A FEW years ago, I got given a lovely planter box for Christmas. Inside it were lovely red and white flowers, a tiny little Christmas tree, and some ivy. 

When Christmas was over the flowers had died away, but the little tree and the little ivy were going strong. It seemed an awful shame to dump them so I popped them into the ground until I got around to making up a little window box next Christmas.

Roll on a few years later. I got sick, so window boxes were put on the back burner. The ivy turned out to be like something from Sleeping Beauty where the forest grew and was impassable. It now completely covers the wall out my kitchen door, is covered in spikes so cutting it back requires full armour, and has managed to seed itself so I have the walls of my house being covered in the rotten stuff. It isn’t even pretty. 

It is a manky green colour and is a bit smelly on rainy days. On the happy side the local robin family love it and nested in it last year. They are completely secluded and safe, but we know they are here because they chirp and laugh away from the bowels of darkness.

And what about the three-inch Christmas tree? Well, it is now the eight feet tall leylandii which is threatening to uproot the wall at the side of the house. It too is an unpleasant colour, although it does smell lovely in the sun. The blackbirds have taken to it the past few years as its now 12-inch-thick branches support the nests far better than the bamboo they used to nest in did. 

My little Christmas planter has had unintended consequences. On the one hand little families of robins and blackbirds have had happy homes. On the other hand, I have a serious weed problem. 

Once the blackbirds are gone that big tree has to come out. And here is where it gets further complicated. 

Such is my propensity for avoidance my mind has wandered from how I can dig the leylandii out to what tree will replace it. I obviously don’t want to contribute to environmental negligence, so one tree must be replaced by another. Therefore, I have begun to look longingly at copper beech trees and silver birches. 

While scoping out the site I looked again at the weed next to the leylandii that has been coming back every year despite me cutting it back. In fact, it is now a really established and strong yoke that in fairness has some lovely foliage that catches the sun well. I took a leaf off it and looked up my book on native flora and fauna, and lo and behold I have an elder tree growing in my garden. It made its way in a few years ago unnoticed and has now, despite being attacked with secateurs, taken up residence. So now I have a choice which involves surprising guilt. Do I get rid of two trees and plant a straight, nice tree, or save the wonky but native, kind of endearingly stubborn, elder tree? 

Whatever the answer to that conundrum the ivy has to be tackled before my house becomes its next swallowed up victim. As Scott didn’t say at all: “I may be some time”.