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Common name confusion

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment
Centaury

Centaury

I love common names for wild flowers: things like Johnny-go-to-bed-at-noon.

The problem is that they don’t always refer to one plant, but rather to a group of similar plants with a shared characteristic.

More problematic still is when one name is used to refer to completely unrelated plants.

A case in point is centaury. This, to me, is centaury, here on the left.

But what I call knapweed is apparently sometimes referred to as centaury, an aberration insidiously supported by its scientific name being Centaurea.

Long live muddle and confusion in our language.

Knapweed (also known as Centaury)

Knapweed (also known as Centaury)

Bindweed

July 28, 2013 2 comments
Bindweed flower

Bindweed flower

This attractive plant is about as insidious as they come.

The wet spring seems to have suited it and its little satellite-dish flowers are peeping everywhere.

Normally I try to head it off at the pass before it gets the chance to flower; now I have to try and stop it seeding.

Not that it would make a lot of difference because it sprouts from  the root.

And the roots go on and on under the soil, dipping in the black waters of Hades, probably.

I can’t believe the speed at which it grows, twining its stems round plants I want to keep so that it’s less in danger.

It’s worse than wild clematis, and that’s saying something.

Betony

July 19, 2013 Leave a comment
Betony patch

A patch of betony

Yesterday evening I went in search of those demmed elusive golden orioles which are constantly audible and never visible.

Needless to say their talent for ventriloquism meant they sounded just as far away as ever.

But I did find myself walking through a patch of betony, pale in the gathering dusk.

A spider looking very much at home

A spider looking very much at home

Doing a close-up shot of one of the spikes, I spotted a crab-like spider.

It looked very cosy, clinging to this most benevolent and beneficial of flowers.

Betony supposedly alleviates headaches, arthritis, snake bites, anxiety, drunkenness – all manner of ailments. It was a standard medicinal plant in medieval monastery gardens..

There’s an Italian proverb: “Vende la tunica e compra la betonica.”  “Sell your coat and buy betony.” Perhaps because betony stops you getting aches and pains from the cold??

Fennel

July 10, 2013 Leave a comment
Fennel flowers

Fennel flowers

Our fennel isn’t the sort that forms white bulbs you can eat, but I still love its aniseed scent.

I bought one plant about 5 years ago and let it seed, and I’ve been finding little fennel plants everywhere ever since.

These stems on the parent plant got the chop today so as to prevent a total invasion.

I checked each one carefully to make sure there were no swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on them, but I suspect they’re a bit tough for that. In fact I’ve only ever found caterpillars on young plants.

There was one on a young plant today; I don’t what species of butterfly it belongs to.

A very small caterpillar on the top of a fennel stalk

A very small caterpillar on the top of a fennel stalk

Sweet peas

May 13, 2013 Leave a comment
'Casualty vase' of sweet peas

‘Casualty vase’ of sweet peas

Before Chokri started strimming yesterday, I told him that making things look tidy was more important than saving the sweet peas which have seeded all over the place.

Even so I felt acute dismay at the destruction.

There’s one particular colour – a bright, almost lurid pink – which only seems to have established itself on the slope down to the ‘moat’.

I just managed to save one plant; the rest are now in pieces.

Sweet peas are extraordinarily difficult to avoid because they taper down towards the ground, snake along, and often have their root  some distance from the visible part.

On the plus side, I got plenty of stems for my casualty vase.

The smell of the flowers is wonderful, and so evocative that it revives memories I didn’t even know I had.

Primroses and violets

April 7, 2013 Leave a comment

 

At home in the shade of our big oak

At home under the big oak

These two flowers are the perfect complement one for another.

The clumps in the photo, which are by the bole of the big oak next to the house, originated as skinny little plants which I dug up from the wood at the top of the hill 4 years ago.

Being still our land, I didn’t reckon I’d committed any crime.

I’ve been wanting to visit the wood, or even just work my way round the slopes immediately below the house, because primroses and violets are everywhere, hiding in the dead leaves or the long grass. But I just haven’t had time.

I long for summer, but it’s still a shame how spring slips away.

Raspberry shoots

March 17, 2013 2 comments
Raspberry shoots

Raspberry shoots

When we first came to live here 6 years ago, one of the first things I planted was raspberries.

Rightly or wrongly (probably wrongly), I planted them in the main flowerbed.

It’s nice to have them right by the house to pick, but it makes tending other plants fraught with danger.

Walking round roses to prune them, I’m very likely to step on one of these tiny raspberry shoots.

The canes have suffered enough from the cold, without the added disadvantage of my great hooves!