Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Anemones (17 SEP 2013)

I have the impression that people abroad think all Brits can recite Shakespearean plays. I’m afraid to say that this isn’t true. Have you ever tried to read “The Taming of the Shrew” ?

At least I can relate to :
Katherine : If I be waspish, best beware my sting”

It’s very complex, consisting of a plot within a plot and people disguising themselves as other people for no apparent reason. From what I can gather after reading the students’ notes, the morals of the story are : (1) a beautiful wife is not necessarily obedient, (2) a stroppy wife can be worn down eventually by an overly-attentive husband and (3) a good father makes sure that his older daughter is married off before the younger one.

This is my simplified interpretation of the same title …

A couple of years ago, I decided that I couldn’t tolerate the anemones creeping into the patio. The sights of them proliferating in neglected gardens made them seem rather common and the foliage appeared coarse, though admittedly it’s mostly the pink variety that I’ve seen growing wild.

I removed the patio stones and eradicated as much of the invasive rootstock as possible, just leaving a tiny bit in case I changed my mind. The empty space was filled with foxgloves and wallflowers and all was good.

This year the anemones are back, though restrained compared to before, and I’m so grateful. I see them in a different light this time around : the buds pointing out at all angles, the dense, milky white sepals which last for weeks, the spheres of inflorescence at the centre which turn into delicate cotton wool balls speckled with seeds.

Now that I’ve learnt how to tame them, I can’t imagine my garden without anemones - the way they brighten up a dark corner and bob about in the wind.

While I was researching this member of the ranunculus family, I found others which don’t seem to have much in common except that they too have coloured, sepals rather than petals, they produce an acrid substance called ranunculin and they thrive in my woodland garden :

Anemones hupehensis (photographed in this post)
Anemones blanda
Creeping Buttercups
Beautiful delphiniums are also in the same family, but so far they have eluded me. I’ve never seen a delphinium seed germinate obediently and so my vision of the woodland garden filled with their blues and purples is yet to be realised. Discovering that they could potentially be as spirited as their relatives has spurred me on to try harder, even if it means trying to germinate them indoors over winter. Who knows? .. by next year I could be pulling those out too even though I love them.

Today I'm linking up to Dozen for Diana :

©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2013/09/anemones-17-sep-2013.html

Monday, 2 September 2013

Oregano (02 SEP 2013)

A couple of years ago my neighbours were going to throw away an oregano plant; it found refuge in my garden. I have a feeling it’s one of those herbs that you are supposed to grow fresh from new seed every spring. The yellow tinge on the leaves suggests it’s stressed in some way, maybe that’s why it flowers like a trooper.

It’s not the best looking plant, the faint pink flowers are so tiny that it’s difficult to distinguish their shape and you can only get a whiff of their scent if you stick your nose right in.

However on hot days, something magical happens.  
The tiny flowers fill the air with the spicy aroma of pizza.

All the bees in the garden decide that this is the place to be, turning an inconspicuous bush into a vibrating, humming extravaganza.

Meanwhile in the garage, there was another hive of activity. I wouldn’t have noticed usually, but I was in and out trying to fix the front garden wall. Fearing the worst, I called in the council. It took two attempts to remove the wasps nest, costing a total of £60 and two half-days off work. The man said it was a big one; I directed him to check out the internet. On the first attempt he sprayed it with insecticide, but wasps were still returning to it three days later.

Finally, the nest was removed; it disintegrated into weightless flakes, not leaving a trace on the rafters from which it had hung. The whole process made me feel rather uncomfortable because the wasps weren’t doing any harm; they showed no interest in stinging me at all.

I checked the internet again, to confirm that I’d done the right thing. Apparently, a particularly aggressive queen can pass her temperament to all her offspring. If you have an allergy to wasps, it’s possible to be killed by just one sting. If you don’t have an allergy, multiple stings can be fatal, and one wasp can attack several times. I couldn’t find the probability of these casualties though. Wasps can also chew through building materials.

It was difficult to equate what I was reading to what I saw with my own eyes and my gut instinct. As wasps are territorial, they wont build a nest in the vicinity of another, even a crushed paper bag can be used as a decoy. I’m hoping that an aggressive queen doesn’t return next year and take revenge by building a nest in my loft instead, maybe I reacted too quickly.

Even though they are not as effective as bees, which can trap pollen in their hairs, wasps do pollinate and feed on pests. However, these beneficial aspects were outweighed by my need to protect my own territory. The experience made me question my ethics : organic in the back-garden, not so much in the garage. Anyway, at least one wasp got to feast on the oregano.

Inspired by Linnie’s cult movie Crocosmia for Lunch, I tried to film the goings-on in the oregano bush but it was quite difficult to keep in focus. So here are sections of film reel instead of a piece entitled :
“Oregano – it’s not just for pizza” 

©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2013/09/oregano-02-sep-2013.html
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