Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Our very first narcissus for this year is flowering.

Actually it’s not the very first. There was another dead head beside it on the plant, but the flowers are outside the fence, and these last few weeks have been so busy I haven’t walked along that part of the fence, so hadn’t seen it.

The name Narcissus comes from a character in Greek mythology who was extremely handsome. It was said that he would live to old age, if he never looked at himself. Many female admirers were entranced by his beauty, but he rejected them all. One of them, Echo, was so upset by his rejection that she withdrew from the world to waste away. All that was left of her was a whisper. This was heard by the goddess Nemesis, who, in response, made Narcissus fall in love with his own reflection in a pool. He stared at this reflection until he died and was replaced by a narcissus flower.

His self-absorption was complete
but the result was bittersweet

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Floral Friday

I was thrilled to find a flower on my camellia Setsugekka. This plant was given to me in 2016 when I left Volunteering Canterbury as a gift from the Network of Volunteer Centres in Aotearoa, and it wasn’t easy to find a space for it in our small garden. I planted it by the south fence, and have tried to espalier it. Three weeks after planting it produced one flower but there have been no more in the six years since, although I have fed and watered it assiduously. It was a lovely surprise this week to find it had several flower buds, and yesterday the first flower opened. I’m not sure how long it will flower for but I hope I may have white camellias for Suffrage Day in September.

I very nearly gave up hope
that I would see this suffrage trope

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Fennel flowers

Stephen has planted fennel in several places in our garden.

Fennel flowers

He collects the seeds for use in cooking which is wise, as fennel can otherwise spread widely. This type of fennel is considered a herb. In some cultures fennel seeds are chewed at the end of a meal to aid digestion and prevent bad breath.

To get fennel bulbs you need to grow vegetable fennel, which is a member of the carrot family.

This fennel is a tasty herb
used as an indigestion curb

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Wandering Willies

Yesterday a friend told me of a visit she’d made to the London Garden Museum, where she’d been surprised to see carvings of the father and son, John Tradescant, after whom our plant Tradescantia was named. Later that day a book I was reading referred to people travelling widely to seek new plants as Tradescants, which inspired me to seek further information.

Wandering Willie/Tradescantia

I have tradescantia growing in a corner of my garden, where it hides under winter irises and a climbing rose. Originally from South America it was once grown as an ornamental garden plant, but sale in garden centres in Aotearoa is now banned, because of its invasive nature.

The London Garden Museum is housed in the medieval church of St Mary at Lambeth, and was set up to save this abandoned church and knot garden where the two John Trandescants were buried. The elder was gardener to Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, later succeeded in this role by his son, and in the seventeenth century they each travelled widely, visiting three of the four known continents, to seek new plants. Trandescantia, named in their honour by Swedish botanist Linnaeus, was introduced to England in 1629 from the American colonies, and the blue and white flowered versions were grown in the Oxford Botanic Garden from at least 1648.

I presume the carvings my friend saw at the museum may have been part of the family tomb erected by Hester, the widow of the younger John.

The English climate may be chilly
not so benign for Wandering Willie

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Floral Friday

This chilli plant started in a pot on the kitchen windowsill but soon grew too tall to be inside. Stephen transplanted it into a larger pot, placed it in a sunny spot on the front verandah, and has been watering it regularly. Now it has flowers, and maybe eventually there will be chillies.

Auntie Google has some conflicting advice about pollination of chillies. Some say they are self-pollinating, others suggest they need help from insects or people.

Chillies originated in South America, and their fossilised remains have been dated to around 6,000 years ago. In Aztec and Mayan traditions they were used to fumigate houses and help cure illness, as well as to flavour food. Stephen likes food hotter than I do, but he kindly goes easy on the chilli when he’s cooking, out of consideration for my milder tastes.

A Peruvian myth says that the chilli once had a sweet flavour which changed when a young girl was murdered by her own mother for having eaten several peppers against her mother’s wishes. Years later a beautiful pepper plant grew above the child’s grave, and brought the bitter and spicy flavour it now has as a punishment for her murder.

You may have wondered, as I did, the correct way to spell chilli. In U.K. English two lls are correct. In the U.S. it is spelt chili or sometimes chile.

These peppers can be mighty hot
don’t put too many in the pot.

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Floral Friday

These Canterbury Bells or Campanula were planted beside our pool many years ago. They have been almost smothered by ivy, but I was pleased to see their flowers again this week.

There are several legends about these flowers. One says that three evil men were transformed by a priest into swans and cursed to fly without rest for over a thousand years. Then, when flying over Canterbury (U.K.), the men heard the ringing of church bells and felt so remorseful about their past deeds that the curse was broken. With the spell lifted, the men fell to earth at Canterbury where they were discovered by North African scholar Saint Augustine, who led them into a church. Where the men trod, tiny campanulas grew, and the flower was subsequently dedicated to Saint Augustine and later to England’s Saint Thomas a Becket who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

Another legend tells that campanulas were so named because of their resemblance to the bells carried by pilgrims to Canterbury.

The flower is also known as Venus’s looking glass. According to myth, Venus’s mirror bestowed beauty upon anyone reflected in it. However, one day the goddess lost her mirror, and it was found by a shepherd who proceeded to gazed at himself in the mirror. It so angered Cupid that his mother’s mirror had been used by a mortal that Cupid knocked the glass from the shepherd’s hand, and where it landed sprang forth a campanula.

So, there are several suggestions as to where the flowers got their name. They certainly seem appropriate for gardens in our Canterbury.

Just where they came from who can tell?
But in this province they’re our bell.

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Mint is a useful herb with properties that aid digestion and relieve headaches. It is a perennial with tiny flowers.

Mint flowers

All the information suggests it should be confined to a container, and we first planted it in a concrete tub, but have since allowed it to grow in other places as well.

Greek mythology traces mint to the story of Pluto/Hades, god of the underworld, who fell in love with a nymph named Mintha. This enraged Pluto’s wife Persephone, who stomped on Mintha. Pluto rescued her by turning her into a plant, one that has a fresh appealing scent when crushed. This story is mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Mint was used in ancient Greek funeral rites, along with rosemary and myrtle, presumably to mask the smell of the dead, and that may be why it came to be associated with Pluto/Hades.

It’s been around since ancient times
and features in some Latin rhymes

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Floral Friday

This lupin is flowering outside our front fence, just behind the green box that holds the connections for the local fibre cables. It’s a brave volunteer, self-sewn from plants inside the fence, and has occasionally been nurtured with worm pee. It demonstrates the kind of tenacity that has enabled its relations to colonise the McKenzie Country.

I actually took the photo on Tuesday, and wondered whether some passer-by might abduct the flower, but it’s still there.

It’s grown up through a footpath crack
where recent sealing has been slack

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Floral Friday

Sunflower with bee

Yellow flowers don’t fit my garden colour scheme, so I’m not inclined to ,plant them. These sunflowers were a gift so I had to find a spot for them, and they are flourishing outside the fence in my ground level window boxes.

The last time I grew sunflowers was four years ago, and those were small ones from New World’s Little Garden. This year’s ones are much bigger and, as you can see, the bees are enjoying them.

It’s only the buds and leaves of the sunflower that turn towards the sun. Once the head of the plant comes into bloom it remains facing the east where the sun rises.

Sunflowers have been cultivated for over 4,500 years. Because the whole of the plant, including leaves, stalks, and roots is edible, they were grown as food in North America before other crops such as corn became common.

Each flower head is actually made up of about 2,000 florets. These tiny flowers are packed full of nectar which makes them attractive to bees.

Sunflowers have a remarkable ability to absorb toxins, including radiation, which is why they were planted at Chernobyl and Fukushima after nuclear disasters.

A useful plant the bright sunflower
where bees good nectar can devour

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Sexy Snails?

No snails have been seen in my garden for months. We used to hear the sound of thrushes dropping snails on the brick steps to break their shells open, but not in recent years. Actually we haven’t seen many thrushes either. The shortage of snails may be because there’s less moisture in the garden these days. They need moisture to survive, and water is the main constituent of the mucus trails they leave behind. Our common garden snails are immigrants. In 1869 snail eggs were found among a shipment of salmon eggs from Britain, and were lovingly released by Cantabrian settlers as a reminder of home.

This morning I was surprised to find two snails cuddled together on the brick path, and I wondered whether they might be mating?

Snails on the path

Snails are hermaphrodites and they link up by each shooting a small stony dart into the other. This sperm can be stored for a long time – literally saved for a rainy day. They fertilise their eggs only on wetter days more suited to egg laying.

I thought I would remove the snails rather than leave them on the path where someone might tread on them. When I went back to scoop them up one had disappeared. The other is now securely ensconced among the clippings in the green wheelie bin – not much moisture there for her/him/them.

I wonder if the second snail
is wet enough to leave a trail

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