Yukka, Vegetables & Climate: Seven for Sunday

Mostly to satisfy the curiosity of my favourite California gardener Tony Tomeo, and also because the progress is fairly pleasing, I’d like to share an update on the yukka, and a few other edibles from the garden, incorporating another rant on climate change because I just can’t not.

The yukka, which we’ve nicknamed Yukka Khan, in honour of Chaka Khan is a spiky beast that lives under the apple tree in our garden.

It was here when we moved in a few years ago, and in summer it produces enormous flower spikes.

The flowers are pale yellow green, and bell shaped. And the lawn is scorched and crunchy after a very dry, hot July.

Keen eyed observers may spot the raindrops on these yukka flowers. We’ve got a bit of welcome rain in the garden today, hopefully the soaking that the soil really needs to green up that crunchy lawn.

There are some good veggies coming along, and before I launch into another climate change rant, here’s a few highlights.

…rant alert…

How does a Cottage Garden cope with climate change?

Although the impact of global warming on English gardening traditions is not a priority, I think it matters if we can’t maintain ornamental, productive gardens.

Traditional English cottage gardening is a bit of an imagined history – like most of English culture. The style often incorporates roses, fruit trees, herbs, ornamentals and vegetables all crammed in together. It’s an organised chaos of colour and crops.

It’s been suggested that the ‘cottage gardens’ were offered to peasant workers after the black death caused labour shortages, leading to improved conditions. Apparently, the Elizabethan cottage garden made use of companion planting, with flowers interplanted with vegetables and herbs, helping to reduce pests and boost harvests. Traditional ornamentals like hollyhock and sweet william were included at this time, with the use of ‘pretty planting’ suggesting a degree of affluence for the gardener to make room for such fripperies.

I think that the mixture of ornamental and productive planting in the cottage garden style is vital to its charms. That magic combination of utility and beauty makes the garden a very pleasant place to be, which makes the work of planting, weeding and watering more of a pleasure than a chore. The cottage garden is small enough to be manageable, and tending it closely brings great rewards. The plants traditionally grown in a cottage garden are hugely productive – some particularly when picked frequently.

The magic of sweetpeas is that the more you pick the more they flower! Cut lettuce carefully and it comes back again! Save seeds from last years harvest for next year’s crop and you can pretty much keep yourself full of beans for ever! The productivity is proposterous.

Yet crucially, this gardening tradition assumes a certain type of weather, with summer temperatures from about 18 to 25 °C (64 to 77 °F). And the weather is changing.

In 1962 the UK’s temperature scale officially ‘went metric’ to use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. My mum remembers a short poem from the local paper, written to help people get to know the new celcius temperature numbers.

“Five, ten, twenty-one: Winter, spring and summer sun”

I guess that rhyme will need to be updated to account for climate change.

“Ten, twenty, thirty-five: Plants and wildlife not alive”

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the record breaking heat in the UK. And as you can see, I’m still thinking about climate change a lot. At work, I’m writing about Vastern Timber’s values, sourcing, and climate action plan, and in my volunteer role I’m promoting Shared Earth Learning’s work to nurture a love of nature.

If you’re local to Frome in Somerset, why not join Shared Earth Learning twice a month on the land to help nurture a love of nature, tend to the Mendip way hedgerow and help develop our outdoor learning space.


J x

5 thoughts on “Yukka, Vegetables & Climate: Seven for Sunday

    1. Yucca elephantipes or Yucca gigantea grows as a small tree with bulky trunks, like a fat Joshua tree. This particular species of Yucca develops only a short trunk that sprawls close to the ground and is mostly obscured by its own detritus. As the trunk migrates over the surface of the soil, it develops roots, as the older portions of the trunk left behind by the slow migration rot away. The rosettes can therefore seem to be completely terrestrial, without trunks at all. I suspect that this species is Yucca recurvifolia, which, in our climate, can actually grow upright, almost like a small Yucca elephantipes.


  1. Oh, I did not intend to make a fuss. I just happen to like the Yucca genus. Ours bloom more randomly in our bland climate. On rare occasion, I collect a few flowers from specimens at an abandoned house here. They do not taste like much, but they are similar to the Yucca whippeli that grew wild where I went to school. The juvenile floral stalks, when they first emerge, are like really big asparagus, but must be peeled. I do not recommend cooking them though, since doing so would deprive yours of bloom. We only did it because there were so many growing wild behind where we lived in school.


  2. Thanks Jenny for reminding me of that rhyme. Though at the time, I did feel it wasn’t quite right, but it did give us some idea of what the new metric temperatures were. It is even more inaccurate now with climate change. Temperatures are rising and our weather patterns are changing. However, I do remember many wet and cold holidays in a tent, when I would have loved a hot, dry, sunny day!


  3. Tried to leave a message, but it disappeared. Will try again.
    I thought the 5, 10, 21 was a bit inaccurate, but better than nothing,
    However, we would have welcomed today’s weather for our camping holidays in the 80’s. No more flooded tents and soggy sleeping bags!


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