This week, I’ve been mostly appreciating wildflowers. I’ve collected six, this Saturday, to share with the Propagator’s gardening gang.
In previous years, by the end of April I’ve usually brightened up the borders in the garden with a collection of bargain plants from the market. Here’s an example from April 2017: A super collection from Frome’s Saturday market, for less than £8 in total. I was mostly picking yellow plants back then… https://doingtheplan.com/2017/04/26/daily-done-list/
Obviously, this year things are different. I’ve collected some perennials from a local garden doing online orders (If you’re near Frome, then please place an order for collection from the Walled Garden at Mells – they have spectacular selection and could use more customers as they’ve been closed while trying to establish a community plant nursery as a social enterprise. https://www.thewalledgardenatmells.co.uk/ ) This spring I’ve chosen plants for the longer term instead of the quick impact blooms that I’d usually pick up on a whim, and none are in flower yet.
Meanwhile the garden has put on its own rather fabulous flower show of ‘weeds’ which I’m enjoying much more than usual. And while walking in the local area, I’ve spotted more wildflowers than I’d usually notice.
So here’s my favourite six for this Saturday… To share with the propagator and his merry gang of gardeners. I hope they won’t mind the weeds.
- Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Daisies have symbolised feminine virtues for thousands of years, as referenced in Chaucer’s 1380 poem ‘The Legend of Good Women’ – (the point of which seems to be “did you know women can be good – not all of them are evil.”)
“I show towards her flower, the day’s-eye.
It is no wonder Jove did her stellify,
As Agatho tells us, for her goodness.
Her white crown to that bears witness,
For as many virtues as had she
As many small flowers in her crown be.”
Every good lawn needs daisies. They’re a cheery sight, opening their little faces to the sun in the morning, and closing up at dusk. Hence the name ‘days eye’ perhaps…
2. Birdseye Speedwell (Veronica Chamaedrys)
Spotted on top of a hill in Wiltshire, this is a widespread wildflower. It’s very tiny, with smaller flowers than the daisy. It wilts quickly once picked, and is therefore known as ‘Männertrue’ or men’s faithfulness.
Once thought to cure gout, it was almost picked to oblivion around London, but it might still be spotted in some of the wilder corners…
3. Cowslip (Primula Veris)
An unpleasant theory that maybe true is that cowslip is named after cow droppings, which were also known as slip, perhaps because folk slipped in it?
The cowslip tends to grow in grazed pasture land, and this specimen was spotted in a field with a fair few cowpats ready for the unwary to slip in…
It was once abundant, but its now a rarer sight. I’ve seen cultivated cowslips for sale in garden centres, which is a bit odd, but perhaps in 10 years time I’ll see cultivated dandelions in the garden shops and it’ll make sense somehow…
4. Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula)
As the name suggests, this an early flowering purple orchid, which I was thrilled to spot on a Somerset hillside. Once a common wildflower, it’s less widespread than it was, and to see loads of them on this chalky downland was a real treat, especially when soundtracked by the skylarks nearby.
The spotted leaves are delightful, and the purple headed flower stem is a saucy treat.
Shakespeare made a crude joke about this plant, because it looks a bit like a thingy… It was called “long purple” in Hamlet. where Gertrude says “Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, that liberal shepherds give a grosser name”.
5. Double flowered greater celendine (Stylophorum Diphyllum)
Running rampant in the wilder corners of the garden, and with a pleasing clump just by the bench, this is a double flowered wildlower, which I believe would have been planted here by a previous occupant and has since self seeded everywhere.
It’s rather cheery, although probably not doing much to help the rose that it’s smothering… At the moment I don’t want to remove it, as I’ve nothing pretty to put in its place… So I’ll enjoy the display, for now.
6. Forget me not (Mysotis Sylvatica)
Apparently named Mysotis because the petals resemble mouse ears, the forget me not is one of my favourite plants, and so I’m pleased it’s popped up everywhere this April.
I’m guessing this is the woodland variety, (sylvatica) because it’s growing under the shade of an oak tree. Surrounded by herb robert, its a charming spring bloom and I’m planning to extract some of the self seeded blooms from under the tree to put them in to the borders.
A nice thing about forget me not is it pops up freely about the place.
There’s a tiny little plant in the potato patch, and I’m happy for it to stay there a while.
So it’s a long post from me this week, without any ‘proper’ garden flowers to speak of.
Most of my gardening plans are still on hold until we can shift a large pile of rubble and set up a potting shed, and get composting organised. All of this is a bit tricky while recycling centres and garden shops are mostly closed, so instead I’m kicking back to enjoy the weeds and make the most of what we’ve got. I realise how lucky we are to have a big garden to enjoy during lockdown, and plus a grumpy cat to keep us company…
So however you’re getting on during lockdown, take time to appreciate the weeds and wildflowers around you. A lot of them have fascinating folklore and history, and are worth a closer look.