The most deadly pest

c.The Graceful Custom, 2016 (Crow, 1952)

‘The greatest enemy of the house plant is the human hand and the most deadly pest the person who ‘must touch.’ 

I love this quote from Juliana Crow in 1952.  Although talking here about the ‘tactile sense’ specifically, it brings home how much plants are put at risk by us, their loving and doting owners and our friends: killing our plants with the kindness of overwatering, or the ignorance of draughts running through the ‘perfect’ spot.

Elsewhere there are pages and pages of advice on mealy bug, red spider mite and sooty mould, but here Juliana gets straight to the point about humans in her usual blunt and evidently long-suffering way.

She goes on to say: ‘Enduring though they are, most of the plants have never learned to defend themselves against the forefinger and thumb which seize their leaves and rub away the delicate protecting surface bloom, velvet, meal, scale or scurf, and with it all the beauty.  How wise are the cactus and the nettle, the Dumb Cane and the Bitter Aloe.’

The only remedy to this pest is ‘extreme firmness.’  Juliana says that at the risk of appearing ‘fussy and pernickety,’ the owner must make it clear to all members of the household and visitors that the plants are to be looked at but not touched.  If not, ‘the more splendid and brilliant they are the sooner will they be debauched.’