August 2016 – Wild Flowers – Barry Gayton

Sometimes you feel that you have no control over your life – that things just happen! So it was with the Gardening Club. When I e-mailed our planned speaker (booked a year ago) and reminded him how much we were looking forward to his talk, I did not expect his reply. He had forgotten his arrangement with us(!) and would be taking a group away to the Lake District and would not be back in time to honour his commitment. ‘Spitting feathers’ – as my grandmother used to say – I phoned Barry Gayton, an old friend of the Club, asking for his help. Who would believe that his planned speaking engagement in Bakewell had fallen through and. yes, of course, he could come and talk to us !

There followed one of those magical evenings when we delighted in Barry’s talk on ‘Wild Flowers’ brought to life by his commentary. Every slide had a meaning – no digital powerpoint presentations for this Norfolk born ‘lad’. Every picture of a flower told a story – discovered by him, snapped by him and treasured by him in his store of over 6,000 slides. One of those speakers that you hope will never give up relaying his life experiences to rapt audiences like us. In his own words, Barry ‘eats, drinks and sleeps plants’. From an early age Barry was at one with his environment – he had a glasshouse for his 7th birthday, collected seeds and sold them to a local shop enabling him to purchase another one at 13 years old. Now he has 840 varieties of sempervivum (houseleeks), 300 types of heuchera, 50,000 cacti – in awe, I gave up making notes at that stage. Go to Desert World , near Thetford on NGS Open Days and see for yourself.

Anyway, back to Wild Flowers. As Barry described purple loosestrife we could imagine him sinking into the marshy land as he found the best angle for his photograph. Who knew that Dr. Beeching (you will show your age if you remember him!) that Dr Beeching did us a favour when he closed the branch line from Wymondham. Once the trains stopped, the plants took over, and here young Barry used to gather wild strawberries and sell them locally as they made ‘excellent’ jam! Back in the day Barry was a proficient wine-maker – “try dandelions”, he said “for a very good wine”.

Too many flowers to describe in detail – but take time to study both the Latin and English names for plants. The clue to their properties is in the name. For instance, the Soapwort (saponaria offinalis) derives its name from the fact that when rubbed between the fingers and moistened, it truly becomes soapy, although take care as the saponins are poisonous as well as foamy!

Many of our garden flowers originated in the wild, the Ragged Robin is one of the lychnis family.. Others adorn our borders – scabious, cowslips, primroses, even corydalis. Finally let’s not forget the orchids – well-loved and cared for in both Thriplow and Fowlmere.

Mary Duff (Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club)

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