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Siberian Squill or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

My therapist and I are working on what she calls “my perfectionist tendencies”. My husband snorted and raised his eyebrows when I told him this. Apparently my reputation around the house can be summarized by my terse and decidedly not-perfect “IT’S FINE, LET’S GO.” I've been told I can also be relied on to say, “THAT’S GOOD ENOUGH. MOVING ON,” and my go-to when I'm past giving two f’s: “OKKKKK, GOODBYE. GOOD LUCK TO YOU.”

I think that gardening is kinda like having kids: You're forced to confront the parts of yourself that you'd rather not see. So my therapist says this to me last year and I'm like “mmmkay – really? ME? PERFECT?!” but since I'm paying her $200 / hour to observe things about myself that I don’t, I feel like I should listen to her. So I started watching myself to see if these “perfectionist tendencies” reared their heads.

It didn’t take long.

But first, lets step back a bit. In December 2018, we moved into our house in Oakville. That spring I observed a lovely patch of blue flowers (I JUST CALLED THEM “THE BLUE FLOWERS” at the time… oh, sweet naiveté!!) in my neighbours’ back garden, which is separated from ours by a chain link fence. “How adorable!” I thought of the pretty blue flowers.

And then, they escaped.

Or, should I say, they invaded. Those pretty blue flowers breezed right through that damn fence, straight into our yard, like marauding Vikings hellbent on crusade.

First there were a few.

Little blue smears against the brown of the grass – how charming, thought I!

(Not my backyard, but a woodland near my house. Evidence of the pretty blue-ness)

And then, more.

And suddenly, even more.

Wait, I thought. I don’t want you there. Or there. OR THERE.

And then one day, I stood in the middle of the yard, looking every which way, and grappling with the unsettling feeling that the lawn and I were part of that scene in Fantasia where the mops are duplicating madly and sorcerer-Mickey like WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING- PLEASE STOP THIS MADNESS. ((This is a paraphrase of Mickey, bc #noswearing #disney but we all know that's what he's thinking.))

((I guess a more contemporary reference would be that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Ron, Harry and Hermione are in Bellatrix LeStrange’s vault trying to find Rowena Rvenclaw’s diadem (SPOILER ALERT: IT’S A GODDAMN HORCRUX), and they touch one thing and suddenly everything starts jumpin’ and jivin’ and multiplyin’ except here its RED ASS HOT and our little trifecta of heroes is like WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING- PLEASE STOP THIS MADNESS.))

Anyway back to the squill – which I had by this point identified. So, Squill (Scilla siberica), also sometimes known as Siberian squill. Here’s what I learned: It is native to Russia (not Siberia, but lets not get hung up on geopolitics except to note that its obviously NOT a native plant to Canada) and apparently toxic to humans and animals if eaten. It’s a spring bloomer, a member of the hyacinth family, and when its bloom time ends, the leaves become a slippery soggy mass – we’re talking groin injuries waiting to happen. The bulbs store energy and lie in wait (dormant) until next spring where they burst forth to persist on their campaign of world domination.

When you google it, hits return with “Is Siberian Squill invasive?” so I immediately knew that I'm fighting a nasty battle Here’s why its so tough: its grows anywhere and everywhere; no critters want to eat it; and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to dig up (the depth of the bulb and often goes deeper than a digging spade; and don’t even try to use the leaves to pull them up as the leaves break). It spreads by seeds through those CUTE LITTLE FLOWERS. There are blogs from people who are way more attentive / better gardeners who have observed how squill can take over natural woodland spaces and crowd out the native plants therein.

One article referred to the squill as “a bully” and I'm here for that. I imagine it like tons of tiny little gangsters, hustling their way through the hexagons of our chain link fence under the cover of night. And I should also make it clear that I'm NOT a lawn person, really – our lawn is overall okayish-fine-could-be-better-if-we-had-time? But there are definitely some shady spots that are basically bare dirt and look crappy… this made me briefly wonder if, like the broken-windows theory of policing, if my slightly-dumpy-looking lawn was an invitation to these ne’er-do-wells.

(Sad scraggly scilla, on its way out. Slippery and slightly, offensively, flaccid)

(Don’t even get me started on the seemingly differences of opinion you can find online between the LAWN PEOPLE and the GARDEN PEOPLE except I'll say that both seem to look down their nose at the other. Its basically the Montagues and Capulets and quite entertaining.)

So, squill is a problem plant. Akin to dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, and garlic mustard. PROBLEMS! PROBLEM PLANTS! And notably there are also literal PLEAS from people asking others to STOP planting this plant… So, please, everyone, lets just stop, mkay? DON’T BE FOOLED BY HOW DAINTY THESE PLANT LOOKS. It will f*&K your s#%t up or your neighbour’s s*(t up HARD and it will probably drift into your yard anyway even if its 20 blocks away- just wait and save yourself the $.

Anyway. Feel free to now picture me, standing in the middle of my lawn, looking around wildly like Mickey / Hermione / Harry / Ron, saying “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING - PLEASE STOP THIS MADNESS”. Cause that’s what I was feeling last spring. The squill was out of control.

From what I read, here’s how you get rid of squill: 1) Dig it up (a Sisyphean task for me as per the scope of my squill problem). 2) Mow the flowers AT THE RIGHT TIME to slightly reduce the amount of seeds spreading (more realistic). 3) Herbicide (very tempting but Id rather avoid) and 4) LITERALLY TEAR UP ALL OF YOUR GRASS, DIG UP ALL THESE DAMN BULBS, AND THEN SOD. Honestly. That was one of the recommendations.

So, despondent, there I go, cruising around online in my frantic crusade to avail myself of information about squill when I came across a thread on Facebook where people were talking about it – but here’s the thing: they were PRAISING IT! “But its invasive!” I said. “It gets everywhere, its all throughout my lawn, its taken over my gardens and hydrangeas, and there’s no way I can dig it all out!”

“But its so PRETTY. And BLUE!” came the answer.

“YES,” I said, “I'm aware of its blue-ness. I'm also aware that its completely taking over my yard, and in many places in North America it’s considered an invasive plant because its such a bully” to which came the answer, “But its so PRETTY! And its BLUE!” So, frustrating.

But then one woman said “You can't control it. You just have to live with it in your yard. Admire it as a living thing, and then do what you're going to do..."

(Side note: I think this woman thought I was a LAWN PERSON and she was obviously a GARDEN PERSON so her comment was a bit pompous but nonetheless…)

That struck home.

So, I had a think. There was NO WAY I could dig it all up. I'd tried last year to dig even like two square feet and wanted to sling my shovel into the neighbours yard after 30 minutes of struggle. I wasn’t keen on herbicides, and re-sodding the lawn wasn’t an option financially. Mowing was the most realistic option, although dubious in efficacy from what I'd read, but better than nothing. You just have to mow and mow and mow. And mow.

(These are the seed pods, which I strove to avoid letting form. Cutting the foliage in the lawn, and hand-pulling in the garden seemed to be the only way. I observed the seeds in early to mid May)

And that’s it - I had to learn to accept it. To sit in Bellatrix LeStrange’s valut with the 10,000 burning hot trophies piling up around my ears and smile like a fool; to be Mickey, overcome with the maniacal marching mops, flapping my sleeves in vain. I had to do what I was going to do (mow, pull) but other than that, I simply had to live with it.

I had to let go of my need to control, to put things where I want them, for things to stay where they are placed.

As my therapist would say, I needed to lean in to being unperfect.

And that’s the story of how I stopped worrying and learned to love the (squill) bomb.

(Ed. Note: In 2021, the squill returned with greater force. I watched them flower and mowed them but otherwise tried to stop worrying and to get them before they went to seed. One time I even laid in them!! But then my son ran over and pulled some up and threw them on me and some got in my mouth and #toxic #paranoid #overreaction. So, yes. I've come to a place acceptance of my squill problem… but FOR THE RECORD I DO NOT LIKE THIS PLANT ONE BIT - despite its pretty blue-ness).

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