Teasers and Teasels


Although most of this blog is about plants and gardening, I occasionally do have other thoughts.  People might ask me not to, but what can you do?

So, here’s today’s thought.  I read that Covid-19 has (so far) cost £322 billion in the UK.  That’s a lot of money, I think.  And then I think, I wonder how many stars there are in the Milky Way galaxy.  The answer seems to be 250 billion ± 150 billion.  Therefore, we’ve spent on this wretched virus about £1 for every star in the galaxy.

Astronomical sums…

Right, plants.

I’ve been sent this image of a teasel, Dipsacus fullonum.

Sara's teasel A


Dipsacus is from the Greek for thirst for water, and refers to the cup-like formation where two leaves join at the stem, and a small reservoir is found.  This often has insects floating in it, which makes you wonder whether water is all they might be thirsty for.  And about Triffids.

The plant in the photo is definitely a bit of a Triffid, don’t you think?  The Guinness World Record teasel stands at 10ft 6.77 inches tall.  This one, in the garden of one of our gardeners, is just a little bit less, although accurate measurement is difficult.

For me, teasels are at their best when goldfinches are hanging off them, pulling out the seeds.  Not long now before the goldfinches get a feast.  :~))

Teasel gets its common name, and the second part of its botanical name, fullonum, because they were used by fullers in the textile industry to full, or tease, cloth by raising the nap on it. Fields of them were grown, with the cultivated form, the Fuller’s Teasel, having stouter, more recurved spines on the seed head.

And coming back to that cup of water with dead insects in it, research in 2011 seems to show that putting dead insects in the water doesn’t change the height or general stature of the plant, but it does increase seed set.  So yes, a partially carnivorous Triffid.

Well done for growing a goliath of a plant!

A Garden View


Wednesday 15 July is St Swithin’s Day.  Swithin was Bishop of Winchester in the 800’s.  Unlike other senior churchmen, he asked not to be buried in the Cathedral, but outside ‘where the sweet rain of Heaven may fall upon my grave’.

Legend says that, when his remains were moved indoors, there was a great storm, and it rained for many weeks.  After that, the legend grew that, if it rained on St Swithin’s Day, it would rain for 40 days.  If it was fine, it would remain dry for 40 days.

This has never actually come to pass, within a literal interpretation.  However, there is some weather lore here.

The British Isles sit at the conjunction of 4 weather cells, which is why things can be so changeable.  However, by mid-July, the weather pattern for about the next 6 weeks  is generally established.  So, whether it’s rainy and cold, warm and sunny, or simply unpredictably changeable, that is the pattern that is likely to continue.  It’s never guaranteed, though.

Let’s see what Wednesday brings…

These lovely images come from one of our gardeners, and show us some very pretty plants.


Jean 2 1 A


Jean 2 2 A


Jean 2 3 A


Jean 2 4 A


Jean 2 5 A


Jean 2 6 A


Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday Treats


I’m sorry, there has been a short absence…

I’ve not been very well for a week or so.  Nothing so boring as Covid-19 – other ailments are available….

Still here we are again, with Tuesday Treats.

The last Tuesday Treats has been edited to give the answers, and it’s here:


This week’s will be a little truncated, I think, but hopefully we’ll be back to n ormal shortly.

So, what do we have…


1    What is this plant?  And what is the condition affecting the flower spikes called?  What causes it?

Edited to add:  This is Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’.  As has been suggested, the flattened spikes are caused by fasciation, from Latin ‘fascis‘, a bundle.  In Rome, the fasces, a bundle of rods bound up with an axe, was the symbol of executive authority.  In fasciated plants, the growing point at the tip, or apical meristem, has been damaged and produces multiple growing points that are joined, like that bundle of rods.

I recently saw that the RHS Rosemoor Gardens report that their plants of ‘Fascination’ are serial fasciators, so there does seem to be a genetic tendency, but most years, the flowers are fine, so there must be a trigger.  In such cases, this is damage to the growing point – it can be caused by pests, diseases or bad weather.  I recall that we had a spell of unseasonably cold, frosty nights just as these apical buds would have been forming, so my money is on frost damage.  I’ve had the plants for 6 or 7 years, and this is the first time they’ve done this.

Looking at the name of the plant, I suspect that whoever named it was tipping a knowing wink at this tendency.

Some plants, especially fern cultivars, include ‘Cristata’, or the word ‘Crested’ in their name.  This usually means that the cultivar has been selected for a genetic trait of fasciation.

Jo's Veronicastrum virginicum


2  Edited to add:

This is Oxalis deppei ‘Iron Cross’, or was when I looked it up a week ago.  Apparently now it’s Oxalis tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’.  Whichever, it’s from Mexico.

Hugh's Oxalis deppei Iron Cross

And a closer look

Hugh's Oxalis deppei Iron Cross 3


3  Edited to add:

This is Romneya coulteri AGM, the Californian Tree Poppy, or as I learned from the comments, the Matilija poppy.  I don’t know about California, but here it has a Marmite view of owners and their gardens – it either loves you or hates you.  If it hates you, it will never, ever grow, no matter how much care you lavish on it.  If it loves you, it will grow like wildfire, pushing up shoots a socially distanced 6 feet from the parent plant.

Hugh's Romneya


4  Edited to add:

This is a Clematis, and it’s very old school.  It’s Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ AGM, which means purple, double and elegant.

Like another that we’ve seen recently, this was raised by Morel in France, and introduced in 1900.  Once established it literally covers itself with flowers.


Jo's Clematis


5  The pink flower spike – the foliage next to it is a different plant.

Edited to add:

It’s Francoa sonchifolia ‘Rogerson’s Form’, Bridal Wreath.  It’s supposed to grow to about 2 ft, but no-one told it that.  It has a low-growing rosette of soft, slightly fuzzy leaves, and wands of pink flowers that for me reach 3-4ft depending on rainfall.  It makes a long-lasting cut flower.

Jo's Francoa


6  The white flowers to which the foliage does belong.

Edited to add:

Valeriana officinalis, another tall grower – 5 to 6 ft here, although in poor, dry conditions it might stop at 2 ft.

This is the herb from which Vallium was first produced, and it’s another Marmite plant.  The fragrance is rich, musky and strong, and will perfume the whole garden, especially at dusk.  Some people love it, others hate it.  It’s definitely soothing.

Be careful if you grow this.  I once pricked out a tray of seedlings in a closed greenhouse, and was definitely away with the fairies for an hour or two…

Jo's Valeriana officinalis


7  Edited to add:

Monarda ‘Adam’.  Both flowers and foliage are fragrant – Bergamot, and Bee Balm are two of the common names.

Jo's Monarda Adam


8  Edited to add:

Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Phyllis Smith’.  The first hybrid Shasta Daisy was produced in 1890 by the American horticulturist Luther Burbank, using species from three continents, and named for Mount Shasta.  ‘Phyllis Smith’ is an old cultivar, but I can’t confirm the date of introduction.  Nevertheless, it’s full of vigour (too much, sometimes), and full of flower.

Jo's Leucanthemum Phyllis Smith


And there we are for this week’s Tuesday Treats.  Good luck!

Edited to add:

How did you do?  Have yourself a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit!


From the Allotment


Our allotment gardener has sent some more pictures from her patch.  And an intriguing bunch they are…


1  Strawberries vs Leafcutter Bees

It looks as though the strawberries (the sweet little wild alpine type) aren’t too bothered by the bees’ depredations.  Isn’t it marvellous how the bees manage those perfect geometrical circles?  Even when I was at school, I could barely do that with a compass and protractor….

Our gardener has a bee hotel, with quite a few of the holes now filled with discs of strawberry leaf and, hopefully, bee larvae.

Nat's leaf cutter bee strawberries A


2  Digitalis ‘John Innes Tetra’

This is a lovely little foxglove, a real shorty and a real sweetie, not nearly as well known as it ought to be.

It’s a hy­brid be­tween D. lanata and D. gran­di­flora. Bred in the 1920s at the John Innes Hor­ti­cul­tural In­sti­tute in Sur­rey – later the John Innes Cen­tre in Nor­wich, and the people who invented the recipes for John Innes composts, among many other things – it has glossy, spear-shaped leaves and 2ft-tall spires of orange-yel­low flowers.  Unusually for a hybrid, it comes very true from seed.

I have a certain parental investment in this plant because it, and its friends out of shot, were grown from seed from my own plants.  I’m assured that they’re all doing very well…

Nat's Digitalis John Innes Tetra A


3  Tomatoes ‘Sweet Million’, with marigolds

The weather has been murder for plants like tomatoes – stifling hot and then freezing cold.  But these look to have shrugged all that off, and are now loving the current warm and humid conditions.  Our gardener, naturally, is waiting with bated breath for the first bite…

Nat's tomatoes Sweet Million with marigolds A


Thanks for sharing!

What I fail to understand is…


Why?  I mean, WHY??

Let me explain.

When I decided to have a Yin/Yang bed in the back lawn, I thought that, for the first year, it would be a good idea, in terms of weed aggravation, to fill it with annuals.  Still, I’ve kept it watered and fallow since the winter, taken a bucketful of bindweed roots out of it, and a fair few brambles.  Weed growth has been almost non-existent, apart from that.  Until Wednesday, when the recent rains have sung their siren song.  Both halves looked like the green baize on one of the snooker tables at the Crucible Theatre during the World Championships.

So, out came the swoe (rather like a sharpened golf club), and, hey presto, all neat again.  Until this morning.  When we’re back to baize.

That is not what I fail to understand, though.  That’s just background.

No, it’s my lupins.  My little Avalune annual lupins.  Here’s a picture of them, from the Thompson and Morgan catalogue, where I got them, so I hope they won’t mind me filching their picture…

Jo's TM Avalune lupins mixed A


They are annuals, they flower in the first year, they only grow to about 16 inches, and I grew them from said seed.

They have stood on the path that runs up past the greenhouse since the end of April.  Here they are, with their friends, on 6 May:

Jo's seedlings A


If you stand where I stood to take the photograph, and step 6 paces to the right, you will fall into my Yin/Yang bed.

Everything grew well, and was untroubled by any of the local wildlife, except for the odd slug that nibbled a leaf on the Nicotiana suaveolens.  You see, I learnt from the rabbit eating the rosebushes (and foxgloves) episode.  Leave them close to where you’re going to plant them and see what happens.  Nothing happened.

Here’s what I fail to understand.  Why, if these young plants stood unharmed for a couple of months about six feet from where they were to be planted, why, oh why, when they were planted the weekend before last did I find them this Thursday morning, like this:

Jo's Avalune Lupins A


All of them.  There’s nothing left but stalks.

And at tea time, a large rabbit was nonchalantly hopping from the area of the greenhouse to plant its front paws in the new bed and investigate the possibility of a little snack.  There was nearly violence.  I’m not sure the back door will ever be the same again.

I think Beatrice Potter’s Mrs McGregor had exactly the right idea…

Okay, rant over.  I’m off for a cup of hot chocolate and a gin and rhubarb biscuit…



As I write, there is an exotic monsoon taking place outside.  It’s often said that the typical English summer is three fine days and a thunderstorm.  This year has had many, many fine days, although precious few in the actual summer, but the thunderstorms – or at least, the cloudbursts – are making up for lost time.  It’s midnight, so I’m not going out to see whether anything needs staking, but it’s going to be a rainforest in the morning.

But that isn’t what today’s post is for.

Among the images sent to me by our group members is one that stands by itself, and is very exotic and summery.

It’s a hibiscus in a garden in Panama.

I know no more than that, but let’s just admire it, because it deserves it.

Pauline Hibiscus in a garden in Panama A



Tuesday Treats


It’s Tuesday Treats, and Nature Table time again.  If you had a go at least week’s selection, the post has now been edited to give their identities.  It’s here:


So, what do we have this week…


1  Edited to add:

This is Clematis ‘Étoile Violette’ AGM.  It was a French introduction, by Morel, in 1885, and its name means Violet Star.  It’s in the viticella group, small flowers in July, August and September, but many of them.  It’s definitely one that has stood the test of time.

Rob's Clematis Etoile Violette A

And here’s a closer look:

Rob's Clematis Etoile Violette 2 A


2  Edited to add:

We used to call this a Calla Lily, and it was an Arum.  Now, it’s the much harder to spell Zantedeschia.  Z. ‘Picasso’, to be exact, with that purple throat, and the spotted leaves.

Jo's Zantedeschia Picasso


3  Edited to add:

I think this plant will be flattered by some of the suggestions.  It’s toadflax, Linaria purpurea.  I’m pretty sure the seed for my plants came from wildlings growing in a car park.  But, the hot-stuff breeders are now turning their attention to Linaria, and there are some lovely new cultivars coming out.  This is a pretty pink version of the common purple toadflax, and if it could claim a name, it would be ‘Canon Went’.

Jo's Linaria purpurea Canon Went


4  Edited to add:

Hemerocallis don’t just come on big and chunky.  This is the diminutive ‘Stella de Oro’ – if you got this right, well done.  It gets to a foot tall, with comparatively large flowers.

Jo's Hemerocallis Stella d'Oro


5  Edited to add

Most of our gardeners have had one of these, because they take cuttings very easily.  It’s Diascia personata.  Unlike the smaller cousins that are happy with tubs and hanging baskets, this is much larger.  Everyone says it gets to 36 inches – mine is up to my chin, and I’m 5ft 2 ins.  It comes from South Africa, where it is pollinated by a specific species of long-tongued bumble bee which does not occur in the UK.  Therefore, it sets no seed.  And so, it just keeps on flowering, usually from June to December.

Jo's Diascia personata


6  The flowers are a pale lilac-pink

Edited to add:  This is a cultivar of the milky bellflower.  It’s Campanula lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna’ AGM

Jo's Campanula lactiflora Loddon Anna 2 A

And a closer look:


Jo's Campanula lactiflora Loddon Anna


7  Edited to add:

This is Aconitum napellus ssp vulgare ‘Albidum’, or white monkshood.  All parts are highly toxic if eaten so don’t chop this into your salad.  Come to think of it, I haven’t noticed any rabbit-nibbled edges….

Jo's Aconitum napellus ssp vulgare Albidum


8  Edited to add

This came as one of the pictures from Felley Priory (I wasn’t there), so… I do believe this to be Tweedia coerulea AGM, and very pretty, too.

Glynis's Felley Priory 18 A Tweedia coerulea


9  Edited to add:

Again another image sent to me from a trip to Felley Priory.  This is Rodgersia pinnata.  I don’t know whether it’s the species or a cultivar.  I have two cultivars, and they give me some nervous moments every year, because they are so late to appear – June, would you believe.

Glynis's Felley Priory 3 Rodgersia


Good luck!

Edited to add:  Virtual chocolate if you got any of them right.

A Garden View

I have some images from one of our gardeners to post today – I’m keeping a couple back for the Nature Table tomorrow, so you know where to direct some of the blame!  :~))

Roses are doing very well this year, and here’s David Austin’s English Rose ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ AGM.


Rob's Gertrude Jekyll A

It was released in 1986, and has twice been voted the nation’s favourite rose, as well as winning other awards.  Even though Austin increases production of this rose every year, it sells out every year.

Gertrude Jekyll was a famous garden designer and author who has had a profound effect on the present day style of English gardens.  She designed over 400 gardens in the UK, in Europe and in the USA.

The rose has the quintessential old rose fragrance.  It’s a climber, but if pruned back, can be kept to a vigorous large shrub.


Rob's seedlings A

Here among the golden flowers of Creeping Jenny, our gardener has allowed aquilegia and foxgloves to self seed.  That’s going to be a lovely colourful patch next year!

Thanks for sharing!

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