of the plant. All plant parts and nearby soil should be placed in a bag and disposed of in the household waste bin, not the green bin or household compost. Infested sites should be checked weekly to stay on top of any new sprouts.
I was horrified and, as recommended, the plant was dug out with as little disturbance to the soil as possible, bagged up and put in the household waste bin so it could be properly destroyed.
The plant had looked so intriguingly pretty, and I thought how easily we accommodate something. I’m not thinking about the comparison between positives and negatives but rather what seems appealing and attractive. Before I googled the plant, I asked some friends if they knew what it could be. One friend described it as being insidiously intrusive and, after I’d researched it, I realised what an accurate summing up that is. There are lessons we can learn from this plant. For instance, we have a thought, see something, hear something, observe a situation and before long we have grasped it as our own and, in allowing it to become part of us, we have given it free reign to play havoc with us. Do you ever want to kick yourself for having become so wrapped up with something you shouldn’t have, it’s taken your time and energy and become costly and you wished you’d never let it become part of you or you part of it? In the same way that the disposal of this plant needed drastic measures so that it couldn’t invade the area or reproduce itself, so we need to take our own drastic measures to detach ourselves from the origin or occupation of what has preoccupied us. We all have our own personal challenge to become the victor rather than the victim.