9 October 2015

Bloomin' Foreigners

Firstly I feel I must apologize for my absence from the blog this summer, a combination of lots to do and a touch of writers block and suddenly it's Autumn again! 

Misty Autumn morning

The summer in the Lakes has been 'average' at best with lots of rainy days interspersed with some sunny ones, but since the schools went back, as is often the case, we've had the best weather of the year so far, verging on the mythical Indian Summer I talked about in a previous blog.

Perhaps because of the 'little and often' supply of rain this summer, the garden at Hill Top has done pretty well. The borders were full of flowers in June, July and August and the flowering season seems to have gone on longer than usual. I even seem to have kept on top of the slug population in the veg garden and produced some reasonably good crops (I'm particularly pleased with my black kale this year).

Black Kale

One downside of the rain is that the grass has carried on growing all year. Normally the drier weather in summer slows its growth down a bit and I get a break from trudging round after the mower but this year it just kept growing and growing....and growing. Fortunately there isn't much grass at Hill Top, although the village verges need doing regularly, but at the other garden I look after at Monk Coniston there is rather a lot. All I can say is thank goodness for a good pair of earphones and an iTunes playlist on my phone!

There's been a lot of talk about immigration over the summer and I recently got to thinking how many of our favourite garden plants are actually immigrants themselves, even in a quintessentially English cottage garden like Hill Top. 

Kaffir lily
Top of my list at the moment is Hesperanthera coccinea (used to be called Schizostylis but it changed, don't ask me why) the Kaffir lily which is a native of South Africa and is flowering merrily in Hill Top garden, a very long way from home. Its crimson flowers provide a welcome splash of colour late in the season although one point to note about the Kaffir lily is that the flowers always face towards the sun, (probably looking longingly towards their homeland), so don't plant it on the southern facing side of a path like I did or all you'll ever see is the backs of the flowers!

Another cottage garden favourite, the Dahlia, originates in Mexico where the Aztecs used the tubers as a source of food (they're closely related to Jerusalem artichokes), indeed they were introduced into Britain for that very purpose but proved more popular for their decorative properties than their culinary ones. I've never eaten Dahlia tubers but they'd look a whole lot nicer in the veg garden than a row of potatoes (an import from Peru incidentally). Dahlia crisps anyone?

Dahlias - yum yum!

The list of 'foreign' plants in Hill top garden goes on and on; Chinese wisteria, Japanese quince, Eucryphia from Chile, Sneezewort from the USA, even that most English of flowers the rose has species from Asia, America and North Africa, all of which have made their way into the varieties we grow. 
It's the same story with fruit and vegetables, Jemimah Puddleduck's rhubarb originated in China, runner beans in Central America and even Peter Rabbit's favourite, radishes hail from South-East Asia,  So I think it's true to say that without these foreign imports, our English Country Gardens would be frankly pretty dull and our English cuisine duller still!

For my musical link this time I could have had 'Illegal Alien' by Genesis or 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin but they're both pretty awful so I've gone with an American theme and chosen this on the subject of immigrants and this about cutting grass!

Bye for now.

Words and pictures by Gardener Pete.