Its that time of year again. Valentines Day. The day we are told we must spoil our loved ones. I must confess I am not a big fan of being manipulated by marketing. It does not mean that I do not wish to show my nearest and dearest how much I love him, but that I object to commercially instigated events. I’ve never seen the romance in someone having to pay five times the market value for a sterile bunch of red roses just to prove that they love their partner.
I am not really in love with the colour red either, and I certainly do not consider it to be romantic. For me red is the colour of blood, football strips and boys bedrooms in the 1980’s. A romantic bunch of flowers to me would be a bunch of big soft blousy pale pink peonies or a posy of brightly coloured deliciously delicate anemones. I love roses but not the small neat, perfectly sized completely scentless ones they sell in the shops. A rose to me should be wildly rambling up a trellis or exuding pendulously from a pergola replete with petals and summer perfume, and preferably pink.
Valentines day falls at one of the most depressing times of the year. Winter is dragging its heels; the sky is grey and the air chilled. Whilst it may bring some welcome respite to happy lovers it can be just another hard slap in the face to singletons who would rather crawl back under the duvet and not emerge until the 15th. I must admit I have felt like that on many a Valentines Day.
For me Valentines Day means something different again. Those organically minded amongst you should look away now! Valentines is a great time to get rid of the unwanted slime in your life! Yes I’m talking about slugs and snails. When I first moved to Wiltshire some years ago I was extremely excited at having my first garden. I watched it grow the first year, discovering all the plants I had inherited and busily thinking about all the ones I wanted to introduce to it the following year. When the time came, I eagerly filled the garden full of my favourite plants and flowers like delphiniums, lupins and big leaved hostas and then sat back and watched the whole lot get eaten by a tidal wave of slugs. Slug pubs had no effect against the hoards of slimy fauna. They did not even make a dent in the population. I tried to train Stilton to remove them, but he showed no interest. He prefers worms. One evening at dusk I was sombrely attempting to gather all the slugs up in a bucket, it was a losing battle against the masses. After seeing the last of my hostas had been completely devoured I rather rashly picked up a stick and angrily whacked the largest, fattest slug I could see. The result was a spray of slug juice right across my face and hair. This is possibly the most horrific event of my life to date, a trauma I will surely take to the grave. Although, come to think of it, it probably wasn’t all that great for the slug either…
I was close to giving up all hopes of having the garden I had dreamt of when a local plantsman told me to apply a liberal quantity of Slug Clear to the garden at Valentines. The liquid sinks into the soil and kills the slumbering slug population before they have a chance to wake up and start reproducing and devouring the garden. So the next year at Valentines I decided enough was enough, I had persevered with organic methods throughout the previous summer to no avail. Either the slugs were going to win or I was and I was pretty sure it was going to be me. I applied the slug clear and waited. To my amazement the slime population that year was dramatically reduced, reduced enough for me to keep it under control with slug pubs and careful removal. With experience I have learnt that there are many methods of slug control that do not involve slug whacking or chemicals. Less brutal methods such as planting plants that slugs do not like the taste of, using coffee grounds, eggshell or sharp grit around plants particularly favoured by the children of slime, or investing in nematodes are all part of a good defensive strategy against slugs and snails (although Sun Tzu says that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy). So now above all else Valentines has become a fixed date in my mind for prudent slime control.