Our garden is too large for us to keep every part of it neat and well manicured and I wouldn’t like it half so well if it was. I love gardening – digging, weeding, tending plants, but there is always risk, responsibility and pressure to do things properly and at the right time. The wild, untamed, untidy parts of the garden are just pure pleasure to me. I have no yearning to tidy them though I realise that some management is necessary which is why we had the work done to the big pond a few weeks ago. The ‘weeds’ I assiduously pull out of my flower beds I love to look at in the wild garden. Flowers at this time of the year are a wonderful source of nectar for insects, especially bumble bees, just out of hibernation.
The red dead-nettle, Lamium, a member of the mint family, grows all over our garden and is a very common plant in Britain and flowers for most of the year. Both it and the white dead-nettle were boiled and used as pot-herbs and as pig-swill in the past. They had many medicinal uses, most notably against the ‘King’s Evil’ – scrofula, a type of tuberculosis that caused skin eruptions. Culpepper says ‘The herb bruised and with salt and vinegar and hog’s-grease laid upon a hard tumour or swelling, or that vulgarly called the king’s-evil, do help to dissolve or discuss them’. It also ‘makes the heart merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits’. If you look at the photo below carefully you will be able to see the dark anthers under the hooded upper lip and the darker purple markings on the lower notched lip.
The white dead-nettle’s flowers are bigger than the red’s. It relies on bumble bees to pollinate it’s flowers and they (the flowers) are custom made for bees. The lower lip is a landing stage for the bee and has two small lateral lobes and a notched middle lobe. The anthers are black and are under the hooded upper lip. As the bee enters the flower seeking the nectar the top of it’s abdomen brushes the stamens and gets covered in pollen which is then transferred to the style of the next flower it visits.
We don’t have as much chickweed in this garden as in other gardens we have had probably because we get so many ducks, geese and chickens passing through. They love the plant, which can also be eaten by humans as a salad vegetable. The flowers are so small that most people hardly notice them but looked at closely they are quite lovely. The botanical name is Stellaria, little star, and the name is quite apt. The styles are white and the stamens are such a pretty pink. Chickweed is a member of the pink family. It has a single line of hairs which run the whole length of the stem and if a drop of dew lands on the plant it runs down the stem by way of the hairs until it gets to a pair of leaves. Here some of the water is absorbed by the hairs and the rest carries on down the stem to the next pair of leaves and so on. This water is reserved in the plant in case of drought. It flowers almost all year round and is widespread and prolific, which is why most gardeners hate it!
This marsh-marigold plant is in our small pond and is the only decent plant in there. It flowers and flowers and looks so bright and cheerful. We have another plant in the big pond but I have never seen any flowers on that. I also discovered a very small plant in the ditch by the big pond with much smaller flowers. I posted a photo of it a few days ago. Another name for marsh-marigold is Kingcup and according to one of my flower books this is derived from the Old English ‘cop’ meaning button or stud such as kings once wore. Apparently, farmers in many parts of the British Isles, used to hang marsh-marigolds over the byres of their cattle on May Day to protect them from the evil doings of fairies and witches.
We not only have dog violet in our garden but also sweet violet which is the only violet flower to be scented. In olden times they were strewn on the floor to sweeten the air. Their scent is lost almost as soon as it is noticed and this is because the flower produces a substance called ionine as well as the scent. Ionine dulls the sense of smell so that not only does the violet’s scent disappear but any other odours too. Clever! In the verge near to my mother’s cottage are many white violets which are very pretty.
Our garden is full of flints and some of them are enormous. Trying to make new flowerbeds has taken so much time and energy as these great stones have to be levered out all the time and more and more keep appearing. I quite understand the old folk thinking that stones grew in the soil. This is our Lindt flint as we think it looks like a Lindt chocolate rabbit.
A pretty narcissus has just flowered.
The dear goose sleeping on her nest.
And lastly a few pictures of last night’s sunset.