When we moved from our home in Milan back to Canada, I wanted to save some the plants I’d put into our Milan garden. It wasn’t so much that they were botanically special – they were common as dirt, actually – but they held memories. So I bagged them up one day in June, a hot and therefore terrible time to transplant, stuck them in unimproved soil under the cherry tree on the south side of Godzillavilla and, after a scant 3 weeks of watering and caring for their transition, left them to deal with the rest of the summer, and all the other seasons for that matter, without an ounce of help.

Buried alive

When I came back in autumn they were under a deep stack of roof beams that had been demolished to make way for the new roof.

When we came back in spring we cleared away the beams. Miraculously, thin shoots that resembled white asparagus, photosynthetically deprived but growing, were stumbling their way up towards the light. I can’t tell you how excited this got me, to see the plants surviving. It was like some kind of reassurance that memories could be kept alive. OK so the euphorbia wulfenii bit the dust, but it wants to live on a warm, sunny coast rather than inland, and how could I blame it?

So here’s the list of dull but heroic plants that have now survived 6 years of neglect: spirea Anthony Waterer, cotoneaster dammeri, sedum spectabilis autumn joy, common iris and common house ivy. They may not be glam, but I’ll take them on my team anytime.

Hero first class