Derek – Friday 23rd April 2021

I was surprised to find stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) in the garden. It’s a wild flower common in country hedgerows and woodlands this time of year, but I don’t recall seeing it around here before. It has five white petals, almost looking like ten as each petal is split. And this struck me as the ‘stitch’ meaning in the name, as if the petal has been stitched up. But the Collins dictionary says it was once thought to be a remedy for the stitch you get when running. Stopping running is more effective, I can assure you. Wort just means plant.

Stitchwort is in the same genus as chickweed (Stellaria media), a common weed in most gardens. You can see the similarity in the flowers, though chickweed’s are much smaller. Stitchwort has a host of common names including shirt buttons, milk maids, poor man’s button hole, Star of Bethlehem, wedding cakes and poppers. The latter name referring to the sound made by the seed cases exploding in dry weather. I like poor man’s button hole, and visualise a tramp like Charlie Chaplin, with no money to spend on a carnation, proudly pointing to the hedgerow flower in his tattered lapel.

The cherry is in full bloom, the pink blossoms billowing over the fence. The flowers are sterile, we’ll get no cherries from them as these cherry trees have been bred for blossom. This is their time and it doesn’t last long. In Japan, they have the cherry blossom festival known as Hanami where families have picnics among the trees. The festival dates back to the 8th century. The festival is so popular that the Japanese Meteorological Agency announces a cherry blossom front, so those families planning their picnic won’t get their timing wrong. But we have it right this year, because the Garden is opening again today. So do come and picnic under our tree. You’ll get covered in blossom like a wedding party.

Our first visitors come. It is a joy to see them as we have been closed for so long. And they are obviously happy to be out again. There’s lots to see with the spring flowers, the new leaves on trees and shrubs, and all the tadpoles swimming through the underwater plants. Honey bees are everywhere in the garden, with the warm days. Short of nectar, they must re-supply the hive. The bees come to our pond to drink and to take water back to the hives in the neighbouring garden. A few dip too far into the water, their spiracles (breathing holes) fill and they drown. We rescue some, but we can’t be there all day. If this carries on, we’ll write to the Queen.

Our bed of saxifrage are loving the sun. The bed is at the end of the pergola with clusters of pink and white flowers. Saxifrage are alpine plants, low-growing in sub arctic and mountainous regions. Saxifrage respond quickly to warm weather, as in their original habitat such weather won’t last long, so they must burst into flower so they can be fertilized by insects and set seed before the cold sets in. Summer visitors to the tundra are surprised by all the flowers. The display is not for them, but for survival in a climate with a short summer season.

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