My Big Basket Of Beautiful Borlotti And A Few Shades Of Africa

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I cannot tell you how excited I get about the prospect of the late summer borlotti harvest. I grow the climbing version, also called Firetongue or Lingua di Fuoco – you can see why – and just now the leaves are falling from the stems and leaving clusters of hot pink pods to light up my allotment plot.

I harvested the first row last week, prompted by the sudden appearance of a fungal looking disorder on some of the pods. Usually I let them dry on the sticks, but the ones in the header were quickly blanched and put in the freezer. This anyway means they are much quicker to cook – favourites in chilli, re-fried beans and bean soup.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the second row. They are at the other end of the plot, and seem to be drying nicely with no signs of infection. I showed the diseased pods to the Resident Plant Pathologist chez Farrell i.e. Dr. Graham, but all he said was, ‘It’s probably due to the funny weather.’ Which is a bit like going to the G.P.’s surgery with an ailment and being told: ‘there’s a lot of it about.’ Ah well. As long as I have lots of pods to shell I’m happy. Until you open them you never know quite what colour the beans will be. I’m easily pleased. When all is said and done, they are SO very beautiful.

The basket is a favourite too – made by the Tongabezi people of southern Zambia (they who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral Zambezi Valley lands by the British in the 1950s so Lake Kariba and the hydro-electricity dam – between what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia – could be constructed.) I bought it long ago in the museum shop in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. The beans are also grown in Africa where they are called Rose Coco, and sold by farm mamas who measure out the quantities in old (scrubbed) jam tins at their roadside market stalls.

It’s interesting the apparently unrelated resonances that, well, resonate down one’s personal time-line on a Monday morning here on Wenlock Edge.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

In the Pink #17

Things One Finds In the Godetia!

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Godetia is another ‘good old gardener’s’ annual flower that I grew from seed this year. They are a bit pink for my taste, but very obliging. This particular plant is accompanying the chives and some Persian basil in a pot by the kitchen door and, flower-wise, is taking over blooming duty from the drumhead alliums which are now palely drooping. Yesterday it was also hosting a new bug – new to me that is. You can spot it making an entrance top right.

When I first glimpsed it, I thought it might be a dreaded crimson lily beetle, though I don’t grow lilies. They have very nasty habits (their larvae, very cunningly for larvae, disguise themselves from predators by coating themselves in black excrement while they chomp through the lilies, bud and leaf).

A closer look, however, revealed…

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… and after a few quick snaps, sent me searching on the internet, where after googling ‘orange and black bug UK’ its ID was swiftly established. So here it is, a cinnamon or rhopalid bug Corizus hyoscyami. Originally only common in southern Britain, it is now spreading. This one is probably newly emerged, August to September being the time slot for a new generation. It likes dry habitats, and has no unpleasant habits:  i.e. it does not emit smelly effusions that some other bugs are wont to do. Nothing I read indicated culpability in the plant damage department. So, until I learn otherwise, I think we may simply admire it for its very snazzy livery.

Later it hopped over to the Persian basil, where I thought it looked particularly fetching.

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Six Word Saturday

 

Popping Up Among The Doronicum – Crocosmia

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The squeezing of HeWhoBuildsSheds’ new shed into the small back garden last year meant the loss of a herbaceous border. I didn’t mind too much, although it was a challenge to find new homes for the plants. Some were sacrificed altogether; some were thrown over the hedge to take their chances; some were planted outside the back fence in the guerrilla garden, some were put in next door’s guerrilla garden (I’ve started a trend) and others were just put somewhere.

Then in the spring, as soon as the tulips were over, Shed Development Phase 2 was thrust upon me. This meant moving more plants in order to create enough space to turn one flat bed into a raised bed so that the shed could have its own gravel forecourt and thus be accessible in all seasons. This also included digging up what was left of the lawn. The upshot of this HouseThatJackBuilt ‘school of gardening’ (fortunately no cows’ horns were crumpled in the process) is that much of what is happening out there now is a complete surprise.

For instance, I have no memory of how this crocosmia arrived among the doronicum. On the other hand, I do feel I need to give it a round of applause for cutting such a horticultural dash. Well put, that flower, however you got there.

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Six Word Saturday

Please visit Debbie. This week she has some handy advice!

Townsend Meadow ~ Waiting For Rain And A Bit Of A Ramble About Wild Oats

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Last night as I was watering at the allotment, dark clouds were building up in every quarter. I was sure it was going to rain. But no. By 8 pm they had moved off, leaving a strange red mist effect over Wenlock Edge. Beneath it the rapeseed crop is tinder dry and a deepening shade of copper. The wild oats on the path edge are ripening too – their cuneiform seed heads turned from green to pale ochre. I’m becoming a bit obsessed with trying to photograph them. They seem to reflect light that lends itself to a touch of abstraction.

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The Wild Oat Avena fatua  is of course the parent plant of our cultivated oat and fully edible. It possesses the same valuable B vitamins and minerals: manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, and chromium. Oats are very soothing to the system, apparently reducing inflammation. They also contain powerful antioxidants and are rich in fibre.

Wild oats, however, are considered a crop pest, especially in wheat, reducing the crop by up to 40%. They are also becoming resistant to herbicides, which fact certainly seems to be supported by their continued presence in Townsend Meadow, where they receive lots of herbicide doses every year. This is rather making me think that we should all be eating oats instead of wheat – without added glyphosate that is. Some of us might start feeling a lot better than we do after eating wheat products.

My Derbyshire farming ancestors seemed to have lived on oats, turned into tasty pancake-like oat cakes and made from a slightly fermented batter. Eaten with farm-made cheese and butter of course, and doubtless washed down with homebrewed ale.  A good number of them lived into their late eighties and early nineties. Some of them were known to go in for a little prize fighting and were quite famed for their prowess in the ring – and that was only the women.

And apart from all this, a handful of rolled oats tied up in some muslin, soaked in warm water and applied to the skin with some very gentle rubbing, makes the best exfoliant scrub ever.

The Bind Of Bindweed ~ Beauty Over Strangulation?

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This lovely flower can be a monumental pest if it finds its way into garden borders. It belongs to the convolvulus family, and comes in several varieties, some of which have smaller pink and white striped trumpets. This, I think, is hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium and it is presently spreading beside the field path. Like its cousins, its plant-strangling capacity knows no bounds, and if you try to dig it up and leave the tiniest scrap of the plant behind, in an eye’s blink, you will have a brand new bindweed. Or maybe several.

Richard Mabey in Flora Britannica suggests that some of its many vernacular names reflect the degree of horticultural nuisance. Snake’s meat and Devil’s guts are certainly blunt expressions of gardener antipathy.  But there are picturesque names too. E.g.  Lady-jump-out-of-bed, and Granny-jumps-out-of-bed seem to derive from a children’s game: ‘Grandmother, grandmother, pop out of bed’ a refrain chanted while pinching out the base of the flower and watching the trumpet float to the ground like an old-fashioned nightgown on the loose. Sometimes the Grandmother is a Nanny Goat. There is also: Lazy Maisy jumps out of bed.

Other imaginative names include Old Man’s Nightcap, Poor Man’s Lily, White Witch’s Hat, Bridal Gown and Belle of the Ball, and then there are numerous variations of bindweed: Barbine, Bellbind, Withywind, Waywind.

When it comes to eradication, the Royal Horticultural Society does not hold out much hope for simply digging it out. Chemicals seem the only answer, but they do suggest a method of damage limitation, glyphosate-wise. This involves sticking garden canes into the soil near any bindweed eruption, thereby encouraging it to grow up the cane. Later you can unwind it onto bare soil and spot-treat it without harming other plants.

Or you could just live with it, and try to keep it under control. I have the hedge variety in the guerrilla garden. It keeps winding up the crab apple tree, and I keep hoiking it out. I also have the smaller pink and white striped ground-creeping variety in several places on my allotment plot. This is field bindweed or Convolvulus arvensis and I’ve become quite adept at digging it out, which checks it, but does not remove it entirely. At the moment it is also in flower and really very pretty. So I guess it will be staying.  For now.

 

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Strange What Comes Flying Over Next Door’s Ash Tree When You’re Eating Supper

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…a…a paramotor wing, and it came looming low over the new shed last night as we were eating our cream of broad bean soup. It was so very much something where you didn’t expect to have it, and also very loud, that for a moment I felt like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – you know, the scene near the beginning where a huge ship from the Vogon Constructor Fleet comes gliding over his house as a prelude to demolishing the planet:

People of Earth, your attention please.This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and, regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.

Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Anyway, it turned out to be nothing so threatening, though at one point I thought the pilot had completely lost the plot as he whirlygigged for several giddy seconds over the rapeseed field. He sorted himself out though.

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Last Night In Downtown Oakengates, Looking For Roofs, Real Ale, And Having A Slight Fit Of The Edward Hoppers

Just in case you think Shropshire is all ‘blue remembered hills’, we do have our urban quarters. Oakengates in Telford (New Town) to the east of the county has ancient roots. The Romans came marching through these parts in their bid to quell the Welsh, leaving us the remains of a military fort – that’s to say an on-the-hoof marcher camp (nicely squared earthen ramparts reduced to a field crop mark). Then there was a lot of monkish settlement (physical evidence obliterated), but it was during the C19th that the town truly came to prominence and prosperity, its coal and clay deposits making it one of the key settlements of Shropshire’s Industrial Revolution.

Since then, though, the once traditional street scene has somehow had its heart ripped out. Well, mostly. There are still some good old pubs. In particular the  Crown InnTHE watering hole for real ale lovers, and the place where we were heading last night to meet good chum Andy. And just by chance I had taken my camera, and I was struck by the evening light, and the strangely compelling surrealism of the streets that someone had kindly tried to prettify with bunting, and there were a few rooftops too and I had that feeling that I get when I look at Edward Hopper’s paintings: a spinal twinge of fascinated  displacement and disquiet (for his work is nothing if not about light and shadow in all connotations) – hence this set of photos, taken before and after a glass of good Mild Ale…

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Roof Squares

Inside A Copper Beech Looking Out

The beech tree is in Much Wenlock’s Linden Field ~ the place where the modern Olympic Movement had its beginnings in 1850

And every July the Wenlock Olympian Games are still held on and around the Linden Field and at the adjacent William Penny Brookes School, which is fittingly named after the Games’ founder.

Six Word Saturday

Flower of the Day ~ Wild Arum Lily

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Last week I found an arum lily behind our garden fence. On Sunday afternoon I found another fine specimen growing in the shade of the lime tree walk in our nearby Linden Field. I had gone there to photograph the lime trees coming into leaf, and the avenue was a haven of leaf shadow and dappled light, and wonderfully cool in our unexpected heatwave. There was also the heady whiff of wild garlic. The plants whose leaves I had been cropping earlier in the year were bursting with white star flowers. You can eat those too. But you definitely can’t eat the arum lily, also known as Cuckoo-pint (pint to rhyme with mint), Lords-and-Ladies, Parson in the pulpit and Willy lily  – though the roots were apparently once crushed to make household starch for crisping up Elizabethan ruffs (Richard Mabey Flora Britannica).

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Cee’s Flower of the Day