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A welcome with a rose...

Rose - Rhapsody In Blue
Rose - Rhapsody In Blue

Last week I described myself as the ‘expectant father’ whilst my students were sitting their exams – and I was helpless to assist them in any way. My job was done!

What I didn’t say was that I was also an ‘expectant grandmother’ as our daughter was expecting our first grandchild! I had requested that she wait until the end of exam season – which she duly did and he made his appearance on the Friday morning.

Rose - Twice In A Blue Moon
Rose - Twice In A Blue Moon

So now I need to select a suitable Rose to pot up as a Birth Gift, as first became customary in Roman Times. Born in June, his birth flower is the Rose. Maybe a Lavender Rose, as this conveys enchantment, or ‘love at first sight’. Darker shades of lavender, close to purple, express ‘fascination and adoration’. All very appropriate, and a wide range to choose from…

We all like ‘nice’ looking plants in our gardens, but most of us are also very environmentally aware that we share the planet with lots of other creatures, and plants, which have an equal right to be here. Indeed most of them were here millions of years before us!

Our quiz last week was on the things we call ‘Pests, Diseases and Weeds’. Here are the answers – how did you get on?

1.Arion hortensis is more commonly known as the Garden Slug.

2.Creeping, Golden, Milk, Plymouth, Milk, Sow and Spear – are all types of thistle.

3.Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is a problem associated with field grown peas – as the seeds can get harvested along with them. Not good.

4.If you have something resembling ‘bird poo’ on your lilies, it is the larvae of the Lily Beetle – they cover themselves in excrement (their own) to make them distasteful to birds!

5. If you see ‘frass’ on your plants, you will also find caterpillar damage – as frass in the correct term for caterpillar poo!

6.Moles can see – True, yes they can. Not in the way we can – as they do not see colour. But they see in shades of grey (am I allowed to say that?) and can detect movement.

7.The weed that has been around for millions of years, spreading by rhizomes and spores, is Mares tail, Equisetum arvense.

8.The weed that the Romans introduced as a vegetable which went on to become one of our most problematic of perennial weeds is Ground Elder, Aegopodium podagraria. You can use it early in the year, cooked like spinach although I don’t really think this is much consolation if you have got it as a problem weed in your garden!

9.The oak gall wasp lays its eggs in oak buds in winter causing the buds to enlarge and become woody – ‘Oak Apples’.

10.The word ‘dandelion’ comes from dent de lion – the lions tooth, as the leaves are supposed to resemble this.

Well done if you got them all right.

The vast majority of plant health issues are actually our fault! Yes, as gardeners we want to push the boundaries out – growing plants that originate from a wide range of natural habitats and from all over the world.

We grow many of them in ‘monocultures’, or at least big blocks or rows of the same thing – then we wonder why the ‘pests’ have targeted us. Successional cropping is often our aim in the veggie garden – but it is not just us who may benefit from this.

Many of our plants have been ‘improved’ by breeders to make more succulent roots or larger flowers and in doing so are making them more attractive to invertebrates who use them as a source of food.

Fertilisers make for better growth – all the more tasty. Thank you, say those who wish to land on your new shoots…

And, of course, we import plants and other material from all over the world. Many of our most pernicious ‘weeds’ are not even native to this country but have been brought here purposely over the centuries, from the Romans bringing in new food crops to the Victorians with their plant collections.

- Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre).

RHS Courses taught at all levels. Applications now being taken for September.

Now open for plant sales on Saturdays



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