Sadly, sometimes those plants die on me, for either an inexplicable or explicable reason.
I do cringe a little when the reason is explicable.
Perhaps I put the plant in a less than ideal location, expecting a plant that likes wet feet to adapt to dry conditions or vice versa. Or maybe I planted those two opposites side by side and then tried to compromise on the watering, resulting in one plant begging for a life jacket to keep from drowning and the other plant holding up its empty glass, unable to speak on its own behalf because it was so parched.
I imagine at one point those two unlikely neighbors looked at one another, clasped their stems together and like the last passengers on the Titanic, accepted their inevitable fate and died.
But I didn't kill them.
Maybe I put a sun-loving plant in a shady location that I thought got enough sun, which may have been stretching the definition of enough sun, especially since it was a favorite spot for moss to grow. I didn't kill the plant, I was merely misinformed on its overall willingness to survive in less than ideal conditions.
On a few occasions, by which I mean more occasions than a non-gardener could ever understand, I've dismissed a plant from my garden. I changed my mind about it. Perhaps it got bigger than it should have. Or it had bad habits of self-sowing that no one warned me about. Or maybe it just needed to go because we'd grown apart and I had taken up with a new plant that would be perfect right where that plant was.
Once I dismissed a plant from my garden, which on more than one occasion also required me to emotionally distance myself from that plant, I either waited until it died, or I dug it out, cut it out, tore it out, plucked it out, or grubbed it out. But I never outright killed that plant.
Killing is for weeds, and weeds alone. Every gardener knows weeds must die by our own hands, which implies, of course, that we must kill them. The methods by which we kill the weeds look quite a bit like the methods we employ to dismiss a plant. We dig them out, tear them out, cut them back, pluck them out or grub them out. We slay them. They are weeds. They must die! Everyone understands this and no one puts the chlorophyll of these plants on the gardener's hands.
But when it comes to the plants we no longer want in our gardens, I refuse to accept that we gardeners kill them. We bid them farewell, we thank them, or we explain why they simply cannot stay in the garden. We may even try to find new homes for them in other gardens. At the very least, we apologize to them right before we sever their roots. But we don't kill them.
Because killing is for weeds.