This evening I had to get rid of my elderly Ficus tree. I bought it soon after I came to Oxford, from a guy who used to sell all sorts of odds and ends from his house in aid of the RNLI. At the time it was only about 30 cm tall, rather sweet and vulnerable, and I secretly thought that I had probably signed its death warrant by buying it. If there's an opposite to 'green fingers', then I've got them. I'm pretty good with animals, but plants of all kinds seem to come into my house happy and healthy, then gradually shrivel up and die. I don't think that I'm particularly neglectful of them, they just seem to give up the will to live.
So, I watched with amazement as this little Ficus seemed not only to be surviving, but actually thriving. It grew through several sizes of pot, and endured numerous house moves cheerfully. It started to get to the point where it wouldn't fit in the vans I used to move, and had to be gently bent over at the top. In otherwise rather soulless rented rooms and flats, the Ficus provided a little bit of jungle.
But then it all started to go wrong. Leaves started to go brown and fall off, and the tree developed a lean to rival the Tower of Pisa. We had been keeping it in the bedroom, and every time we walked past, a sad little shower of dead leaves would drift down. I tried house plant food and continued regular watering, but nothing worked. Reluctantly, I had to get rid of it. I spent twenty minutes earlier this evening hacking off twigs and branches so that I could fit it in a garden waste bag. Now the bedroom looks really empty.
 'green thumbs' for those in the US. This has to be one of the oddest transatlantic differences — why do British gardeners use their fingers and US gardeners their thumbs?