This is the time of year when we think of people less fortunate than ourselves. There are special charity appeals, and soup kitchens spring up in church halls across the land.
Spare a thought, then, for a Korean refugee in our back garden, whose days I think are numbered. He’s picked on by the locals, and needs a stick for support.
We found him in a garden centre three years ago and took pity on him. Actually, I had high hopes. On display was a splendid conifer bush, four feet high and with a spread of five or six feet, with pretty silver-blue foliage and interesting cones. I was immediately attracted to it, and when I saw its name was Abies Koreana, a Korean Fir, I sneaked a smaller version onto the trolley when Louise wasn’t looking. It was about a foot tall, and the label promised growth to full maturity in five years.
I got the runt of the litter. We found a spot for it in the garden, but the other plants could spot a loser when they saw one. Even our peaceable acer started bullying it. We separated them, and gave our Korean guest a better position. It was happier, and grew maybe half an inch. But it’s really not performing. And it’s a tough world in the leafy London suburbs. Space is limited. Everything grows well (except, it seems, Korean firs). The plants seem to thrive on competition. And those that don’t succeed are ruthlessly rooted out to make room for better-performing ones.
We’ve given our Abies Koreana every chance. It’s now on probation. We’ve given it a growth target of two inches in the next year. If it fails, it’s history. It’s mulch and compost. So if you know of any shamanistic incantations for the flourishing of Korean pines, send me a podcast. Otherwise come next year it won’t be decorated with Christmas baubles.