Six on Saturday – Fake Mexicans & Clever Italians

There is a distinctly beginning-of-Autumn feel about my garden as the fourth Saturday of August rolls along. There’s also a distinctly scary feel as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, regardless of the approach of the changing season. I’ve been reading about the history of pandemics and it’s very grim. As a species we are vulnerable. This time around, we have the benefit of science, but many refuse to heed advice. It’s a sort of Superman Syndrome, I fear.

My Six this week features four of my top ten plants that regularly do well in my garden. Included also is some information about Storm Ellen, blue pollen, enlarged testicles and clever Italians. To be clear, all are unconnected.

1&2 Fuchsia

Discovered in Haiti, Fuchsias are named after a German botanist, while some originate from New Zealand. All have the particularity of having blue pollen. This pollen was used by young Maori people to adorn their face, probably well before the official discovery of the genus. The plant is not known to have any medicinal uses. It’s just there to brighten up our lives, especially during pandemic times. The Smallpox Pandemic ravaged Europe on and off for centuries, but when it was brought to the Americas it killed up to 90-95% of the population in just a century. Smallpox was the first Pandemic to be completely ended by a vaccine.

“We’ll have a vaccine. Very soon. Very soon”, the Mexican fella said.

Fake News: He wasn’t Mexican.

Here’s a lighter brighter one.

Speaking of lighter… Have you heard the latest?

Maori 1: Will we put on the blue stuff?
M2: No, wait awhile. It hasn't been discovered yet.
M1: Righteo. Kakai.

3. Heuchera Binoche

Native American people used some Heuchera (Alumroot) species medicinally. The Tlingit native Indians used Heuchera glabra as an herbal remedy for inflammation of the testicles caused by syphilis. To the Navajo, Heuchera novamexicana was a panacea and a pain reliever. The Smallpox Pandemic (see above) reduced the population of Mexico from eleven million people to one million.

4. Nasturtium Alaska

I may have included Nasturtiums before, and I’m delighted to do so once again. This is Alaska and I like the flowers and the leaves. During the lockdown months since March so many amateur gardeners started to grow their own food. We know that the flowers of these plants can be eaten, usually in summer salads, and the leaves are a firm favourite with little caterpillars. This was not the case during the Black Death 1347, because this native Central American plant didn’t arrive on the scene until nearly two hundred years later. The Black Death killed an estimated two hundred million people in four years. On a trivial note, its very likely that several ego-maniacal tribal leaders lost power, simply because they thought it would go away. Meanwhile, it was at this time in Venice that the clever Italians had a clever idea:

At first, sailors were held on their ships for 30 days, which became known in Venetian law as a trentino. As time went on, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a quarantino, the origin of the word quarantine and the start of its practice in the Western world.

https://www.history.com/news/pandemics-end-plague-cholera-black-death-smallpox

5&6 Dahlia

Native to Central America, the dahlia was first introduced into Great Britain from Spain in 1798. In Europe and America, prior to the discovery of insulin in 1923, diabetics, as well as consumptives, were often given a substance called Atlantic starch, extracted from dahlia tubers. This knowledge simply was not there during the Plague of Justinian in 521. An estimated half of the population of the known world died. Justinian lost power in a flash. Perhaps he thought it would just go away.

This is a smaller, yet equally beautiful dahlia, loved by the bees and I. It’s hardly worth highlighting that there’s no blue pollen here.

Unseasonal Weather

  • Monday was a washout. There was a passing shower here last Sunday night, but it took 24 hours to pass along to somewhere else.
  • Tuesday was the only decent day for cycling. When I checked on Tuesday morning the roses were a soggy mess, the gladioli were hanging horizontally and even the lettuces looked miserable.
  • On Wednesday night Storm Ellen arrived with severe level-orange winds that blew the entire soggy mess into tidy heaps in several nooks. There was severe damage to the dahlias in particular. The Café au Lait above was levelled.
  • Thursday was wet so we headed for a staycation to Glendalough, home of my friend Kevin, in County Wicklow, known also as the Garden County.
  • Friday was wet again. We visited the National Garden Exhibition to meet old friends. Such a visit needed to me marked with a gardening purchase or two, so we bought a small Acer and a big Budda.

We are an expanding group of gardeners who write. We write about six items in our gardens, and we do it on Saturdays. I’ve been doing this since June and I enjoy nothing more than reading about and seeing other gardens from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, USA and Britain. Lest we forget, hundreds more choose to publish on Twitter and Instagram. We follow the leader Jon and Jon follows us. You can find out more about it here. You may read and follow, or like myself, you may choose to write and follow. Either way, it’s great fun!

I do sincerely hope that no misinformation is circulating as I type. Primarily, I have used History.com as my source. Full article here is worth an eight-minute read.

Pádraig,

Saturday, 22nd August (Lúnasa) 2020

Cheering Up My Monday

There was a passing shower just before midnight. The bad news is that it’s still passing through and the garden is drooping with the weight of water. Therefore, what better time to cheer myself up. It is Monday, after all.

The beautiful wedding is finished, I’ve had other good family news and I have interesting plans for the week ahead.

Happy Monday to me. Happy Monday also to you. I hope the passing rainclouds of life pass on quickly. Have a great week.

Previous CUMM post was in June.

Pádraig,

Monday, 17th August 2020.

Four Day Week

There are only four days this week. You may be shocked to read that in plain text. I have decided, to realign my blog with current international calendars. Thus, I am moving towards starting each week on Monday. Therefore, so and because…. this article is shorter, recalling only Thursday to Sunday.

Thursday, January 3rd:

My front garden is called by many names: the forgotten garden, the neglected, the shaded or the dull. I have a solid bias against it simply because I do not live there. Quite simply, it’s a place I pass by when coming and going. Today is the turn of the front garden to be in the limelight and the plant is Cortaderia, commonly known as Pampas Grass. I do not know the variety. I do know that it looks good in winter. The photo is not of the entire plant, merely the seed-heads. Each one is sturdy and can survive strong winds. Surely there must be thousands of seeds being readied for scattering. I have never seen even one seed produce a next-generation plant. Must investigate further. I am struck by the thought that plants produce enough seed to continue the species. If there’s not enough its goodbye plant. Equally, producing too much seed is very wasteful. Seeds compete for nutrients while attached to the parent, so a weakened quality is the result of oversupply. Weakened quality is a recipe for extinction. Also, if there’s an oversupply it is more likely that seeds will have to compete against one another where they germinate. This is what strengthens a species… the survival of the strongest. But in a situation where many seeds are strong and healthy, it does not make sense that they grow very closely together. I think the Cortaderia produces so many seeds simply because germination is not straightforward. Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.
Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I log my winter garden here in Dungarvan, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, such as thousands of tiny seeds on a very large plant.

Friday, January 4th:

I enjoyed looking back to something I wrote in February 2017. I am reminded that I am about six weeks ahead of schedule this year. The seed sowing will be started next week.
“The last time I turned on the old propagator was way back in nineteen ninety something. Donald J Trump, now the Oval Office occupant, was an important businessman. Now, as I return to a former active love of growing from seed, this madcap president is surrounded by staff looking to turn him off.
I’m under starter’s orders. The time for looking at the garden from within is over. Winter has been very kind to us here in Dungarvan. There have been only a few frost nights and rainfall has been well below average. I’ve spent many weeks flicking through catalogues and gardening in my head. And now is the time to get things moving again. I had cleaned my worn-out propagator in early January only to find that it’s not a propagator any longer as it refuses to heat up. Nothing for it but to bite the bullet and seek a replacement.
I put out the word and waited for some feedback. I had been googling, but everything I looked at seemed fantastic. The internet has a way of making everything look like the bees’ knees. Within a short while, thanks to David in Friendly Gardeners I followed up on a recommendation to purchase a Vitopod from Greenhouse Sensations. Incredibly, it was delivered to me within 36 hours, and assembled/installed immediately.
The seed packets are ready, all 57 of them. Yes, I’m aware I’ve got a small garden and I will not be able to plant most of what germinates. I will proceed undeterred, however. Likely I will just give any surplus plants to friends locally. Most of my seeds are annuals and vegetables.
Being a slightly organised person, (Ahem, note added January 2019 for Michele) I’ve figured out a planting order. I know I’m a few weeks behind schedule, and the new propagator will be loaded to the brim for the next six weeks.
I began with a real favourite, pompom dahlia. I had dozens of these many years ago and now it’s time to grow them again. I’ll be creating a small section for these lovely colourful plants along with several others that will flower in late summer until the first frost. So let the journey begin.”

Saturday, January 5th: 

Molly on duty. Actually, despite having had breakfast, she searches for birdseed scattered earlier. Start the day slowly. Be like Molly.
Sunday, January 6th.

Today is Nollaig na mBan, otherwise known as Women’s’ Christmas. It is not connected in any way with the photos here. It’s easy to see that there is no connection. The stones removed from the back at Ballinclamper have been placed here and there on the gravel. They have been moved several times because in my view there’s nothing worse than the wrong stone in the wrong place. At the moment, I remain quite pleased with the one on the left. In some mysterious way, it may seem that the heather actually grew around it, except for the fact that readers know the stone is only a week old.
The photo top right excites me for a different reason. There are 10 circular holes in the lighter stone, likely homes to some sea creature families. Now that I realise that may have been the case, I figure I will half bury this stone in a shady spot. I will position it so that the holes will not flood with rainwater, and perhaps some garden insects will move in.
Finally, the photo on the bottom right is a stone version of a rag doll. It actually is. I’m sorry if you cannot see it.
So, to finish foff for this “week”…

  • Do you celebrate Nollaig na mBan, the traditional wonen’s Christmas?
  • Where you are, what is the first day of the week?
  • Finally, just connect in the comments section about anything that you like here.
Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig garden articles. He admits to being slightly organised, yet it’s a severe waste if DNA because his usual habit is to walk into someone’s house with X things and walk out with X minus 1. There’s a link on his blog to a good article about personal forgetfulness, but naturally… Yeah, you guessed!

Tuesday’s Three Things

I took a short stroll around the dying garden yesterday before breakfast. This is something I like to do regularly and I bring a small notepad and camera with me. I have found great joy in doing this. There was a time that I would scan through my online Irish Times while waiting for my 11-minute boiled egg, but not any more. The breaking news stories and opinion pieces are not conducive to starting the day as I would like, but a few minutes in the garden gets me in a great frame of mind. It’s not that everything is always rosy, akin to the daily news, but I like to notice small things and I have other small things that need attending to thrust in my face. Here’s this week’s Three Things:

Three Things I Noticed: 

  1. The Christmas baubles on the acer and the apple tree since 2016 are to the fore once again. I put them there just before Christmas in 2016 (yes, that’s right!) and decided to leave them as permanent fixtures. In fact there are times when I forget they are there because they become almost invisible when the leaves appear.
    Slight discolouration after two years
  2. I planted Forget-Me-Not along the base of the rockery a few years ago. Perhaps it was 2016, once again. They flower in late spring and the profusion of light-blue is stunning. Furthermore, they self-seed freely, and they have appeared every year, mostly in the same area. At times some seed gets scattered to other nearby areas and I am surprised in late autumn to find a thriving new plant. This year, because my patio slabs have plenty cracks between, the Forget-Me-Not has found a new home. They look very shook at this time of the year, but I am determined to overlook that because the late-spring will bring such a lovely show of colour. The beauty of this plant really is the fact that nature does all the work and I get all the satisfaction. There are other benefits to leaving this plant where it seeded. It becomes a safe hiding place for insects, as falling leaves get trapped around the base, providing more shelter. It is always checked out by the birds for food. My wife scatters birdseed regularly and they gobble it up quickly. When is all seems gone, they start looking carefully for hidden leftovers in hidden places such as this.
    Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not) and house sparrow
  3. I planted Wallflower Winter Passion at the base of the same rockery in 2016. Generally, they come into flower in January, but this year they have started early.
    Wallflower Winter Passion

    Three Jobs To Be Done

  1.  I bought a water feature several years ago. It was definitely before 2016, but I have not yet connected the electrics. I like the sound of running water, particularly when it’s not raining! This task is now added to my to-do list.
  2. My to-do list generally  gets sorted. If there are essential jobs they get prioritised and sorted earlier. Well, one of the tasks added to my list this time last year (not 2016, you understand) was to replace a pane of broken glass in the glasshouse. It’s the place where broken glass usually breaks! It remains on my list to this day, so as I opened the glasshouse door and vent, I was reminded to undertake the task. Otherwise, there’s not much point in having a to-do list. I will prioritise this one, simply because the few small plants directly inside must be shivering in a severe draught.
    On my list since last year!
  3. There are two fuchsias on the other rockery, planted approximately two metres apart, but are quickly growing towards one another at an alarming rate. That will be ideal, but unfortunately, there are two very small shrubs in between. They are Nandina Heavenly Bamboo, currently at a height of approximately 30cm. Therefore, these will have to be moved, because they will not remain heavenly if they get smothered by the native fuchsias. They are really beautiful at this time of the year, and in fact, I highlighted this particular shrub recently.
    Heavenly Bamboo

Three Favourite Plants

Finally, as I wrap up my five-minute pre-breakfast ramble, it’s time for my current three favourite plants:

  1. Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle)
  2. Skimmia Temptation, highlighted only last week
  3. Dahlia Cafe au Lait, which is still flowering 

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves breakfast, draught-free glasshouses and has very good memories of 2016. He also likes watching the birds and providing safe places for them, but he prefers not to read the morning newspapers before a short garden ramble.