Grandpa Webb's blog

Tuesday, 07 January 2014

The Shards get a reprieve

When I remodelled our front garden to turn it into a small car park, I left space for two flower beds to break the monotony of the block paving and to allow a bit of drainage.

The front flower bed is now home to two monsters, known to me as the Shards. Like the tallest skyscraper in Europe of the same name near London Bridge station, they reach for the sky. But whereas the Shard building has a single spike at the top, my Shards have about 50 leaves each, and every one has a fierce spike at the end. 

When I put them in as small plants, I thought the spikiness would discourage the occasional dog or fox who might be tempted to leave his mark on my new flower bed. The Shards really liked the flower bed and grew and grew. Now they’re waist-high, taller than the garden wall and growing bigger by the day. Soon they will be a danger to passing pedestrians.

Certainly the Shards seem to have kept wandering animals away, but now something far worse has happened. During some random leaf-gathering, grandma got a little too close to one and was speared in the hand. It was a sticking plaster job.

It looked as though they had signed their own death-warrant. They had become so dangerous they would have to be put down, I decided.

But how? They have now grown big enough to fend off approaches from humans as well as dogs and foxes. Do I approach them with a tree lopper that can be operated from a distance, to chop off the ring of spikes that will poke your eye out if you lean too far forward with a spade? Maybe I could make use of an old blanket to put over its head (or my head) as we move towards the hand-to-spike combat phase.

And what do you do with the bodies of the plant? Our environmentally-aware council provides green bins for waste garden stuff which they take away and turn into compost. I can see the headlines now. Do I put a warning on the bin: Beware of the Shards or do I give each leaf a manicure to remove its spike?

It was while I was pondering all this that I realised that the Shards were in bud. In the autumn, both gave birth to a tall central stem that blossomed into a large cluster of cream coloured flowers.

Celebrity Shard: don’t try and smell the flowersThe flowering Shards were much admired locally. Neighbours complimented me on my gardening skills (all I did was plant them) and they became something of a local talking point. I realised that diplomatically it would be impossible to put down the flowering Shards without being branded an assassin – or worse. 

I consulted a guru at a nearby garden centre. “Just chop off the spiky bits,” said the lady. “It won’t do them any harm. They might go a bit brown at the end – but they do that anyway.”

Now that the Shards are local celebrities, nobody thinks it strange that I am sometimes seen carefully selecting individual leaves and nipping the tiniest bit off the end with grandma’s nail clippers. This means they will no longer draw blood, pedestrians are safe, and grandma can resume her leaf clearing. 

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