Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 27 April 2015

Hairy Bittercress: The 30 Day Challenge

Hairy bittercress in a paving crack by my front door

My garden's overrun with hairy bittercress this year. It even greets us by the front door when we arrive home. How did it happen? I'm sure it's because the latest specimens are tiny and almost unnoticeable. When I find them it's almost too late; their seeds sproing everywhere when picked. Their spread is relentless.

My usual solution to this problem is to add them to our salads. They're edible, so what could be a better revenge than to eat our weeds? Sadly, the latest specimens are too small; there's as much cardboard-like seed bearing stalk as edible basal rosette. Not enough of a tasty morsel to include in our dinner.

I may have helped with this plant's natural selection. By weeding out the more noticeable, normal sized specimens, I've allowed the smaller, almost unnoticeable ones to take hold. In some cases, I only spot them when the seed heads poke their noses above the patio. You have to admire that tenacity for survival, even if it gives this gardener a bit of a headache.

I've looked to see if my observations are rooted in scientific fact, sadly to no avail as yet. However, I did find an interesting study from Clemson University, which investigated its seed production, dispersal and control in propagation beds.

In some ways it's the perfect weed. Seed production is year-round; each plant can produce thousands of seeds; germination rates are high, its explosive dispersal mechanism spreads seeds far and wide, and the seeds themselves are sticky. My admiration increased.

I was also a little daunted, but then I spotted a potential chink in the armour. The study found 90% of the seed germinates in 13 days, so if I'm like Mad-eyed Moody and employ Constant Vigilance, I have a good chance of gaining control over my garden's population.

I'm going out every evening on a bittercress hunt and I weed out any culprits I find. Each one is removed carefully, so any seed dispersal activity is minimised. I'll keep this going for a month, which allows some extra time for the other 10% to make their appearance and to round up any scattered offspring.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Cowslip Delight

The sheet of cowslips which greet us at the entrance of our estate

April is proving to be a vintage month for public planting here in Chippenham. After Monday's guerrilla'd Jewel Garden, here's the sheet of cowslips which currently greets us when we enter our estate. These get better and better every year.

Sometimes it's the simple things which make the most difference.

A tummy level view of our estate's cowslips
The tummy level view - can you spot the dandelion?
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

From: 'A Fairy Song', in A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A close-up view of one of the cowslips

It took the sharp observation of Shakespeare's verse for me to spot the rubies amongst the gold. Then my camera added a pearl to one of the cowslip's ears :)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Monday, 20 April 2015

A Jewel Garden

Brightly coloured guerrilla planted tulips on a grass verge in Chippenham

Someone's worked hard to make Chippenham a better place. These tulips are a few minutes walk from our house and they're exactly what springs to my mind whenever a jewel garden is mentioned.

These verges are by Chippenham's double mini roundabout which often gets clogged up with traffic. For once a traffic jam is a pleasant place to be.

Judging by the reactions on my Facebook page, the planting's brought plenty of smiles to others in Chippenham. It was probably done by one of the residents in the cottages nearby, but I don't wish to know exactly whodunnit.

That would spoil the magic.

Dog walkers amongst the tulip verges in Chippenham

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