The love of growing things
That statement can be taken both ways – love to grow things and love things that grow – both the wild and the cultivated.
To take advantage of a few days of lovely weather we went to our folly in Llansteffan hoping to enjoy another vision of the glorious wild flowers that adorn the verges. Foxgloves, much loved by the bumble bees, Queen Ann Lace, Pink Campion, Honey Suckle tumbling down from the hedges. Imagine it – just breath-taking. But horrors we drive expectantly towards our lane – it has been shaved. Why do they cut everything back before the plants have had a chance to scatter their seeds – why take away the food for the bees and the many other varieties of insects. Rosebay Willow herb the food plant for my very favourite moth – the Elephant Hawk Moth and so many other moths and butterflies deprived of their specific food plants.
Isn’t that hideous. And it is not just our lane – the strips of land on the dual carriageways around Carmarthen have been shaved too – everything gone including the wild orchids, the charming ox-eye daisies. Now I believe that if I destroyed/removed such wild flowers I would be liable to prosecution. I wonder who will take up the cause and persuade the councils that they really only need to maintain awkward junctions and corners that might restrict the view for drivers.
Now after that grizzle I will tell you about some roses that I have grown from seed. A few years ago we found some delightful tiny rose-hips in huge clusters. I did not know what they were, but was intrigued to see what might appear if I grew some of them. I am an honest thief – I always ask before I steal!! My passion for growing unusual things comes from my mother’s inspirational knowledge and sense of fun – if there was an unusual red brussel sprout, or a walking stick cabbage – she wanted to grow it. The same with flowers, cuttings, seeds and the excitement at the beauty that came out of those tiny seeds always enthralled us.
Back to the rose-hips – I brought some home and planted them in the greenhouse in trays. Now I have a secret weapon when planting in trays – if you travel a great deal you end up with an astonishing number of plastic shower caps – yes – you guessed – they fit very neatly onto a seed tray! We have not traveled much for a long time now and I still have a store of these useful shower caps – which I use in the traditional way sometimes too.
There it is – absolutely enchanting to look at and covered in honey bees and in the autumn the birds just love those thousands of tiny hips. We have now planted these all through our hedges, falling down the garden walls and around our wild flower meadow in Llansteffan as well as great hedges of them here in Abergavenny. They happily clamber up the trees, which is good because otherwise they will layer themselves and spread over the entire country.
Then I thought – ‘perhaps I could play with this rose’ so I decided (having never done anything like it before) to try to cross it with another favourite rose of mine – Vilchen Blau – a delightful three week bloomer – purple/pink and the most delicious scent.
From this marriage I had one plant flower in the very first year and much to my astonishment it continued to flower all through the summer. As it grew up it continues to amaze us with its constancy – flowering from late May until the frosts in December and it is scented. A delicate semi-double rose in clusters, scented like the one parent and really showing off to its parents’ three week of blossom flourish by flowering for 6 whole months. It is not vigorous like the white one – more the growing style of the Vilchen Blau.
My other passion is growing food. Now there is something going on this year in my kitchen garden – last year we fed the slugs and snails and eventually gave up and went shopping. I love growing our own vegetables, but it was just too depressing – this year I was determined to plant far too much of everything so that there is enough for the slugs, snails and us. I don’t know where they are – perhaps the cold this winter drove them south. So I have enough vegetables to fill our potager garden, some for the garden at the workhouse, more for Georgina and a few for my cousin. So Charles and I will be eating fresh organic vegetables all summer long and the girls will get ‘bonus beans’ and peas – these have reached an astonishing height of 9ft+ and still growing. So new sticks have had to be put in and all bound with silk and velvet selvedges. I think they must be the only peas and beans in the world that are tied up with silk!
Charles standing next to my giant ‘snap’ peas. There was no warning on the packet that they would touch the sky!! Charles and the Pea stalk perhaps –