I'm not great with plants. I like the idea of growing my own herbs, like Jamie Oliver, but it never really looks like Jamie Oliver's herb garden. I once kept a parsley plant alive for about 9 months but really, for the last four it was practically begging me to let it die. I never even use parsley. Once every few months I'll make garlic bread and put some parsley in the garlic butter. Do you know how much parsley is required for garlic butter? One leaf. One leaf of parsley every 3 months and I kept that plant alive, though miserably, mostly brown and shrivelled, for the best part of a year. In fact, I only let it go when I moved out of the flat. I wanted to bring it with me, let my mum keep it alive while I was in Australia, but she threw it in the bin.
Basil is more useful. I'd definitely have more of a use for basil. Except my basil plants always get that basil plant disease, which I'm sure is a thing, and isn't just 'The disease of Anthea-can't-keep-plants-alive'.
So I gave up on basil.
I had a lettuce plant. Nothing will really bring home how little lettuce you eat like owning your own lettuce plant. Lettuce didn't get a plant disease. Lettuce just died after a week. I tried gently placing him in the garden to see if the outdoors would perk him up. I went back out to check on him a couple of days later and he'd completely disappeared. Were our neighbours really so stuck for lettuce that they came in and stole our dead lettuce soil lump from our garden? Someone suggested slugs but it's pretty mysterious.
The most horrifying plant story however, involves Clint. I bought a mint plant a few weeks ago and called him Clint. Dan always had a bad feeling about Clint. He said he thought there were an unusual amount of tiny flies around him. I told him he was being silly and the flies were simply attracted to Clint because of his minty magnificence.
Clint was to be my greatest plant success. I used his leaves more than any other plant I'd ever had. Put them in water, put them in potatoes... Well I used them twice. Anyway, he grew and grew. He was actually getting so large that he started to take over the windowsill and we were worried that one day we'd wake up and he'd have acquired sentience. I'm pretty sure I once caught him stealing an orange from the fruit bowl. It was possible we'd accidentally bought a triffid. He was doing so well that my confidence in plant growing prompted me to try parsley again. So I bought another parsley plant. Dan named him Ian Parsley. He sat next to Clint and they seemed to get along amicably, but the point is, we'll never know who's to blame for the horrors that follow. Dan insists Clint but really it could have been either of them.
One evening, Dan went into the kitchen. Then he called to me. 'Um... There is a problem.'
OH MY GOD CLINT IS DEAD. IAN PARSLEY HAS ATTACKED HIM. That was my first thought. Then I thought the dishwasher had leaked. Then I thought the freezer had defrosted. Then I thought I'd better stop thinking and just go in and look because Dan was starting to sound hysterical.
About one thousand flying ants had appeared on our window.
Dan theorises that there was an ant nest in Clint's soil. I have to admit, the flying ants really did seem to centralise on Clint. As you can imagine both Clint and Ian were unceremoniously thrown out the window. I don't want to say how we dealt with the ants because I'm worried people will tell me that we dealt with them wrong and that what we did can somehow only mean we're going to get even more flying ants.
But it was a miserable few hours with a vacuum cleaner and a can of hairspray.
There were a few stragglers for the next couple of days, but no more swarms. Clint and Ian Parsley are now dead. And with them died the dream of my ever owning another kitchen plant again.
Jamie Oliver doesn't get flying ant infestations in his herb garden.