Colour Scheming ~ It Caught My Eye

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In my last post I muttered about the shortcomings of close-up shots because you lose the wider setting which may have much more to tell you. But I took this one because it made me smile: the contrast of the green longhorn beetle on liatris spicata; the liatris against the green grass, and the congruent shade and form of beetle and the blades of grass. Not a scheme I would wish to replicate in my own home, I hasten to add.

Liatris, with its tall purple spires, is now an English herbaceous border staple, and another magnet for insect life. But its true home is on the North American prairies where it has the names of Prairie Gay Feather and Dense Blazing Star.

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The first photo was taken at the allotment where my neighbour is growing insect attracting plants, but I have also grown it in my garden for the first time this year – seen in the second photo along with all the rapeseed dust from the previous night’s harvesting. (There are disadvantages to country living, and the  combine harvester’s dust and chaff cloud that buried our house and garden was one of them).

Now I know where liatris comes from, I have a sudden yen to set it free to colonise the fields of Wenlock Edge. I see it growing up tall as tall nodding its plumed heads over hillsides of wild oats – and no more compacted earth, chemical sprays and harvesting dust. Still, I know too that this is exactly the sort of impulse that has led to major biological disasters across the world, not least the devastating spread of the very lovely water hyacinth, which also grows in alluring purple spires, choking the waterways of the African continent and beyond, making poor people even poorer; killing livelihoods.

It was most probably a colonial gardener in the former Belgian Congo who was responsible that piece of horticultural mayhem; the plant escaped from a beautifully contrived water garden and up the riverine systems of Central Africa and into Lake Victoria, far away from its native South American quarters where there are local natural forces (weevils) to keep it in check. It has infested North America too, where there is big business in selling big water hyacinth harvesting machines.

So I will contain my expansionist inclinations, and enjoy the liatris where it is. It is actually a medicinal plant, well known to North America’s first nations, the Cherokee in particular, and used to treat many conditions.

And now for some more striking flower-insect colour-scheming – a green shield bug on my dusty Russian rudbeckia, grown from seed last year – another floral (hopefully benign) displacement.

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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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The Linden Walk ~ A Leafy Arcade

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This is my absolutely favourite Much Wenlock place (apart from home and the allotment), and it’s just across the road from the house. The Linden Walk borders the Gaskell (Linden) Field, and until the 1960s, steam trains would have been chuffing past just a few metres to the right of the tree cutting sign. In Victorian times there used to be an Olympic Special that every year brought in hundreds of spectators to watch the July Olympian Games masterminded by the town’s doctor, William Penny Brookes. The handsome station was only a hundred yards behind the point where I’m standing to take this photo.

Dr Brookes was also responsible for bringing the railway to Wenlock and for nagging his friends into helping him plant this double row of lime trees (Tilia x europaea). This was done in the 1860s, and I wonder if he foresaw then how lovely it would be. I’m guessing he would. He was a man of  vision and a great believer in devising means to cultivate both the physical and mental well being of the townsfolk.

Apart from being a physician, he was also a keen botanist and, before taking over the town’s medical practice from his father, he had studied herbalism at the University of Padua. Doubtless he would have known that preparations of lime flowers have strong sedative and pain relieving properties, a remedy to be treated with some caution.

I’m also sure he had in mind the blissful effect of simply wandering beneath an avenue of limes on a hot June day, absorbing the soothing green shade and breathing in the delicious fragrance of the trees’ inconspicuous cascades of blossom. Now the trees are at peak leafiness they create a continuous arcaded canopy. The small hermaphroditic flowers also produce nectar which means there are bees. Blackbirds and squirrels forage round the roots. There is birdcall in the treetops, and even though the tree cutting sign suggests the barking of chainsaws, there was only quietness when I took the photo.  The trimmers of the lime trees’ epicormic growth must have gone to lunch. You can see the effect they have had if you compare the trees with those in the second photo taken the day before. While the overgrowth is boskily attractive it can get out of hand; limes are prone to fungal diseases, and so are probably best protected by improving ventilation.

In fact the continued good health of the Linden Walk it taken very seriously. Cricket club supporters and bowling club members are no longer allowed to drive their cars along the avenue as they were wont to do, an activity that threatened to compact the tree roots. In fact we’ve been told by a Professor of Lime Trees that the trees could live another 150 years if we look after them. What a treasure Dr Brookes left behind – for us and a few more generations yet.

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Six Word Saturday

Roof Squares 16

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

Look Out! Granny’s Nightcaps Are Blowing All Over The Woods

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Wood Anemone . Anemone nemorosa . Windflower . Grandmother’s Nightcap

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I hadn’t meant to go wild flower hunting. I was only intending a quick dash along the old railway embankment beside the Linden Walk. A bunch of wild garlic leaves was the objective. They had started appearing soon after the second snow, and I’ve been cropping them on and off since early February. Now all the shady ground either side the former track bed is carpeted in clumps of lush, green, garlicky leaves.

I’ve found that chopping them into a jar and steeping them for a week or so in unfiltered cider vinegar makes for a delicious salad dressing ingredient. You can also treat this as a general spring tonic – a dessert spoonful in a big glass of water. The leaves are also good in a pesto sauce instead of basil, and you can chop them with abandon into soups, curries and casseroles. When they start to flower, you can use the tiny white florets too.

Anyway, as I picking my way through the undergrowth I came upon the wood anemones creating their own little galaxies under the lime trees. They are one of the loveliest of our spring flowers, and their presence is an indicator of ancient woodland. In his Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey also says they do not seed, but their roots spread very slowly in dappled shade. If you spend some time with them, you will see how they turn their faces always towards the sun. Less appealingly, their foliage is said to have the musky odour of foxes, though I can’t say I noticed any such smell when I sniffed the leaves.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Life After Death But Perhaps Not In The Way We Usually Consider It?

I know many people do not care for them, but I like graveyards. In my teenage years many moons ago we lived next to one – an unassuming village sort with a few brooding yews and a small plain church presiding. It had one tunelessly doleful bell which was very trying to the nerves of us Ashfords come Sunday morning. My father, who was a godless soul as far as I know, took to mowing the grass around the nextdoor graves. This was after he had deeply offended the vicar by mowing our own lawn during evensong.

Pa was deaf and had switched off his hearing aid and so presumably had missed the Sunday evening bell tolling, although this is hard to believe. Anyway, around seven on a summer’s evening he was happily whizzing over the grass with a very noisy flymo only to be fruitlessly hallooed over the church wall by the vicar who had worked himself up into a whirlwind of white cassock.

I think it was me who spotted the poor man waving his arms, trying to catch Pa’s attention. It was a bit embarrassing. Ma tut-tutted. We all knew that Pa was a bit obsessive-compulsive when it came to grass-mowing. But all was smoothed over in the end.

Anyway, to get back to graveyards. Here I am posting some photo details of St. Bride’s churchyard memorials (See earlier post The Little Church By The Sea.) I’m including them for a very important reason. While we were away at St. Bride’s I happened to read an article by Harriet Carty in April’s The World of Interiors magazine. Harriet Carty is an environmental scientist who lives in Shropshire and she is also director of a non-religious charity called Caring For God’s Acre. My interest was thus piqued on several fronts. This is what the organisation says about itself and what it does:

There are about 20,000 burial grounds in the UK and they contain a fantastic wealth of biodiversity and history. They are refuges for wildlife and stepping stones of habitat within our increasingly nature deprived landscape.

And…

Burial grounds are unrivalled for the wealth of built heritage and social history they contain. We encourage appropriate management of heritage and the appreciation and surveying of monuments. Good management of a site creates a haven for wildlife without losing accessibility to the built heritage.

In the article Harriet also mentions lichens in particular, saying how churchyards provide  sanctuaries for one third of the 2,000 species found in Britain – the stone walls and memorials being ‘ideal hosts for these slow-growing colonies.’

 

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I don’t know much about lichens, apart from their presence indicating unpolluted air,  but I would say there are a good few species on these stones. Of course lichens are not the only life forms to have found protecting spaces in graveyards. There may be slow worms, voles, nesting birds, toads, bees and butterflies. There’s also the social history too. So much may be gleaned about past communities from their memorials. Over the next four years Caring for God’s Acre will establish a national data base, listing all the natural and man-made treasures in the nation’s burial grounds. A fascinating project. But most of all I find it very heartening that new life thrives on and around the monuments to those humans who have left the living world. I like it that even on ground dedicated to the dead, the circle of life turns ever on.

 

Squaring the Circle #March22  Circles in squares and squares in squares are happening all month over at Becky’s

In which  #SixGoPottyInPembrokeWithCockapooPuppy – holiday snaps #4

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

The More Things Change…

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The come-hither finery can be safely shed: the insect lure has done its work, leaving the fruit capsule primed and fattening; its contents – miniscule parcels of poppies-to-be – busy ripening, waiting on sun and wind to complete the enterprise. Nature in action. Where would we be without it?

 

Daily Post Photo Challenge: delta – i.e. an image showing transition, or the passage of time

The Changing Seasons: April And the Alien Invasion?

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All right I’m a gardener, and maybe a tad prone to persecution mania on the pest front, but this month it’s been wall to wall dandelions, and no sign of the invasion letting up. Not only are they EVERYWHERE, and especially out in force at the allotment, but they are also showing signs of mutating into mega-weeds, some as big as palm trees. OK. Perhaps not quite that big. But I can see what they’re plotting: world domination in Much Wenlock.

All means of defence seem puny before the onslaught. I’ve tried mowing, hoeing, beheading, excising. Even resorted to engaging in dialogue of the non-expletive variety. But it’s no go. So I thought I’d shoot the varmints instead – photo-wise naturally. And of course, they really are very beautiful – whether in flower or gone to seed – and also so very perfectly designed for maximum coverage of planet Earth.

The one thing I’ve forgotten to do this year is eat some of them – young leaves in salad and for a system-cleansing tea, roots dry-roasted  to make quite a passable coffee that also has health benefits, flowers deep fried as fritters (though I’ve not tried this). And now that I’m seeing them in a more kindly light, and established a little perspective, I’m ready to post a less fraught compilation of April shots taken on and around the allotment.

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The Changing Seasons: April 2017 Please visit Max at Cardinal Guzman to see Oslo in April and other bloggers’ offerings.