Derek – Friday 9th July 2021

We’ve had lots of rain recently which means lots of growth, in spite of temperatures being on the low side. In the wildflower bed are red and yellow poppies in profusion. The individual flowers don’t last long but others follow in succession. There’s blue borage, cornflowers, and wild carrot, which looks very like cow parsley but the seed ends up rather like the cluster of a bird’s nest. There’s prickly ox tongue, one of many in the dandelion family, the leaves are prickly on the back and shaped like a large tongue. Thistles are here and there, which appear to have black stems, but it’s blackfly getting ready to head for your beans.

There are fewer tadpoles in the pond. It’s likely that some have left as tiny frogs. They mature outside the pond over three years, before coming back to spawn if they are fortunate. Most will die from predation, garden strimmers or drying out in hot weather. Some tadpoles stay as tadpoles, get no further in their cycle; particular genes just don’t turn on, so they don’t become frogs. There’s some, though, in the pond very close to froghood, with front and hind legs, a frog-shaped head, froggy skin, but still with a tail. So nearly there.

As I come to the garden, still out in the street, I see quite a few plants growing where our fence meets the street flagstones. These are some of the toughest plants as there is little soil until they get below the paving stones. Buddleia, of course, hedge mustard with its small four-petalled yellow flowers, and grasses (you can’t keep them away). We have sow thistle, a most tenacious plant, that always has trails of leaf miners in its leaves. It’s not a thistle at all, but has dandelion-type flowers. They have a milky latex in the stems and were fed to lactating sows in the belief they would increase her milk. I have seen them over 6 feet high. The leaves are edible, they say, but I am often disappointed when I have a chew of a plant leaf said to be edible. Another plant out there is dog’s mercury. Dog means bad as the plant is poisonous, though it doesn’t contain mercury. The word is a corruption of ‘markery’, a similar-looking edible plant which this one could be mistaken for. There’s also black medic with its tiny yellow bunches of flowers that become black seeds.

Going further along the fence, there’s valerian, which is a surprise, to me anyway, unlike dock which isn’t. Or bindweed which gets everywhere. Clover with its three leaves, never four (sorry). We have herb Robert with its geranium-pink flower. Robert was an abbot, also a herbalist, as the plant has various herbal uses including a cure for diarrhoea. There’s willow herb, not to be confused with rosebay willowherb, aka fireweed, one of my favourite wild flowers, common as it may be. There’s anchusa with its forget-me-not type flowers which is everywhere in our garden. And tiny sycamore seedlings – ditto. There’s a couple I don’t know, as they are just foliage, so more difficult to identify.

We have some plants poking out through the fence: privet, ivy and the perennial sweet pea. A few years back, high winds blew down some of the fence, so we cut holes in the panels to lessen the wind effect.

With all these plants along the fence, why come in and see many more?

But let’s not forget the street and the wild flowers which hang out there. French botanist Sophie Leguil, who lives in London, set up the More Than Weeds campaign to change perceptions of urban plants in the UK after helping to spread the Sauvages de ma rue (wild things of my street) chalking campaign in France.

I shall get my chalks.

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