Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mythology of the Rowan (Sorbus Acuparia)

Sorbus acuparia (Rowan)

So is is time for me to start learning the latin names of plants, fruit and vegetables. In terms of learning and adult learning in particular I feel I need to first connect with the relationship I had and have with the plants themselves.

So what do I already know about a Rowan (Sorbus acuparia) ? And why is it called Sorbus acuparia? My first thought is of Scotland where I lived for some years and studied Human Ecology at the University of Edinburgh. I remember gathering Rowan berries in Edinburgh - and making Rowan jelly. The jelly turned out to be a glorious bright orange colour - and I've thought of that ever since when I look at them. I also know though that the berries get squishy quite quickly and as far as eating the jelly was concerned - I was iffy about that as there were so many tiny worms inside them. Extra protein perhaps and extra flavour (?!).

As far as I remember Rowan is also a symbol for wisdom. So it is a lovely plant to be dealing with on a Royal Horticultural Society course. And it features somewhere on the website of Reforesting Scotland.

Here is the Royal Horticultural Society low down on Sorbus Acuparia for you all:

and here is something of the myth and magic of Sorbus Acuparia

Saturday, 29 September 2012

On visiting Bristol's Botanic Gardens

Spent a glorious few hours today at the Botanic Gardens in Bristol. One of the last sunny days in autumn the light today was beautifully soft and I wandered round enjoying the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden and the Western Herb Garden as well as chatting to the volunteer information officer there who used to be a primary school teacher.

Amazing statistics stayed in my head such as the fact that at least seventy per cent of the world's population rely on medicinal plants for primary health care. On one level I wished I had my camera with me, but then again not everything needs to be photographed, does it? And I'm still on some sort of philosophical, historical and geographical trip in my head about all the plants that I'm seeing and what they signify. Such an important sense of place.

Friday, 28 September 2012

RHS Level One Certificate in Horticulture

I haven't had an awful lot to do with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) so far - having written that I remembered that the allotment I had in the North West was featured in the RHS yellow book of gardens and sites to visit.

BUT - I looked in on the first and second sessions of a level one RHS gardening course this week and last and found myself inspired and so far upheld but challenged by the gentle introduction to the course which appealed to me on many levels - practically, intellectually and even romantically - in the true sense of the word - for a few moments I enjoyed hearing how the dog rose was related to the apple tree and as is often the case - gardening people being down to earth and rather patient - the whole thing spelled a lovely vibe.

But there is serious work to be done too - and those who stay the course will need to learn and be tested on at least 150 common and latin plant names. Let me remind myself which ones I should be learning this week:

Genus followed by Species followed by Common Name
Sorbus - acuparia - Rowan
Olea - europaea - Olive
Fraxinus - excelsior - common ash
Fagus - sylvatica (of the woods) Common beech
Ilex - aquifolium - common holly
Betula - utilis var. jacquemontii - Himalayan birch (silver birch with white stem).

Apparently we need to know plants by Genus and Species preferably - of course common names are not enough as they vary so much from region to region - and also for commercial purposes or for example if you are ordering plants for a client or customer all this has to be done. So far so good.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

What to do with autumn and summer fruiting raspberries

Favourite spot on the planet. Deck chair looking across the plot
I've just looked at the date on the last blog post and can't believe it was last summer. A bereavement in the family and various other developments have kept me away. Now I'm back with this piece of land that is so very close to my heart.

And we, this piece of land and I, have known each other for five years now. I took the plot on in summer 2006. It was completely derelict, the brambles I dug out of it were as thick as your thigh. I also removed around a hundred bags of debris and broken glass from the plot-and-a-half.
The soil was thick, heavy clay to start off with and very dense. After round about two hundred bags of rabbit manure, compost, wood chip and similar - the soil is now a joy. And it is a wholly organic plot.

Traditional job for January is cutting the raspberry canes down to the ground. Decided to weed them as well and add more organic matter in the shape of five bags of not-yet-rotted leaf mould. The barrow  is a very light, handy, fold up effort which I bought at Lakeland. It doesn't take up much space in the shed but it is not suitable for heavy weight material.

The raised bed you can see in the background of the above picture is the asparagus bed. We should have our first full crop this year. Asparagus and poached egg is the favourite there. 
As followers of this blog will know, I follow the no-dig method of organic gardening influenced by Charles Dowding. Raspberries grow in woodland areas so I guess I've tried to re-create that. They are also, as Bob Flowerdew puts it - nutritious fast food for children so it is worth looking after your patch. I don't intend to do much else with the raspberries though during the year apart from today's shift.

This garlic is not doing too badly. On the whole I try to work with the weather as far as possible to cut down on work (work smart not hard is my motto on the plot).

In the picture below you can see the Avalon Pride peach tree I planted four years ago. The year before last we had over sixty peaches from it (and everyone said you couldn't grow peaches in the North West). As you will know, it was a dream of mine fulfilled.I pruned the tree too hard last year and didn't get anything, but after that huge crop the previous year I figured maybe it could do with a rest anyway.

Look closely at the tree and you can see the sap already coming. The branches are turning green. This is unusual for this time of year - I wonder how it will fare this year. The blossom comes early and I usually shut my eyes if there is an early frost and chant for the buds to miss the impact of it. Otherwise there is no fruit at all. Fingers crossed for this year then. Early spring is my favourite time of year on the plot. Summer is too fast for me. There is a fair bit to do in autumn and I enjoy the rest that winter brings too.