There comes a time in the affairs of gardeners, when a real problem has to be confronted. Sometimes it is a rampant perennial that has taken over, shouldering its lesser bed-mates into oblivion (Michaelmas daisies spring to mind), sometimes it is ground elder that seduces the gardener with its elegant, shiny leaf and its pretty pale cream flower until one day the gardener realises that it has winkled its way in and out of the rhizomes of that clump of beautiful bearded iris. In our front garden it is couch-grass, that plant of the Northern Hemisphere that the dictionary says is "sometimes regarded as a weed." (SOMETIMES???)
My father called it twitch - the dictionary says it is also called quitch from the Anglo-Saxon cwice (there's an interesting transposition for you for a start) - oh, so the Anglo-Saxon gardener had problems with it, did he - then what hope have we got? The farmer calls it wickens.
All I can say is a rose by any other name is just as much of a problem. It is a pest; you dig it up, shake it, barrow it and then see that you have left a dozen little bits of root on the ground - don't - in a month's time it will have metamorphosed into a thatch against all comers.
Yesterday was day one of our fight against this intruder. This was the schedule of events:-
1. Remove every plant from the bed.
2. Dig out the couch grass.
3. Dig over the now empty bed.
4. Remove every tiny white worm of root you left the first time.
5. Rake the bed over.
6. See you have missed about twenty bits.
7. Pick them up by hand.
8. Rake in bone meal.
9. Shut the dog in the house because she has caught the scent of the bone meal and won't keep off the garden.
10. Go in for lunch to let the ground settle.
11. Replant the herbaceous plants you have managed to salvage
12. Talk nicely to Gertrude Jekyll, your favourite rose that has just suffered the indignity of being dug up and then replanted.
13. Cross fingers, toes and anything else crossable in the hope that you have rid at least one stretch of garden of that turbulent weed.
Not for nothing have I written that as number 13 - I give it a week before the first tiny green blade emerges from the ground.
Ah well! that's about three yards of the border done - only another thirty-three to go - it's the Michaelmas daisies next Sunday.