Garden Gold ~ Calendula Officinalis

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In medieval times the flowers of the common pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) were included in ‘a cure’ for bubonic plague – added to the finely ground shells of new laid eggs and stirred in with treacle and warm beer; to be drunk night and morning. I’m not sure about the powdered egg shell, but the rest of it sounds quite heart-warming. And that’s the best thing about marigolds: simple to catch sight of them lifts the spirits, and lifted spirits are an essential part of wellness and wellbeing. So here is some Friday morning ‘medicine’ from the allotment, marigolds self-sown and grown without one finger’s worth of help from me – a free and lovely gift from Planet Botanic.

Copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Earth Sense: The Sweet Smell Of Wet Soil

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There’s nothing like it: either the word or the phenomenon. Petrichor is the term coined in 1964 by two Australian scientists, Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G Thomas, derived from the Greek word petra  meaning stone and ichor the fluid that flows in Greek gods’ veins (Nature, Volume 201, Issue 4923, pp. 993-995) and they used it to describe the smell of soil when it rains after a prolonged dry spell. They even defined the component parts. Oils from drying plants are absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks and when it rains, these are released in the air along with the aromatic exudations of actinobacteria in the soil.

And that’s what happened here today, spot on 2 pm just when the weather forecast said it would, and after several weeks of drought. I’d just made it back from the allotment where I had been moving raised beds, making new terraces and breaking up compacted soil in readiness for the promised rain. On the way home, draped in emergency polytunnel mac – a somewhat scabby garment I have to say, I noticed how the blossom on the crab apple tree by the garden gate is already going over, and I had only posted its picture the other day, the flowers so pink and freshly unfurling. Today the petals are white and shedding, here and there revealing the makings of miniscule apples on their stems. The procreative imperative in full swing then, which naturally induced a fit of gardener’s panic, a feeling that somehow I was lagging behind. So much to do, and so little time.

But then down came a soft and steady rain that made the garden sit up tall, and pretty soon filled the air with those delicious earth scents, the sort you breathe up your nose and into your soul, that make you one with antique divinities whose veins flow with ethereal fluids. No need to rush. Just breathe. Aaaaah. Petrichor!

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Copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Bee-fuddled Bumble ~ A Case Of Too Much Pink?

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To my eye this looks like one inebriated bee, O.D-ed on pollen and caught here, flat-out among the rhododendrons at Rosemoor.

It was a year last May and we were on our way back to Shropshire from Cornwall after a very special event, the christening of Graham’s god daughter, and we decided the route home must include a deviation through Great Torrington in Devon, and thus a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Rosemoor. It is a magical place, both of itself and its setting in the River Torridge valley, and you probably need to spend a whole day there to do it justice; or better still, stay several days in Rosemoor House and so see the gardens out of hours. Here are a few of the RHS website highlights – not one garden but several gardens.

And here are some of my highlights, pink and otherwise, though we weren’t too lucky with the light. Click on any image to view as a slide show:

In the Pink #25

Monday Morning In The Garden–Miniscule Is Marvellous

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Here on Sheinton Street the water butts are brimming, and the garden has received a truly good soaking. On the one hand this is very good, on the other the water butts always seem to be full when there isn’t actually anything in need of water. Also the weekend downpours have left flower-life a bit washed out and droopy, especially these soggy phlox petals. But I was fascinated to spy amongst them a flock of tiny, tiny crab spiders, scarcely a couple of millimetres across.

Some seemed to be curled up, asleep in the sun. This one, however, did not care for my intrusion. But if you want to see a really whopping pic of a crab spider, though I’m guessing some of you may not, pop over to Ark’s.

In the Pink #24 The final week for pinkness over at Becky’s. Not too late to join in.

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

A1 Plant For Bee Forage ~ Shame About The New Name

We used to call them sedums (Sedum spectabile). Now, for reasons best known to botanical taxonomists, these common garden succulents have been re-named Hylotelephium spectabile. Talk about a horticultural tongue-twister.

They are late summer bloomers of the stone crop family with flat umbrellas of tiny flowers, on the cusp of opening in the header photo. (The fallen petals belong to some neighbouring phlox). Once they are flowering, the bees and other pollinators will come in swarms for their end-of-season stoke-up on nectar. They are VERY IMPORTANT bee fodder.

That’s one good reason to grow them. Another is that they are exceedingly drought tolerant. A clump on an abandoned  plot at the allotment has survived all through the four months of heat and drought, while anyway occupying an arid, rain-shadowed spot under a goat willow, and without any attention whatsoever. While the stems are looking a touch pallid, it is still preparing to put on a floral display. I’m thinking I might repatriate it chez Farrell, that’s if I can excavate it from the concrete soil in which it is presently subsisting.

And the third reason for growing sedums is that they have a certain architectural value in the garden – both before, during, and after flowering. They come in a range of colours through the pink to burgundy spectrum. There are also white ones, and some with variegated foliage.

With some thoughtful planting they can indeed be spectabile, limit the need for watering in dry weather, and keep the bees well fed at summer’s end.

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In the Pink #10

In The Constellation Of Echinops It’s Bee Heaven And Never Mind The Drought

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Watching the garden struggle over many rainless weeks,  I’ve been thinking more and more about drought-tolerant plants. And here’s a real winner – Echinops or globe thistle. It comes from the Mediterranean, but there are now many garden cultivars to choose from, some less sprawling than others.

I grew mine from seed a couple of springs ago. The plant here, is one of the seedlings I planted out at the allotment. It has had no attention from me this year, and its end of the bed has had not been watered. The prickly globes are just coming into flower and yesterday the bumble bees were all over them. And of course there can be nothing better for the vegetable plot than a few star attractions for the pollinators.

And then at the other end of the bed from the Echinops, and the tangible result of some good pollinating, is an already fat Crown Prince squash. I’m amazed at the size of it, given my erratic hand-watering of the mother-plant a couple of metres away.  I’m thinking of hiring it out to Cinderella. At this rate it will provide her, or even me, with a very handsome coach. Just need to look out for a good team of horses. Oh yes, and a few slick coachmen.

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July’s Changing Seasons ~ All Hot Air And Going To Seed

I said in an earlier post that plant life was galloping away to flower and set seed all before being fried. Now with the end of July approaching, we have definitely reached the fried stage. I took the header view of Townsend Meadow as I was coming home from  the evening’s allotment watering. I thought it captured the day’s residual heat in a ‘baked-to-a-turn’ kind of way, a muted version if you like of Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with crows, a work that always seems to exude its own hotness. It’s a shame the local rooks did not put in an appearance to complete the scene, but sensibly they seem to be keeping a low profile – no doubt roasting quietly in their treetop roosts on the Sytch where the brook no longer flows.

Rain keeps appearing on the weather forecast, and then disappearing. Today’s promised thunderstorms have blown away. I think we’ve only had one significant watering in two months, and the heatwave looks like continuing.

Up at the allotment the harvest has been hit and miss – much bolting of lettuce and wilting of peas; puny potatoes, though wonderfully free of slug spit. The sweet corn continues to flourish and is starting to form cobs, and there have been loads of raspberries. The courgettes keep coming, and even the squashes are producing. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes are fat and delicious, and the peppers and aubergines beginning to fruit. All of which  means much hauling of watering cans every evening.

Here then, are more scenes of simmering Wenlock in and around Townsend Meadow.

 

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Changing Seasons July 2018

Please visit Su to see her changing season in New Zealand

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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On Your Marks, Get Set (Wait For It)…Doronicum!

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Also known as Leopard’s Bane, and another wonderful member of the daisy family. I am not entirely sure which variety of Doronicum it is, but am plumping for D. plantagineum as this name means plantain-like in reference to the leaf shape. Most Doronicum varieties seem to have heart-shaped leaves, and flower earlier in the season than the one in my garden. But if anyone has a better idea, please tell me.

Nor do I know if this particular variety has any noteworthy therapeutic properties, but we do have a powerful lack of leopards here on Sheinton Street, so it clearly has some very active big-feline-defence ingredient. It is also standing up bravely against the hot, dry weather and, along with the drumstick alliums, is the most vibrant bloomer in the garden at the moment. Not for long though. The golden rod, which is all over the place, is about to do its stuff. I’m looking forward to the all-yellow garden.

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