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July in the Garden 2018

The relentless hot summer continues. Our plants are really suffering: I’ve never seen roses looking “fried” before,  and swathes of green lawns turned sandy brown. However, leaving our grass to grow longer before cutting it seems to have worked quite well (pre-planned, of course!), as it was able to develop a good root system, and withstand the dry weather –  and was still looking green while other lawns had turned brown. When we do decide it’s time to mow, our regular volunteer Nat will turn up with his new ride-on mower – that really helps to “cut down” our work!

The main event in July was the visit by the RHS judges for Congleton In Bloom – It’s Your Neighbourhood. We were able to show them the progress that has been made on the rainwater harvesting system, and on the new areas of planting near the garden shelter. They wanted to know more about the heritage aspects of the site, too, as this forms such an important part of our overall project. The garden was looking reasonably full of life, despite the drought, and the judges seemed to enjoy their visit. Awarded Outstanding for two years, we hope we will attain this level again, and we were much encouraged when a week later we were selected to take part in the National competition.

All smiles on judging day

Much of our time during these weeks had been devoted to carrying water to the most vulnerable plants – those that were still establishing roots. The meadow, however, was left to its own devices, and consequently has not been quite as colourful as in previous years. It did develop an interesting striped pattern, though, despite our careful mixing of the seeds before sowing. Our theory is that a heavy downpour of rain just after sowing caused the seeds to be re-sorted by weight, with the large round seeds of Corn Cockle finding their way to the lowest contours, while the Corn Chamomile stayed at the top.

The judges and volunteers

The Wild Carrot, which does its own sowing without our intervention, has been very abundant, and buzzes with insects, particularly soldier beetles. Soldier beetles are common across Europe, feeding on small insects as well as nectar and pollen. Their bright red colour is a warning to predators that they are poisonous, so these little exhibitionists have no hesitation in mating in full view on the white flowers. [See below for more about Wild Carrot]. Perhaps the dark red middle flower acts as a decoy to bring them in.

Wild Carrot with soldier beetles – notice the red central flower

We decided this summer, for the first time, to top up the pond with mains water, which we would normally prefer not to use, due to the chlorine content. The pond then rewarded us with two new sightings in time for In Bloom judging day. Firstly, several nymphs were seen climbing the reed stems, so the eggs laid by the dragonfly last year have clearly survived (see blog for August 2017).

And secondly, with perfect timing,  our water lily opened its first ever flower.

Our first water lily bloom

Apart from In Bloom, we were involved in another Congleton event this month, the biennial Congleton Carnival parade, which raises funds for local good causes. The theme this year was Heroes and Villains. The men of our team dressed as First World War returnees demanding the vote for all men, not just the wealthy and landowning. The women dressed as suffragists, with a nod to Congleton’s very own Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy. No villains in our team! Unlike the drenching rain on 2016’s parade, we had sunshine all day, and the fun was enjoyed by the many onlookers who came to cheer us on.

Our Heroines

Back on the site, construction works continued, as Nick has built the standpipe connection ready for United Utilities to connect our mains water supply. We’re now waiting for them to get back to us, so that soon we will have all the basic facilities we need for the future development and maintenance of our precious heritage site. Meanwhile Nick, Andrew and David have prepared the ground for a bike rack by the main entrance, which will recycle yet again the orange-painted recycled bicycle from the Round Britain bike race!

Preparing the ground for the bike rack

NM, VA

Wild Carrot Daucus carota
Wild Carrot is a native of Europe and South West Asia, though now also widely naturalised in the Americas and beyond. In the UK it is seen most often in the south and east.

The wild carrot is a biennial, producing in the first year a low mound of greyish-green, hairy, highly-dissected leaves;and only flowers in the second year. The young root is edible, but it’s too woody to be palatable in the second year. After the attractive flowers, the wild carrot gives us continuing pleasure as the umbel folds inwards and produces a rugby ball shaped seed head. Once the seeds have dispersed on the wind, the seed head remains, like a decorative miniature bird’s nest, to give garden interest over the winter.

Wild Carrot seedheads  

Carrots belong to an enormous family of plants that also includes celery, coriander, fennel, parsley, angelica – and hemlock. Formerly referred to as Umbelliferae, referring to the umbrella-like shape of their many-flowered heads held up on ‘spokes’ above the leaves, this family of 3000 species is now also known as Apiaceae, from the Greek word for celery.

There are many umbellifers similar in appearance to the wild carrot – a lacy cap of white flowers, serrated leaves etc – but it is the only one to have a darker, reddish, flower in the centre, which can be used to identify it with certainty. Unfortunately, this distinguishing feature is not apparent in all specimens so, to be sure you’re not picking one of its very toxic relatives, look for the carrot’s hairy stems – the poisonous plants have smooth ones. Also, a big clue is the scent of the plant: it smells like carrot!

A further warning: some people are sensitive to the sap, which can cause contact dermatitis.

Myth and Magic
I have not found any age-old stories relating to magical properties, although some people might find the change of hue magical. Cultivation of carrots wasn’t recorded in the UK until the 17thcentury, but they were familiar enough for Culpeper to state in his Herbal of 1653: “Garden carrots are so well known that they need no description.” But: they were  purple, the orange variety only just being developed around that time in the Netherlands.

There is an odd myth or two about the plant’s common name – or is it even this plant?According to a number of sources, a common name for wild carrot is Queen Anne’s Lace,  even in the republican USA.  Other sources say that name refers to Cow Parsley, a related plant: I knew that one myself, when I was a child in rural Yorkshire. However, one legend says that Queen Anne travelled around the country in May, and the white flowers of carrot seemed to be decorating her route.  I think this actually supports the cow parsley option – since it comes into flower in May, while wild carrot blooms from June onwards.

The other story goes that Anne pricked her finger while making lace, and the dark red central flower represents the droplet of blood on the fine fabric. The puzzle is, which Queen Anne?  The first British Queen Anne was the wife of James I (VI of Scotland), but why would a plant rare in Scotland be commonly named after a Scottish consort who only became queen of the rest of the kingdom in 1609 and died in 1616?  The only actual monarch named Anne reigned from 1702-1714. She had eighteen pregnancies, though only four live births, and no child survived to adulthood. One could speculate that the lace may refer to baby clothes or perhaps, more sadly, to their shrouds.

Medicinal Properties
Wild carrot has a long history of medicinal application, certainly as far back as the Roman Empire, when Aulus Cornelius Celsus (25BC–50AD) mentioned the use of wild carrot seeds in his work De Medicina. Seeds, stems, roots and leaves may all be used in medicine as in cooking. It was even used as a contraceptive in former times as it induces uterine contractions. It was – and still is by some herbalists – used for:

  • Digestive disorders: calming the stomach, easing flatulence, increasing urine flow.
  • Gout: eliminating waste material from the kidneys.
  • Menstruation: stimulating flow (women who might be pregnant should avoid it).
  • Diabetes: the modern herbalist Juliette de Baïracli Levy(1912–2009) wrote that eating carrot leaves helps control blood sugar levels. and used it in her dietary programmes.

JO

Acknowledgments  – thanks for much information to the following:
http://www.wildseed.co.uk
http://www.plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk
http://www.wildlfowerfinder.org.uk
http://www.plantlife.org.uk
http://www.permaculture.co.uk
http://www.wildmedicinal.wordpress.com
http://www.earthstar.blog  (photo of wild carrot with beetles)
And of course to my copy of Nicolas Culpeper’s Herbal

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June in the Garden 2018

As we guessed, May turned out to be the warmest on record, and June has matched and even surpassed that. Sadly, the plants that were enjoying the warm growing conditions are now struggling with the excessive heat, and despite greatly increased watering we may lose some of our more delicate and newly planted items. One of the new Yew pyramids is showing signs of distress already.  Our rainwater harvester hasn’t had any rain to harvest!

Many plants, of course, have already bloomed and are showing their seed heads and fruits. We have had currants of every colour, and a marvellous crop of delicious raspberries, much enjoyed by the volunteers as a treat for their hard work.  In our wild flower garden the Red Campion, attractive to butterflies and bees, has shed its petals and is now offering up extraordinary ‘vases’ of seed.  In former times the crushed seed was believed to be a cure for snake bite, but it is not recognised as a medicinal herb nowadays. However, it is one of many plants containing saponin (sapo being the Latin for soap) and its root can be simmered in hot water to create a soap substitute useful for washing clothes.  Red campion is a widely distributed native plant, with a myriad of different common names depending where you live – just a few of these are Scalded Apples, Soldier’s Buttons, Devil’s Flower, Mary’s Rose, Ragged Robin and Gipsy Flower… Do you know of a local Cheshire name?

Red Campion seed heads

Summers at the Bath House are filled with community events and visits. We joined in the Food and Drink Fair again this year, which in the glorious sunshine attracted more than its usual crowds. We had a very good pitch near to Wetherspoons, and sold a large variety of herbs, some grown by our volunteers and others sourced locally.

Great day at the Food & Drink Festival

We also gave out information about growing plants at home, and leaflets on the Bath House.  One of the easier plants, flourishing particularly in shadier areas, is the foxglove: a biennial, it pops up when you’re not expecting it!

Our foxgloves

Extended summer days allow us to put on evening tours for interested groups, and this month we welcomed the local branch of The Women’s Register. They are (according to their website) “ interested in everything and talk about anything”! Nino gave his history tour of the Bath House and Garden Shelter, and Vanessa, Lyn, Linda and Ros took them on a tour of the Physic Garden.

The Women’s Register group at the Shelter

An exciting development for the garden is a new connection with the College of Naturopathic Medicines*, introduced to us by Barbara Wilkinson, our regular friend and mentor from the Herb Society*.  We hosted a recent study day on site, when students from all over the country learned about identifying herbs and about their traditional and modern use in medicine. We too learned many things, and on this occasion found a new use for the wonderful hawthorn tree: it sheltered us from the fierce sunshine!  We hope our Physic Garden’s range of medicinal plants will become a regular teaching resource for these students.[See below for more information about Hawthorn]

Visitors from the College of Naturopathic Medicine

By the way, we have been working on the website, too, this month – you may have noticed a new page, “About the Garden”. Please take a look!

NM
*Further information about these organisations from  http://www.herbsociety.org.uk    and http://www.naturopathy-uk.com

HAWTHORN  Crataegus monogyna
In May, its masses of creamy-white blossom colour our hedgerows. During the autumn and winter, red fruits known as ‘haws’ appear. All year round, its sharp thorns make it an ideal, fast-growing, hedging plant. And from these characteristics come its most common names: May Tree, Thorn, Hawthorn, and Quickthorn.

Hawthorn is one of the UK’s most familiar native trees, as much is grown for hedging and has been for centuries, especially in the period between 1750 and 1850, when the Act of Enclosure saw thousands of acres of common land divided up by hedges.  More recently, people moving into brand new local authority houses after the Second World War were often given a bundle of hawthorn ‘slips’, or cuttings, to create a hedge around their gardens, and many of these hedges survive, half a century later. ‘Thorn’ also appears in many place names, more than that of any other tree: a survival from Anglo-Saxon field and boundary names. And even the name we now apply to the berry, ‘haw’, is believed to derive from the Old English word for hedge, so the tree is really a ‘hedge-thorn’.

Common hawthorn supports a wide range of wildlife, including hundreds of different insect, particularly the caterpillars of many types of moth. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators, and the haws are a food source for many birds and small mammals.

Myth and Magic
This tree is the only British plant named after the month in which it usually blooms. The magnificent multitudes of creamy white flowers are a signature of May throughout Britain, except in Scotland, where it usually doesn’t bloom until June… which is a good excuse for looking at this plant in our June blog!

“Ne’er cast a clout ’til May is out” – in other words, don’t throw off your winter clothes until the hawthorn tree is in bloom, or until the end of the month of May. Yes, the original meaning of this centuries’ old saying is disputed, but since then we’ve had changes in both the calendar and the climate, so it works either way!

As a child in rural Yorkshire, I would nibble the young leaves, which we called ‘Bread and Cheese’. But we were told never to  bring the beautiful flowering branches into the house: that was deemed extremely unlucky, even bringing death on the house. Botanists have recently discovered that the chemical trimethylamine present in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue. In earlier times, that smell would be very familiar, so this may be why the blossom became associated with death. (It has alternatively been suggested that the taboo arose because the white petals and red anthers were reminders of Christ’s bloody bandages.)

The traditional May Pole was originally made from hawthorn, and hawthorn was said to make the best magic wands.  The 13thcentury Scottish mystic and poet, Thomas the Rhymer, met the Faery Queen by a hawthorn bush. She led him into the Faery Underworld, but upon his return he found he had been absent for seven years.  In Ireland, many of the isolated trees found in the landscape were hawthorns, said to be inhabited by fairies: damaging them was said to bring down the anger, often murderous, of their supernatural guardians .

Medicinal Uses
There are many different species of hawthorn, but in Britain the two most common species offer us very similar medicinal benefits, so we can use either one as medicine or food.  These species are Common Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna (this has one seed per berry), and Midland Hawthorn Cratageus laevigata (two seeds and more deeply indented leaves).  The young leaves, flower buds and berries are all edible, and the whole plant has extremely valuable medicinal properties, which have long been known in folk medicine for remedial action in heart disease and high blood pressure.

Modern herbalists know it for treating angina and arrhythmia, as it increases the blood flow to the heart muscles and restores normal heart beat. It is also used as an anti-spasmodic, diuretic, sedative, tonic and even, combined with ginkgo, to enhance poor memory by improving blood supply to the brain. As a heart tonic it is normally presented  as a tea or a tincture.

The bark is astringent and has been used to treat malaria and other fevers.  Even eating the berries can stimulate the increased performance of anti-oxidants.

WARNING
As always, it is inadvisable to self-medicate without guidance, and people already taking prescribed heart medicines should seek professional advice.

Culinary uses
Fresh new leaves, emerging flower buds, and flowers can be usefully added to salads in the early spring. You could add a dressing; or mix the young leaves with grated roots such as beetroot, carrot, and ginger.  Fresh berries can be preserved in sauces, jams and jellies, or added to chutney. Dried, the fruits can be chopped and sprinkled on cereal or added to your morning muesli.

Other uses
Bark, twigs, berries, blossom and leaves can all be used in dyeing, though the range of colour and depth of hue is variable. For example: the red berries may produce only a pale pink or even grey; wool dyed with blossoms and leaves turns pale lemony yellow; and wool becomes golden if the dye is made using twigs and leaves.

A tree with many, many gifts to offer us!

JO

Acknowledgements  – thanks to many contributors on the following websites:`

http://www.organicroofs.co.uk
http://www.pfaf.org
http://www.twocrows.couk
http://www.plantlore.com
http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
http://www.permaculture.co.uk
http://www.treesforlife.org
http://www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk
http://www.thegoddesstree.com
http://www.knitwild.co.uk

 

 

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May in the Garden 2018

What a glorious month! Good weather throughout, though this in itself can add to the gardeners’ workload! New helpers Nat and Declan are now regularly cutting the grass, which is growing apace despite the dry weather. With so many young plants, and this prolonged warm spell, we’ve had to do extra watering. We’ve turned to our water butts and watering cans, as although Nick has now finished building the rainwater harvesting system, it’s not very effective without some actual rain…

The weather was a bonus for our second Spring Open Day. This year we borrowed a marquee from Congleton Community Projects and (after we’d mastered its construction!), it made a great focal point as well as accommodating our visiting stall holders.

Assembly of Marquee – nearly there

Stands for herbal products and for Congleton’s locally pressed apple juice from the Old Saw Mill were there, alongside Alsager Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.

Old Saw Mill Apple Juice? Let’s drink to that!

The Alsager craftswomen showed us just how many shades can be obtained from commonly found plants. Many wild flowers, but also rhubarb, beetroot, apple-tree bark and elderberries produce beautiful dyes and we learned how you can achieve glorious colours, even in your own kitchen, using ancient, simple techniques. We were pleased  that our own dye plants were coming into bloom, such as Dyer’s Camomile – see below.

A rainbow of dyed wools

Further down the garden we had another stand selling plants we’d raised ourselves and others sourced locally, as well as a selection of second hand gardening books.  Visitors also enjoyed Nino’s guided history tours and the much-celebrated tours of the garden guided by our regular expert, professional herbalist Barbara Wilkinson of The Herb Society.

We estimate about 200 people visited during the day, and we were pleased that we’d managed to provide an interesting range of activities and displays for them. Thanks to everyone who contributed, both in preparation and on the day, and to those who expressed an interest in joining the team we extend a hearty welcome!

NM

Dyer’s Camomile     Anthemis tinctoria or Cota tinctoria

Dyer’s Camomile

Originating as a wild flower in southern, central and eastern Europe and the near East, this plant has long been cultivated in Britain as a dye plant. There are many sub-species, hybrids and garden varieties, and other common names are Golden Marguerite, Yellow Camomile and Golden Camomile.

Dyer’s Camomile is a bushy plant with masses of long-lasting, yellow daisy-like flowers above its pleasantly scented dark green leaves. Although classed as a perennial, it tends to go leggy and die after a couple of years so, as it is grown easily from seed, it’s probably better treated as an annual. Drought-tolerant and a magnet for bees and butterflies, it is an attractive addition to a cottage garden or herbaceous border.

Dyeing
Weld, (Reseda luteola), also known as dyer’s weed,  was traditionally used in this country to create yellow dyes, but the arrival of dyer’s camomile brought further choices of hue.

The leaves can be used to create a light green dye, but it is the flowers that produce the range of yellow shades that can be used on any natural fabric, though apparently they work better on wool or silk, rather than cotton. From palest yellow through gold to near-khaki, depending on the dyer’s use of additives, the colour palette is wide.

The flowers once harvested can be used immediately or left to dry, and the warm yellows they produce are a useful complement to the lemon yellows obtained from weld. This  is also an asset when over-dyeing, producing different shades of green and orange.

A harvest of Dyer’s Camomile

Medicinal Uses
The well-known reference book A Modern Herbal by Mrs Grieve, published in the 1930s, mentions Dyer’s Camomile. Her book is quoted widely to suggest this plant has medicinal properties – anti-spasmodic, emetic, and useful in the treatment of piles. However, these uses are based on a one-line footnote to her description of the Mayweed or Stinking Camomile (Anthemis cotula), where she says Anthemis tinctoria has similar properties and yields a yellow dye.

I haven’t been able to find any other reputable reference to this specific plant’s medicinal uses, and it may be that the common name camomile, used for many quite unrelated plants, has produced this confusion.

Camomile or Chamomile?
Twinings the tea company says traditionally no H in English as it was always spelled thus in the Middle Ages, and that the H spelling comes from its Greek name khamaimēlon. Wikipedia states that the H version is American, the non-H spelling being UK English.  Interestingly, however, that bastion of traditional British gardening, the Royal Horticultural Society, spells it with the H.

And what does the definitive English dictionary, the OED, say?
Camomile, no H – but hedges its bets by showing the derivations: ” Middle English: from Old French camomille, from late Latin chamomilla, from Greek khamaimēlon ‘earth-apple’ (because of the apple-like smell of its flowers).”

So, the choice is yours!

JO

Acknowledgements – thanks to the following for much of the information above
http://www.wildflowerfinder.org.uk
http://www.wildcolours.co.uk
http://www.naturesrainbow.co.uk  (also thanks for the picture of harvested flowers)
http://www.pfaf.org
http://www.rhs.org
http://www.botanical.com  – the main source for a Modern Herbal  (quoted by many websites)

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April in the Garden 2018

We’ve been so busy over the past few weeks that we’ve neglected to upload our blog! So now we’re catching up, rather as the weather is…  Read on for April….

Spring is finally upon us and the garden is doing its best to catch up. We are constantly reminded how what was ‘normal’ about our cycle of seasons has changed over recent years  – but Nature is trying to adapt.

The gardening team get on with things whatever the weather, and like everyone working with nature they look ahead, rather than back! They recently attended a meeting about the In Bloom competition, in which we have previously done well. The judges always offer suggestions, and the team naturally want to improve each year, so they are working on new ideas.  Landscaping plans are already underway, and we have  bought two tall Yew tree pyramids, one for each side of the garden shelter. Yews are a traditional part of the British garden scene, and contribute architecturally as well as bringing welcome all year colour. Eventually they will form part of a ‘green screen’ , making a suitable setting for our listed stone structure. [See December in the Garden 2017  for more about Yew trees]

The right hand yew pyramid can be seen here

The on-going saga of the drainage for our proposed new utility building has finally come to a conclusion!  After many months delay, the contractors,  Ashbrooks,  arrived on site and laid the drains, and we were impressed by their thorough and professional work.  The next stage is to bring mains water to the site, so we have re-started our correspondence with United Utilities. These big projects also require a lot of preparation, as well as  ‘heavy lifting’, by our own team, so as ever we are grateful for the tireless efforts of our volunteers.

That’s quite a deep trench!

We are also working towards our second Spring Open Day. Last year’s was such a successful occasion that we have decided to make it an annual event.  Look out for next month’s blog!

NM

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March in the Garden 2018

March arrives and with it comes more challenging weather, with ‘Beast from the East’ versions 2 and 3 bringing yet more snow, wind and ice.

The first weekend of the month saw the Bath House once again being used as a music venue for Congleton Unplugged. First to perform were The Midnight Specials, a three-piece acoustic band with guitar, fiddle mandolin and double bass. They filled the room with sounds of Americana, country blues and more. This was our first evening performance and with snow still lying on the ground it was pleasing to see twenty people turn up to make a full house.

The Midnight Specials

The following day we had an excellent solo acoustic set by Phil Maddocks, doing some of his classic songs mixed in with new work from his most recent album “Knock and Run”.

Phil Maddocks

We decided this year to hold our annual fund-raising quiz night in March, rather than late in the autumn. As usual the Young Pretender hosted the pie supper and quiz event; but this time our Chair, John Cockell, devised the questions and acted as quiz master with a variety of interesting questions including a whole section on Congleton itself! A good night was had by all and we raised over £100. Thank you to all who took part and to those who provided raffle and quiz prizes.

Quizzical John

As ever at this time of year, there is much forward planning for the months ahead. The snow having finally vanished, on a cold but bright day the team managed to rebuild the fence that blew down last month.

Restoring the Fence

The garden team have also been busy digging over the wild flower bed, a task that has to be done each spring to remove the more invasive weeds and loosen the soil ready for a top up of fresh wild flower seeds. This is back breaking work, but it brings rewards later.

Digging the wild flower bed

Over the last two years we placed willow hoops around the pond to protect the area and restrict access to the water’s edge. However, they have to be replaced on a regular basis, so we have invested in iron hoops that we hope will both look good and serve the same purpose for much longer.

Putting in the new hoops

Despite the fierce weather this month, tiny pink heads of cyclamen could be spotted among the fading snowdrops under the trees, and the small but colourful crocuses pushing their way through the snow reminded us of the sheer vitality of plant life in the spring. We look forward to the year to come. [See below for more information about Cyclamen coum]

Crocus in the Snow

NM

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

Not to be confused with other cyclamens of taller stature and later flowering, the tiny pink petals of Cyclamen coum are among the earliest garden flowers to appear. Their low growing habit and almost miniaturised blooms make them easily overlooked amongst the shiny yellow winter aconites and the bright white bells of the snowdrops. They take a while to establish in any number, and hate being dry in the summer; but they tolerate some shade and don’t mind a north facing spot, while their brave splash of colour is a welcome sight from December right through March. Cyclamen coum is native to areas around the Black Sea from Turkey to Bulgaria and the Mediterranean from Turkey to Lebanon.

While the larger cyclamen hederifolium had naturalised in the UK by the 18thcentury, cyclamen coum has only recently appeared as a garden escapee, and so you will rarely see it in the wild. But if you want to see the impact these tiny blooms can produce, half an hour’s drive south from Congleton brings you to the Trentham Estate, where they encircle several large conifers in the Italian garden.

Medicinal Uses of Cyclamen
Several varieties of cyclamen have long been used in herbal medicine and by homeopathic practitioners. Extracts of cyclamen have been prescribed for colds, migraine, infected wounds, ringworm, headaches, oedema, indigestion and menstrual problems.

Recent (2012) pharmaceutical studies suggest that extracts from Cyclamen coum in a nasal spray may benefit  people with acute rhinosinusitis (sinus infections).

WARNING It is always dangerous to self-medicate with natural plants, and an American homeopathic physician advised, in a classic reference book for homeopathy, that large doses would produce violent purging and vomiting.

JO

Acknowledgements – thanks to the following for much of the above:
https://articles.mercola.com/herbs-spices/cyclamen.aspx
http://www.vithoulkas.com/learning-tools/online-materia-medica
https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~gdk/stabg_new/poms/images/pom_pdf/mar16.pdf
https://www.sycamoretrading.co.uk  [image of Cyclamen coum]

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February in the Garden 2018

Just as we start to think that spring is on its way we get a blast of arctic air with icy temperatures and snow. This is quite unlike the traditional weather rhyme that goes: “January brings the snow, makes our toes and fingers glow;
February brings the rain, thaws the frozen pond again.”  
This year has been in the reverse order . And even before March, traditionally a windy month, strong winds have blown down the fence at the bottom of the site.

This hasn’t enhanced the view!

Flattened Fencing

Working at this time of year is difficult, especially when so many of us have come down with the flu! On the few days that we can get on site we do our best to continue with work in hand. Ros is determinedly carrying on with the cobble path whatever the weather throws at her! It is surprising how much skill is involved in an apparently simple task, but Ros is becoming ever more confident. She getting on so well, in fact, that we are running out of home-dug duck stones and will have to buy more.

Ros cobbling in the snow

Despite all our efforts the drainage company still continues to let us down, and we can go no further with our building project until they do their part. We have meanwhile purchased a portable toilet, so that as soon as the drains are laid we can have at least some basic facilities.

One advantage of the cold snap is that it has given us a chance to take some snow pictures. On a crisp dry day, the sun shows up the tracery of the mature trees and lights the snow lying on the young yew plants framing the shelter.

The shelter in the sunshine

The Bath House garden looks so different through the changing seasons; and even in winter, if you can brave the chilly temperatures, it rewards you many times over.We leave the teasels even after the seeds have gone, as they are so architectural, and they have even survived the snowstorms. I was waiting for one of our robins to appear so I could take a classic photograph, but for once he did not put in an appearance!

Snowy landscape with Teasel

NM

Weather Lore
The British are always ready to talk about the weather, and we have dozens of sayings and rhymes about it.  I learned the one quoted above when I was a child in the ‘fifties, at  a tiny village school in north Yorkshire. I also learned this one – Candlemas is an old Christian  festival celebrated on 2nd February:
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
If Candlemas day be cloudy and rain,
Winter has gone and will not come again. 

I don’t think that worked this year, but here’s a saying that has been very true this month: “When the wind is in the East, ’tis good for neither man nor beast”.  But what about: “Snow like cotton’s soon forgotten; snow like meal – expect a great deal” ?

I think Jerome K Jerome, the comic writer, put the whole topic in perspective:
” The weather is like the Government, always wrong.”

If you’re interested in finding more weather lore, and whether it’s scientifically proven, there are plenty of websites to look at. Here are some that I’ve found entertaining:
https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com
https://www.naturalnavigator.com/the-library/weathre-lore
https://www.toadhallcottages.co.uk/blog/traditional-weather-sayings/

JO

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