The Banker's Niece

Read exclusive extracts from my new novel The Banker's Niece. Click here for Chapter 1.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Wildflowers in the garden

Deep down Frog and I are the same, but on the surface we differ in just about everything.
    In the house for instance I am a minimalist whereas Frog’s possessions accrue in awful dusty heaps and spread like cancer.
    ‘I just take a long time to put things away,’ says Frog when I bark my shins yet again and swear.
    ‘Yes,’ I mutter darkly. ‘Like twenty years.’
    In the garden however, our roles are reversed. Frog has a collection of machines of destruction – chainsaw, mower, hedgetrimmers, strimmer – which he longs to use ‘to keep the garden tidy’. I on the other hand, so long as we have somewhere to sit out, I can grow some vegetables, and we can see our views, would rather leave it to nature.
    Mostly we manage to compromise, and here are some of the wildflowers that have escaped Frog’s flails, some self-seeded and some planted by me.
    I don’t want to get on my soapbox here, but why grow foreign plants which need cosseting and could be invasive (such as the dreaded Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam and a pond weed whose name I’ve forgotten) when we have so many lovely native plants? Or am I being racist?

Hedge woundwort, which has seeded itself in the paving slabs next to some Greek oregano (which has itself spread from a flowerbed). What a lovely colour combination. I like this plant, even though it doesn’t smell pleasant, as it feels friendly. Another of the ‘worts’, used for staunching wounds, as you might expect. Its leaves yield a yellow dye, so one of my books says.

Bindweed, crawling all over the shrubs. I’m conducting an experiment: will it take over, or will it reach sensible proportions and then stop?

Tiny self-heal, in the lawn, used in the past for sore throats, headaches, chest ailments, internal bleeding, piles and fevers, to close wounds and as a general strengthener. Wow. Did it work? I’ve no idea.

Feverfew, which I think I planted once and which has now spread itself into the strangest places. Here it is in a dark corner of the carport. A herbalist once prescribed a tincture of feverfew for me to take when I had migraines but it didn’t work. I read somewhere that I should be eating a leaf a day as a preventative. I tried one once and it was disgusting.

Meadow cranesbill, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the wild. Presumably it’s one of those plants that used to grow with crops in fields but because of herbicides does no more. I sowed some in the garden and it lives very happily in the flowerbeds, spreading but not taking over.

Toadflax, also planted by me. It’s supposed to be a pest in gardens, but I’ve never found it so. I love the name. ‘Flax’ I can understand because of the shape of the leaves, but ‘toad’? I must check out my mother’s copy of Richard Mabey’s Flora Britannica. Maybe that would tell me.

Comfrey, of course, beloved by organic gardeners, planted by me and now all over the place. Frog razed these clumps to the ground two weeks ago (me hurriedly gathering up the stuff and filling one and a half compost bins) and look at them now. As well as composting comfrey, I use it as a mulch on my veg bed. Does this work, do you know? Are the nutrients released this way?

No comments:

Post a Comment