Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Belated GBD

This is probably the latest Gardener's Bloom Day post ever. It's only just made it into the right month. But I've just been busy. So here's what's been blooming on the balcony since the 15th.

Cyclamen probably aren't much of a surprise, and nor will these little pansies be. Babies of course, but they're already putting out their fair share of blooms.

The rest is slightly less believable, but I promise they've all been taken over the last week - just look at the trees behind and the leaves on the ground. First the pelargoniums. All but one have come back into bloom with a vengeance, and the salmon pink plant has now been blooming for over eighteen months without a break.

Campanula. these have recovered from some slight ill-treatment in the early autumn - they got shoved behind something, and I forgot about watering. They lost all their flowers but are now doing well again.

Alyssum. I sometimes curse my alyssum because it takes over the containers. But it's worth it to have it still going at this time of year.

And now - the pièce de résistance - marigolds. In December, give or take about five hours. They'd stopped blooming and I was about to throw them away when I saw they were covered in buds. And since the middle of the month more and more have been coming out.

Needless to say we've had an unusually mild November - but that can be the topic of the next post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Invasion of the Giants

Last year I posted to the effect that my wild asparagus was growing at a rate of knots. Had I but known. Look at it then ...

... and look at it now.

And the pictures don't even do justice to the change. The first photo is of the plant in an 8" pot. The second is of a tub 50" x 18" x 30", more or less. Nothing seems to keep it in check. I even replanted it in the corner just in front of the bedroom where nothing grows. I don't know why that corner's a problem - but I suspect there's not enough light for most plants, but it gets too hot for shade lovers. I can't even grow spider plants there - something else that I usually have no trouble getting to giant proportions.

But the wild asparagus flourished even there. Then I saw it was getting attacked by the plague of green caterpillars that we had (still have, come to that) this year. So I cheerfully transferred all the caterpillars which I found decimating my other plants, onto it. It hardly looks chewed.

So what do I do with it? I suppose after my recent post on the 20 foot agave, I shouldn't even bother about it. And I'm not the only one. I've been planning this post for about a month, but just after the Carnival closed the other day, La Gringa sent me a link to a post called Why do they have to get so big? on exactly the same theme. (I've always said that garden bloggers were telepathic.) And her stuff makes mine look like dwarf varieties. But then she's not gardening on a balcony ...

It does of course solve the problem of what to put in that corner. But if I leave it there, will it be invading the bedroom by this time next year? The only other solution which comes to mind is digging it up, splitting and repotting it, and giving it to people as Christmas presents. The ones I don't like, obviously.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

November - a puzzle

This month's calendar is a bit confusing. It's supposed to feature matricaria recutita, or camomile. Well that's what the heading says, but the picture is quite different and the text describes a variety of plants, presumably all of the same family. There is a small picture inserted in the text, and that does have the typical daisy like flowers of camomile. However, the big picture is chamaemelum nobile, and, after a bit of detective work on Google, I think I've identified it as chamaemelum nobile 'ligulosum' - although on another site, the same plant seems to have a yellow centre. The yellow centred variety is similar to what I grew as matricaria nana last year (see the picture below). In any case, it's quite unlike what I would normally think of as camomile, and according to the text, more likely to cause allergies.

So - sticking to traditional camomile, what's it good for? Camomile has been used medicinally since the time of the ancient Egyptians, who - because of its bright yellow centre - associated it with the sun god Ra and considered it to be sacred. It's also mentioned by Hippocrates, Galen and Pliny the Elder. The most important active ingredient, found in the flower heads, is the essential oil chamazulene. Camomile tea is well known as an "unwinder", useful as a pre-bedtime drink to help you sleep. This extract is from a poem by Katherine Mansfield called Camomile Tea :

How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.

Here in Italy, it's frequently given to children just before they're put to bed. It's also used widely to lighten fair hair - even in commercially produced shampoos and hair treatments. The calendar suggests using it for a variety of other things including stomach problems.

And if you remember Beatrice Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, when Peter had stomach ache after gorging himself on the lettuces in Mr McGregor's garden, his mother gave him "a teaspoonful of camomile tea", and put him to bed.

The name matiricaria apparently derives from the Latin for womb, and was given to the plant because of its widespread use in treating women's gynacological complaints, in particular menstrual cramps. This is also the basis of its common German name Mutterkraut - mother's herb.

But that's not all. The calendar says it's also useful for a load of things that I can't find a translation for, while on the web it's suggested for everything from arthritis to healing wounds. And according to one site it's a carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, and emmenagogue. Well, now you know. And I thought I was having problems with the German ...

But according to some research carried out in Britain and
reported by the BBC, there's sound scientific evidence for many of the traditional uses. Five cups a days for a fortnight will apparently also ward off cold symptoms (should you ever have a cold that lasts a fortnight, that is).

Even if, like me, you loathe camomile tea, it seems that matricaria recutuita is well worth growing in the garden. It is said to keep neighbouring plants free of pests and diseases, and to have a curative effect on sick plants around it. It's especially useful if grown in the company of other herbs containing essential oils - basil, marjoram, thyme and so on.

It can also be used to make a lawn, as an alternative to grass, which lets out a characteristic fragrance when walked upon or cut. In Mary Wesley's novel, The Camomile Lawn, the lawn becomes a symbol of tradition, permanence, and the youth and innocence of the characters as they meet on holiday in Cornwall, all of which is lost they meet again after the Second World War.

Matricaria recutita is best sown in the autumn or spring, in light sandy soil. It's a sun lover, which needs little fertilisation. And even if you don't want to drink the tea, it's worth collecting the flowers as you can spray it on new seedlings as a fungicide to prevent damping off.

Another good reason for collecting the flower heads is that, if you don't, it will self-seed and before long you'll find it everywhere. As Shakespeare said in Henry IV Part One :

For though the camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows,

Yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Carnival : Day Four

It's the last day of the Garden Blogger's Retro Carnival, and the theme is Added Value - or Ten for the Price of One.

Some people don’t have individual pages for their posts so had to link to an entire archive page. Great – we get more value for one click! Lady Luz linked to last February’s posts – she nominated the post for Feb 15th, but I enjoyed lots of the others too. Check out the picture of the chameleon as you scroll down.

Andee, the gardener in Chacala also linked to an archive page. Go down to the bottom to read about Learning to Garden in Chacala – and some small problems in cross-cultural communication. While you’re getting there - enjoy all the photos.

Carol of May Dreams Gardens has only linked to one post, but in it she links to the ten posts which she feels serve best as an introduction to her blog. So ten for the price of one again!

My contribution? This time last year I was having fun taking scanner photos. So here are some of the photos - ten of them, naturally.

And that's it for this edition of the Garden Blogger's Retro Carnival. Except that I have to end with a confession ... I've lost two links. Somebody sent me links to two posts - one about a porcupine and the other about bugs. And I've lost them. They arrived after the first carnival day, which had wildlife for it's theme, but I was going to include them anyway.I checked the posts out, but must have forgotten to save the message before I cancelled it. If it's you, please send them again - they were great posts. My comments box also went peculiar for a while last month, just as people were submitting links. I hope I got everything, but if you were expecting to see your post and it hasn't appeared - Blogger strikes again. Send them again, and we'll have a postcript day.

I hope you've enjoyed the Carnival - I certainly have. I really enjoyed all the posts, and it was specially nice to come across a few blogs which I'd not seen before. Several people have asked if the Carnival is going to be a regular event. Well, I don't know about regular, but I do have an idea for another one - with a difference. Watch this space!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Carnival - Day Three

Welcome to Day Three of the Garden Bloggers' Retro Carnival. If you've been following the Carnival you'll know that people have been sending in links to posts on their blogs which they want to revive, and that every day I'm publishing a lists divided (very roughly!) by theme. Today's theme is gardening in winter.

We're starting with a Hallowe'en post. Hallowe'en was originally a Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in), marking the Celtic New Year - which started on November 1st. The festival of Samhain on October 31st marked the end of the old year and the beginning of winter — the “season of cold and darkness.”

If like me your idea of carving a Hallowe'en pumpkin is a gash for a mouth, three holes for the eyes and nose and a left hand covered in sticking plasters, then see what they produced over at
An eclectic garden

I don't know about where you are, but here we're still having bright sunny days and it doesn't seem like winter at all yet. But if you’re in the northern hemisphere and the ever-shorter days and dropping temperatures are starting to depress you, check out this post on Gardening for winter interest by Jessica at
Garden Detective

And if like me you don’t have a greenhouse but still start getting itchy to plant just after Christmas, you’ll love Angie’s post at Gardens-n-Junk.

Winter is the ideal time to rethink your garden design for the following year. What colours predominate in your garden? Do you go for subtle pastels? Cool blues and whites? Bright reds and yellows happily clashing away ? Kris at
Blithewold won’t mind if you break the rules.

And while you're at it, why not get some inspiration from some historic landscaped gardens. Cave Hill Gardens has some suggestions as to where you might look.

You might also want to revamp your gardening wardrobe - throw out some off the stuff that's just too far gone and downgrade those tatty jeans and that old jumper that you're starting to feel conspicuous in at the supermarket. Deciding what to put on your feet when you’re gardening can be a delicate choice too. Here’s a review from Ellis Hollow on the ideal footwear for use when shovelling, mowing – and as a rodent repellent. It’s the smell you see...)

But don't get too depressed by the winter. At least most of us know the long sunny days of summer will soon be back. Anne of the Tundra Garden has no such luck - she even has snow in July, but she still manages to grow things. Check out how at her blog on the northernmost garden of the North American continent.

That's it for today, but the Carnival will be back midweek with more links. And this time the theme will be - well, buy one, get ten free.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Carnival - Day Two

Whoops - I promised the carnival would continue immediately after the last post, and didn't make it. A series of small crises intervened - don't they always? Links are still coming in, incidentally, so you still have time to send yours if you want.

Today's theme is - well, growing things. Seems to be a common interest of gardeners ....

Several people sent posts on vegetable gardening. If you’ve never connected growing potatoes with either poetry or the shipping forecast, Melanie of Bean Sprouts can explain, while Jessica of Garden Detective points out that food from your garden doesn’t always have to be specially planted.

Cauliflowers come in all shapes and colours - round, pointy, white green even orange. Patrick of
Bifurcated Carrots discovered the purple variety.

Next time you put mustard on your hot dog, think of Green Thumb of
India Garden. She's been growing her own.

And while it’s not exactly vegetable gardening, some phallic fungi growing over a
funtimehappygardenexplosion set off some philosophical musings ...

That's it for today. The next theme (probably tomorrow but I'm not promising any more) will be winter gardening - you know, what happens about January when you start getting itchy to DO something ....

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Carnival Time!

Welcome to Day One of the Garden Bloggers' Retro Carnival! If you've been following the blog recently, you'll know I suggested that people should send me links to old posts they'd like to revive. A big thank you to everyone who responded - I've had great fun reading all the posts and I know other people will enjoy them too.

Most of the posts fall into categories, so I shall be publishing the links over four or five days, each day focusing on a specific category. Incidentally, if you haven't yet got round to sending a link, it's not too late. as long as I get it in the next few ddays, there'll be time to include it. Use the comments box.

OK - let the carnival begin. I want to start with a post that just probably sums up what most of us think about gardening - Yvonne of
Country Gardener arguing that gardening without the three C’s – care, commitment and consistency – is nothing but “outdoor decorating”.

It's one that's hard to follow, so we'll change tack and look at some more lighthearted posts. A lot of you linked to posts about wildlife - and other animals - in the garden. And here they are :

Anthony at the Compost Bin had a visit from a Turkey - and it wasn't even Thanksgiving.

Not all the animals in your gardens are uninvited visitors. Down on the Allotment gives a round-up of some of the dogs who keep various garden bloggers company when they’re hard at work.

And still on the subject of dogs, what bulbs smell like a dog with severe problems of indigestion ? Find out at
Garden Detective

Finally today, for some stupendous photos of insect life in the garden, see these two posts from Moe at Iowa Voice :
Flower flies on spiderwort and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a Buttonbush

That's all for now, but there'll be more tomorrow. Not surprisingly, a lot of you wrote about growing things. So tomorrow it's potatoes and the shipping forecast, purple cauliflowers, phallic fungi and much more!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Saints Day

Today is All Saints' Day, in Italy the day of the dead. It's the day that everyone visits the cemeteries to take flowers to the graves of relatives who have died. The flower of death here is the chrysanthemums (never give an Italian chrysanthemums as a present!) and by now the cemeteries will be awash with chrysanths of all shapes and sizes.

I have only in-laws to visit here, and they had mostly died before I knew them. I've lost my own parents and grandparents, and that leaves a sense of loss far beyond the two years it is "supposed" to take to get over a bereavement. But, however deep the loss, when older generations die there is a sense of naturalness and inevitability about it which is quite different to the shock of the death of someone younger. This afternoon I started thinking about two friends of mine who died when they were only in their early thirties, both of whom had changed my life in ways they probably never imagined. Their deaths hit me very, very hard. Tom, David - this post and these chrysanthemums are for you.

Related Posts with Thumbnails