A couple of days ago, I did in a plant, a sprawling, hideous monstrosity of a rubber “tree” that had lived in a low-ceilinged, south facing basement room for years. It was deformed by the unsuitable situation I had inflicted upon it, but even so… It was impossible to get to the window to water the other potted plants that sat on the sill without crouching to get under the rubber tree’s branches. Most of the leaves were on the ends of the branches, making the thing look like a somewhat arthritic tentacled monster. There was no way to improve it, so when I managed to air-layer a cutting last summer, I decided to dispose of it.
I find it hard to kill plants that I have watered and otherwise cared for. In a way it’s like euthanizing a pet animal, except that in the case of the plant, one usually does the job oneself, and it’s doubtful whether one is really putting it out of any misery. Lugging the rubber tree outside, lopping off its branches, finally yanking the trunk out of its pot and hacking up the root ball, I felt like a brutal executioner. Plants don’t scream, but rubber plants bleed latex. Now that the deed is done, however, I certainly appreciate the spaciousness of the room where it used to live, and the unimpeded access to the window.
The rubber plant was an ugly, misshapen specimen, so you can imagine how much trouble I have killing a healthy, attractive plant of almost any sort. Only the worst weeds fail to generate a twinge of compunction. This brings me back to those wretched maple trees that dominate my garden. In theory they could be removed quite readily. There are several tree-removal outfits in town. Indeed, one of them cut down yet another maple here some years ago, one that grew in the 12 foot wide space between my house and my neighbour’s. It was so obviously in the wrong place that I didn’t experience many qualms about its demise, and since then I’ve planted a perennial border in that space.
But the two maples on the west side of my back garden present other “issues.” One of them supports a hearty climbing rose of unknown variety (at least to me), that has hundreds of small, fragrant, fully double pinky-white blooms every June and July. I suspect that it would tolerate being cut down and repositioned, but the prospect of doing this doesn’t appeal to me. Neither does the general disruption and chaos brought by men and machines to the plantings (such a grand word for my collection of tough survivors!) near the trees. Finally, those trees are homes to other creatures — a gang of squirrels and the local crow family, as well as other birds I hear singing on summer mornings. So I dither and defer, all the while muttering and complaining mightily about roots and shade.