Copper etching from Wicked Plantsby Briony Morrow-Cribbs
It’s our giveaway of Amy’s new book, Wicked Plants.
But first, let me muse on the topic for a bit. I’ve read the book and reviewed it here, commenting at one point, “It’s not really about the plants. It’s about us.” Because even if a particular plant is poisonous, or harmful in some other way, our personal interactions or relationships with those plants are what create the undesirable result. I grow many of the plants Amy mentions—nicotiana, castor bean, aconite, datura, jessamine, hellebore, and more—but I don’t think of any of them as wicked, particularly.
Here’s my wicked plant list, and it’s a short one: Acer platanoides/Norway maple. While castor bean, nicotiana (tobacco plant), datura (angel’s trumpet), and the others exist as harmless characters in my patio garden—most of them are annuals, at that—the 3 trees installed on city property between the sidewalk and the road have had a disastrous effect on my front garden for the 10 years I’ve been gardening here.
First there’s the shade: when the trees leaf out, only a small amount of dappled morning light gets through. Then there are the roots: these spread throughout the space at surface level, making it nearly impossible to dig or plant anywhere without power tools. They also suck up much of the available moisture. The leaves of these trees, besides their occasional susceptibility to an unsightly blotching fungus (not life-threatening, sadly), do not decompose naturally. They must be raked and shredded. Lastly, these trees do not belong to me. I need permission from the city to remove or replace them, which, perversely, I am reluctant to do, as it would take a while to replicate their mature canopy. On a summer afternoon, it is still possible to forget about their shortcomings and enjoy looking up at the leaves rustling in the breeze.
So I’ve learned to live with my wicked plants. How about you? Do you have a plant whose dastardly effects are specific to your garden? Please tell about the horrors lurking in your garden in comments, and we’ll send a book to the teller of the most dreadful tale.
Comments can be left until 9 p.m. EST tonight.