The problem with evil forces
My smartphone is ruining my summer. Though the weather has never been better during my seasonal secondment to the Coromandel Peninsula – where we’ve been blessed with blue skies, popcorn clouds, and cerulean seas promising pan-fried snapper suppers – I’ve been starting each day with a sigh.
When my husband went back to work a month ago, I stayed at the beach – portability being one of the perks of a freelancer’s lot – with the kids, the dog, and a bunch of deadlines to slot in between slip, slop, and slapping. Thus, despite not being a morning person, I’ve taken to getting up early to get my work done, nudged awake by the gentle vibration of my cellphone alarm. (I need a silent alarm so as not to wake my children, or the dog, who equates any form of earlymorning eye contact as an invitation to jump on me.
Phone in hand, I quietly check the weather forecast and my Facebook feed, then ruin my day reading the latest international news headlines. A couple of years ago, I filed a misguided column comparing Islamic State to the worst weeds in my garden. But let the record show that when it comes to political crackpots, I’m an equalopportunity offender, for when I woke last weekend to the news of Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, I thought immediately of noxious convolvulus.
Many years ago, NZ Gardener published an article about a visiting artist – an American painter, if memory serves me correct – who, much to the amusement of local gardeners, set up her easel next to a power pole strangled by a blooming tangle of blue morning glory (Ipomoea indica). This convolvulus species is a invasive thug here; elsewhere it’s an annual treasure, its pestilent tendencies kept in check by the climate.
In New Zealand, convolvulus – or bindweed – takes no prisoners in its rapid climb to the top of the canopy. Though the vines rarely set seed, even the tiniest fragment of running stem can take root. This means that when you try to dig the vines out, you can end up doing more harm than good, as a single original villain spawns a crowd of despotic disciples.
Three years ago, convolvulus came into my garden via a truckload of free topsoil. In its first summer it sent out a few snaking tendrils; I didn’t recognise the seriousness of the threat. I ripped the vines out and biffed them over the fence into the paddock, from where they crawled back in, spreading faster than a rumour through my hornbeam hedge, snaking insidiously through my herbaceous border, and choking my Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ trees.
And therein lies the problem with evil forces. At first, they can seem fairly innocuous and, in the case of both moon-flowered convolvulus and Donald Trump, slightly fascinating. When Trump first announced his intention to apply for the White House tenancy, remember how the more liberal among us laughed off his presidential ambitions as the mildly amusing rantings of a fake-tanned tycoon with a gravity-defying ginger bouffant and predilection for firing apprentices? But baby, just look at him now, signing off executive orders like ‘‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’’ to keep the bad guys (Mexicans and Muslims, apparently) at bay.
In an address to the United Nations in 1963, the exiled Ethopian ruler and Rastafarian messiah, Haile Selassie, a man who found himself isolated by Italian fascists, urged vigilance. ‘‘The preservation of peace and the guaranteeing of man’s basic freedoms and rights require courage and eternal vigilance: courage to speak and act – and if necessary, to suffer and die – for truth and justice; eternal vigilance, that the least transgression of international morality shall not go undetected and unremedied.’’
If I have learned anything in my battle against convolvulus, it is this: you can’t just build a big wall or issue blanket decrees to protect your borders. ‘‘History has shown these to be bad ideas,’’ said our holidaying German guest, Hannah, a girl born the same year the Berlin Wall came down, as we debated Trump’s politics around our beachside barbecue table. She had another idea: ‘‘Assassination does not seem so unreasonable, yes?’’
For the convolvulus, at least, Weedbusters recommends its eradication through digging and disposing (at a refuse centre), or cutting and painting the stumps with glyphosate or metsulfuron-methyl. But I’m being extra vigilant, dabbing the slashed stems with Vigilant Gel, a double whammy of picloram and aminopyralid.
Blue morning glory is an insidious foe.