Wild Things

I’ve not long returned from a few days on the Northumberland Coast.  One day instead of walking along the beach, we walked along the tops of the dunes from Low Newton by the Sea to Embleton, passing a number of beach huts along the way. While of course they have amazing views, most are pretty run down – no mains electricity and running water for only part of the year. Despite this they are very sought after  – there’s one on the market for £140k! However my attention was more drawn to the wildflowers we found along the way – Grumbling Rose got a bit impatient because I kept stopping every few minutes to take photos, with the intention of identifying them later. I haven’t had a huge amount of luck on that score – I still have many I can’t put a name to, despite my Googling efforts – any help gratefully received.

The names we commonly know wildflowers by interest me – the origins of some are obvious – bluebells being a prime example. But how about harebells? Granted they look like bells but what’s with the ‘hare’ bit? The story goes that witches disguise themselves as hares and hide among bluebells – but it could just be that they grow in places where hares are commonly found.

I’m pretty sure I found a Bird’s Foot Trefoil – for those like me who don’t know what trefoil means , it’s from the Latin trifolium –  “three-leaved plant” – the flower does looks a bit like a bird’s foot. Apparently it’s a favourite with beekeepers as they (the bees not the keepers) love the nectar. I also saw red campion. These flowers are said to guard bees’ honey stores, as well as preventing us finding the fairies – I have to say I didn’t see any!

Quite a number of wild flower names include the word “wort”- butterwort, lungwort, woundwort and St John’s Wort ragwort was one I found on our walk. These plants have historically been used for medicinal purposes in oils, balms and poultices. ‘Wort’ is a word used to describe infusion of ground grain used in the production of beer and whisky. I guess the method could also be applied to making medicinal potions.

When we got back home, I had to make a half-hearted effort to be seen to be helping with putting away holiday stuff before I could disappear into my garden. One job I tackled straight away was deadheading the foxgloves. I love to see them in my garden – I can’t look at them without thinking  of Jemima Puddleduck. Their scientific name is Digitalis which means ‘finger-like’, so this fits with the ‘glove’ bit. One piece of folklore is that foxes wear the flowers on their paws so they can’t be heard when out hunting. A bit like the harebells – it’s more likely they grow in areas where foxes live.

Of course we need to be aware that while they look beautiful and may have medicinal purposes, many plants can also be dangerous. Foxglove contains a chemical which can be used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure under controlled conditions, but it’s highly toxic if eaten.

I‘m a regular visitor to our local RHS garden and spent yesterday afternoon there with my sister. We decided to walk there and back to get our 10,000 steps in, although there was an ulterior motive as our picnic consisted of delicious Betty’s salmon and prawn sandwiches accompanied by a can of Pimms each. We sat by one of the lily ponds and were joined by a squirrel, a blackbird and two robins – they all had some of our bread so that saved us a few calories. The highlight was the appearance of a large dragonfly, darting back and forth across the water. Between us we took a ridiculous number of photos in an attempt to capture it – not literally of course. It only actually featured in two of mine – I like to think the pink glow at the top of the photo is caused by the sun, but I think it’s more likely my finger!

I’ve been playing at being a famous wildlife photographer  in my garden too – as well as the birds and the bees there are so many butterfies around at the moment. You’ll be glad to know I didn’t take a photo of the dead rat I found when I pulled back some montbretia, while searching for space for pulmonaria plants (lungwort), donated by Victoria – Grumbling Rose was summoned to deal with the rodent!

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