I know the song “How many flowers do you know in an English country garden” And although I know all the names, many I have never seen until now. It makes me realize how colonial my education was.
So at Christmas, I discovered Yew trees and Yew hedges (everyone has one),Holly bushes with sharp spiny leaves
and Of course mistletoe in every tree that had lost its leaves. Some trees are highly infected. Mistletoe is usually high up, but I managed to get some down without breaking my wrist this time.
Trees are also overtaken by Ivy that you see only when the leaves fall off, and they give the trees a ghostly outline so that you can imagine them stomping through the Lord of the Rings, as visualized by JRR Tolkein. When we sang Christmas carols in the cow barn (see previous blog), I knew them all. But they took on another dimension when we sang “the holly and the ivy”. Here we are making wreaths with holly, ivy and yew.
Then, as spring came I discovered more. Our childhood cows had been called buttercup and bluebell, but I had never seen any, and now I have, and all the others in an English country garden:
Daffoldils I had seen, but not with such abundance. In spring they pop up anywhere and everywhere. Snow drops pop out at the same time. Forgetmenots (the little blue flowers seen below) once you have seen, you cannot forget, bleeding heart..yes they really look like hearts. Cow parsley is every where and these wild garlic that have amazing edible leaves.
England definitely has a major guardian angel who gently waters everything just as much as needed. Brits complain about the weather, but without it they would have a very boring country. Everything grows so abundantly..no wonder it is seen as the land of goblins and fairies. Gardeners hardly need to plant a thing, but they have to spend hours cutting things back..lawn mowing takes place at least once a week, not because people like cut lawns, but if they didn’t, there would be in a jungle within a week. Here I am cutting back read that has clogged the rivers. most of winter is spend clearing the abundant growth of the summer.Things grow so fast. I was away for 2 weeks and literally everything had doubled in height when I came back.
Medicinal plants are abundant: I had also never seen Equisetum (horse tail used to make silicea) in real life, and here they are everywhere and considered a weed. My landlord has an amazing witchhazel in his garden. Never mind the magical plants of lore: ragwort and hemlock was difficult to find, but it is related to our own blister bush that blisters your skin when you touch it. And then there is foxglove, from which digitalis, a heart remedy is made. It has an incredibly tall flowering stalk, often 2m tall!At christmas there is little flowering, but there you see Christmas roses, which I know as hellebore, a witches poison and cure. I have yet to find any of the nightshades that are abundant in SA, but deadly nightshade is found here. This is lungwort, long used medicinally.
Plants used as wool dyes: woad, used as a blue dye magically changes its colour, weld, and orange madder roots have astounding colour.
I also saw familiar plants that were obvious relatives of ours, like the heathers that are like our cape ericas., and arums of various kinds., and pelargoniums of all kinds.
Weeds are weeds here too, but harder to distinguish as weeds. When I asked about it, I was told that anything in too much abundance is a weed. Where we prize nettle that is an annual in SA, here it is perennial, with invasive underground stems, and HUGE and vicious to touch. It makes me think of the Grimms fairy tale of the seven brothers, where they turned into swans and their sister made cloaks of thistles to free them from the spell, and I cringe at the pain, as I have been stung many times.
The most difficult weed to remove is Dock that has extensive underground roots, and of course many many Dandelions..these seem to seed much quicker than ours..one day they are yellow and the next they are ready to blow away.
The trees I am only just discovering, but there are amazing wild plum bushes full of berries: these black thorns, prunus spinosa, produce sour berries used in Black berry elixir or Schlen elixir used for recovering from illness. Also hawthorn, cranberries, currants and of course Blackberries everywhere (a weed here that has to continually be cut back).
There are many that are too exotic for me, but I nevertheless find them amazing. Rachel, who landscaped much of Ruskin Mill did an amazing job. There are always flowers in the garden. As soon as the daffodils die, the tulips pop up their heads and there are some flowers that I have never seen before that are magnificent.
You definitely cannot see evolution as an accident if you live in this world. It makes me wonder why Richard Dawkins is a Brit. The mathematical skill of each plant is too astounding. Here, from biodynamic perspective, you get more than a glimpse of the working of the planets on the plants.
I really think that most Brits do not appreciate how much they have the Goldilocks effect here wrt to perfect soil..not too much clay, not too much sand, not too stoney. And the smatterings of rain that keep the soil not too wet not to dry, the lack of insect pests. Its interesting that there are so few insects. I have seen only one butterfly and spring is well on its way. Snails and slugs are here in abundance. At Ruskin mill, I know the abundance of earthworms are deliberately cultivated and there are so many per square inch!
Of course there are very few indigenous plants as so much has come from other places that no one really knows what indigenous English plants are, really, as with the colonization of much of the world and the legal and illegal moving of plants to Kew gardens and subsequent cultivation in everyone’s garden, what is an English plant, really?
Brits love their gardens. A good lawnmower is essential in summer, as the grass grows so quickly. A common phenomenon is a village opening their gardens for viewing. Of course, they charge for the honour, often linked to fundraisers for a British hospice (as if the British government doesnt do enough. You would swear people were neglected in this country. Very few British charities look outside the country, and really, Brits do not know about need. They are an incredibly comfortable lot!) Anyway I went to a open garden on the queens birthday (her second one) in a small village called Box (its a name of a plant, if you were wondering). I was first amazed at how many people attended these. All the gardens were very sweet and trimmed within an inch of their lives. Why do people topiarise every small tree or bush! I must say, Gods tree shape is much prettier. Most topiarised trees end up looking like hooded bandits. Perhaps its for wont of something to do. I also find that they overdo the spring colours that end up clashing badly. Everyone beds in colourful annuals that they buy from their local nursery that end up looking so false and twee.
Everyone has a hanging basket somewhere.
Going for drive, I came across whole fields of flowers. Here is a field of poppies as far as the eye can see, and next to it a field of buttercups. For me, God is a much better creator of gardens.