Ground Elder

It’s a pretty plant. Soft, luminous green; pointy leaves – you can look it up. The thing is, it strangles everything else in the flowerbeds. So I am trying to remove it from the little sheltered side garden of what used to be my parents’ house here in the west of Ireland, in order to have blooms. I want the flowers of childhood memory – nasturtiums, sweet williams, lavender, jonquils, ox-eye daisies, wild roses, night-scented stock, phlox…

I have not yet closely examined why I want these flowers so much, in the garden of a house where I will probably spend no more than three months of the year, and half of that when the flowers aren’t in bloom; yet I am driven. Ground elder breaks off easily in the hand, and this is not a good thing, because it makes it harder to get to the roots. First attempts to clear the beds were not a success. I then began to learn that you have to  – literally – root around deep down, with the gloved hand, and find the matted web of bleached root-rope that supports them. This weaving seems to stretch under the entire garden. The deeper I dig the more I find, and the longer the threads that I tear out. I feel as if this rooting out, this disentangling, this excavating might never end  – every time I leave the garden for a few weeks and return I find a new brushing of the tender shoots in a new place. They appear to be growing weaker, however – I think I am starting to cut off the nourishment and diminish their power.

I think it is time to replant. The bare earth invites the creeping tendrils of the buried past. Tomorrow I will bring new plants to colonise this raked over soil, and begin the garden again.

Roots and Wings