Gardening Memories 4

Here is another article in our Gardening Memories series based on contributions from our members

This delightful and informative piece from Shirley reminded me how lucky we were to live in an area which has many wild flowers – even those that we call weeds!  Think of the Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria)  which simply adores our gardens so much so that it returns every year.  Next time you pull out yet another piece think of the plant’s origins.  Introduced into the UK from Europe in Roman times it was used as a medicinal and culinary herb(Not so today!) In Sweden and Switzerland it was used in salads or cooked as a vegetable. In Anglo Saxon Britain ground elder was used to clarify beers! 

Now, over to Shirley …….

Many years ago, while on holiday in the West Country I came across some pretty pink flowers growing in the verges along the roadside.  I brought some home and put it in our garden.  I looked it up in my wild flower book and discovered that it was Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, a member of the Geranium family.   The book also mentioned that it once had a white flower, but was used by the Crusaders to staunch wounds and from then on, the flower turned pink.

The plant was very happy in its new home, it flourished, it doubled in size and seeded itself everywhere, it also had a rather strong pungent smell, which I didn’t like.  Years went by with me pulling it up but I never managed to get rid of it completely.

The other day while trying to sleep, I found a Podcast produced by the Royal Horticultural Society called ‘Going Wild for Weeds’, by Jack Wallington.  In it he queried why we try so hard to eradicate weeds when often they have very pretty flowers, are not bothered by pests, so why don’t we grow them?  I have often thought that if Ground Elder was rare, we would be clambering to buy and grow it in our gardens and had come to the conclusion that I would let it grow in parts of my garden where it didn’t matter and just cut it down after it had flowered and before it set seed. 

Jack Wallington mentioned Herb Robert amongst many other weeds which he thought were worth having, especially as it was happy in light shade. As my front garden is shady, I decided then and there to allow it to grow in my front garden.  Maybe it would combat the ivy which was aiming to completely cover the ground there.

I love wild Geraniums, they are so varied both in size, shape and colour and the slugs don’t eat them!  So maybe this little flower will add to the growing collection of biodiverse plants in my garden”

There are so many wild flowers around our villages.  Look out for the lovely orchids in Thriplow Meadows, a Site of Scientific Interest – SSI in the meadows near Thriplow Shop, also the delicate white flowers and fern-like foliage of cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) – a common sight along verges and grassy areas in spring.  Judy tells us that there was always rivalry between her and her siblings, one grew willow herb, the next pansies, but Judy just dug and dug yet the garden was full of cow parsley which she liked, so heaven only knows what Judy was digging up!) Who could dislike this lovely plant, aptly also called Queen Anne’s lace?

I could go on and on……but better still, do some research yourselves – the excellent Thriplow Journal would be a good starting point!  Over the years there have been many articles about plants, trees and wild flowers.  I hope that this article will remind you of those lovely Spring and Summer days yet to come!

The next article will cover more memories especially any gardening tips from our members.  Here’s one to be going on with – Michael tells us of a good way to attract slugs; instead of scattering slug pellets over the ground, place them in a jar laid on its side – this will lure in the slugs!  Do experiment and let me know the results next summer!

Mary Duff

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