Death in the Garden – Book Review

Poisonous Plants & Their Use Throughout History

Michael Brown

Pen and Sword Books. Paperback £16.99

ISBN 1526708388

I once turned up at a client’s garden to find foxgloves growing amongst the cut-and- come-again lettuce. Horrified, I carefully weeded them out, but decided I couldn’t be sure I’d found them all. The whole plot had to be dug up and replanted. Growing flowers in the veg plot has become fashionable. But mixing flowers with salads and veg can be deadly. We know foxgloves or digitalis has links with modern medicine to treat heart disorders. All parts of the plant are, however, highly poisonous. Michael Brown, in his book Death in the Garden, says on a toxicity scale of 1 to 20, with 1 being the most lethal, foxgloves are at number 3. The difference between a beneficial and lethal dose being minute.

Foxgloves are just one of the plants listed in Brown’s fascinating book. I’ve grown up knowing about the dangers of deadly and woody nightshade, and giant hogweed. But who knew that aquilegia could be poisonous.

Brown describes how powdered aquilegia seeds were used historically as medicine for jaundice and liver problems right up until the early nineteenth century. The plant, apparently high in vitamin C, was also rather dubiously used to treat scurvy. Luckily, modern medicine has moved on and the plant has reverted back to being used just to decorate our gardens.

Other plants I’ll look at in a different light in future include autumn crocus, bindweed, broom, cherry laurel, daffodils, morning glory and celandine, to name but a few.

And as for basil, I’ll not be able to eat it again without thinking of Brown’s rather bizarre and gory murder story involving a severed head and a pot of herbs! His book is a mixture of fact and fiction – all revolving around plants and poisons. Highly entertaining as well as informative. But you might not be able to sleep at night after reading it.

The book cover says :” Mankind has always had a morbid fascination with poisonous plants; how their poisonous properties were discovered and developed will most likely be left unknown. Over the centuries poisonous plants have been used to remove garden pests, unwanted rivals, and deceitful partners. They have also been used for their medicinal qualities, as rather dangerous cosmetics, even to help seduce a lover, when perceived as an aphrodisiac.

“Death in the Garden is based on Michael Brown’s most popular talk, popular as this subject holds a strange interest, for many will enjoy learning about these treacherous and peculiar plants, their defensive and deadly traits as well as the folklore that has grown around them. ”

Michael Brown has been a head gardener, a college lecturer and designed the medieval gardens at Prebendal Manor, Nassington. He now gives talks and demonstrations on historical gardening .

The publishers have one copy to give away. Please leave a comment below to be included. Comments without wishing to be in the draw are also fine.

Please do not try any of the “recipes” or remedies mentioned in the book.

DISCLAIMER: All the plants mentioned in this blog piece and the above book can cause death or injury. The contents of the review and book are for interest only and the author and publisher accept no liability for any injury caused by the use of the plants.

Links : kindle https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Death-in-the-Garden-Kindle/p/14944

Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Garden-Poisonous-Throughout-History/dp/1526708388

Prize Draw Winner -Slot Planter

Last week I wrote about Slot Planters as an alternative to plastic. Company owners Kay and Colin kindly offered a planter for a prize draw. Names were put into a cheese dome, apparently. Kay and Colin didn’t have a hat! I couldn’t stop laughing, to be honest. Anyway, a name was randomly pulled out of the cheese dome and Creoscribe won the draw.

I am delighted with my planter and I wish Colin and Kay all the best with their new product. They are a lovely couple with lots of enthusiasm, and a sense of humour – which always helps! I like to support British companies, and although I’m not giving up my plastic trays, I’m trying not to buy any more if I can help it. The plastic I have here will be carefully used, washed and reused. But if I can think of alternatives I’ll try them out and report back on the blog. I’ll be buying several more planters in different sizes for the coming growing season.

I’m just about to transplant my edible peas into the veg plot. Peas are hardy, but it’s best to start them off indoors as they are a tasty treat for mice and pigeons. I’m going to use the Slot Planter for sweet peas now. Here’s what the cut flower patch looked like last summer. Gladioli came from Tee Gee Bulbs.

Sweet pea Wiltshire Ripple is a favourite. Flowers over a long period and is very pretty. Lasts well in a vase.

Thank you everyone who read the review, commented and took part in the prize draw. Please let me know if you have tried anything new in your garden. It’s good to share ideas.

Links: I wrote the review here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/03/14/slot-planter-seed-tray-on-trial/

Slot Planter :https://slotplanter.co.uk/wooden-planter.html

Sweet peas : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/

Gee Tee Bulbs: https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/gladioli

Slot Planter Seed Tray- On Trial

Searching for alternatives to plastic, I’ve come across a new product called a Slot Planter. And if you’d like to try it, there’s one available in my prize draw this week.

The Slot Planter is made from interlocking panels and comes flat packed through the post.

It’s well packaged with recyclable cardboard materials.

Opening the parcel, I find four panels that simply slot together. No screws, glue or fixings are needed.

Drainage holes are already drilled.

I filled mine with good quality compost. I use Dalefoot salad and vegetable peat-free compost made from sheeps wool and bracken. I sowed some Twinkle seeds from Suttons. These produce tasty pea shoots, and after three harvests, can be planted outside and allowed to grow on.

Grown in a greenhouse with the heater set at 5C, the pea shoots looked like this after three weeks. I’ve only watered the compost once.

After another couple of weeks, the pea shoots are ready to harvest. Just pinch out the top two or three inches, and the peas will branch out and grow back.

The Slot Planter has proved sturdy enough to be moved about from potting shed to greenhouse and outdoors for the photos to be taken. I’m delighted with it so far. It could also be used for sweet peas or broad beans. I’m going to try sweet corn and salads too.

It’s made from Medite Tricoya Extreme. The blurb that comes with the planter says this is a durable, sustainable, environmentally-friendly wood panel product with a 25 year guarantee against rot and decay. Planters are available in various sizes. The seed tray size above costs £12.99, or £35.99 for three. £3.50 postage per order.

I have one seed tray, as shown above, worth £12.99, to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment and let me know if you would like to be included in the draw. The owners Colin and Kay Thompson will pull a name out of hat. Winners are randomly selected and our decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. No purchase is necessary to take part. A winner will be selected on Sunday 17th March.

What products have you found, as alternatives to buying plastic for the garden? Let me know. We are all trying our hardest to recycle and reuse what plastic pots we have. It’s interesting to see alternative materials and products come on to the market, specially designed for gardeners.

Links for more information: slotplanter.co.uk Order online or telephone 01728 684433

https://slotplanter.co.uk/

Colin and Kay Thompson, from Tuddenham, Suffolk, also make beautiful wooden garden obelisks. https://woodengardenobelisk.co.uk/slot-planter-wooden-plant-pot.htm

Dalefoot compost https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/

Sutton’s seeds https://www.suttons.co.uk/

In a Vase on Monday

It’s 25th February- and it feels like May. There’s a steady low hum of bumble bees on the hellebores by the front door. I’ve just seen a wren making a nest under the bedroom window; there’s been a nest there every year for the past 30 years. And joy! There’s frogs in the pond. So hopefully there will be frogspawn soon. Today I’m sharing a selection of photos of my containers. So it’s not strictly in a Vase on Monday- but rather in a container on Monday. I thought I would share photos of the places where I’m taking flowers from to make my daily arrangements for the summerhouse, and kitchen table. And of course some of the flowers will always go to the care home where my in-laws are now living. They can’t easily get out to see gardens, so I shall take spring joy to them.

These narcissi are Snow Baby, new to me, and a real beauty. Grows to only 6″ with flowers the same size as tete-a-tete. Flowers start off the colour of clotted cream and fade to white. Perfect in every way, and the bees love them too.

It’s good to try new varieties, while still planting old favourites such as February Gold and Paperwhites.

Speaking of Paperwhites, I’ve still got pots of deliciously scented flowers on my garden trolly next to the greenhouse. Very handy for picking and adding to bouquets. They are propped up with hazel twigs from the wild garden.

Hazel catkins- “lambs’ tails” – are a much awaited treat. A joyful sight. So full of bees today. I’ve never seen as many out in February before.

White crocus Joan of Arc has joined the trolly display. Also a wonderful pollen supply for bees.

Giving months of interest is hyacinth Delft Blue . Such a wonder to watch it slowly forming a flower spike and starting to unfurl. The scent is heavenly too!

I’m very fond of hyacinth Carnegie too. I love the green tinge to the petals followed by pure white flowers. Well worth growing.

And finally, even the humble daisy is putting on a show right now. Some of these dainty flowers will be going into my jam jar posies. I’m leaving plenty behind for the bees.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my roundup of what’s in flower in my garden. Thanks to Cathy for hosting In a Vase on Monday. Why not go over and see what Cathy and the others all around the world are growing and displaying in their pots, vases and containers this week. It’s a fascinating read.

Links : #IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/in-a-vase-on-monday-it-had-to-be-you-2/

Paperwhites https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/daffodils-narcissus/tazetta-poetaz-narcissi/narcissus-paperwhite-grandiflora

Hazel https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/hazel/

Narcissi Snow Baby https://www.peternyssen.com/narcissus-snow-baby.html

crocus Joan of Arc https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/crocus/large-flowering-crocus/crocus-joan-of-arc

Hyacinth Blue Jacket https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/hyacinths/ordinary-hyacinths/ordinary-hyacinth-blue-jacket

Hyacinth Carnegie https://www.peternyssen.com/prepared-hyacinths-carnegie.html

Congratulations to the Winner of The Wild Remedy Prize Draw

Congratulations to Kathy Lewington who has won my prize draw for a copy of Emma Mitchell’s wonderful new book The Wild Remedy.

The publishers Michael O’ Mara Books kindly offered one copy to give away.

I wrote a review of Emma’s book here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/02/14/the-wild-remedy-book-review/

I love the book and can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve always enjoyed Emma’s drawings and photographs on social media. To have them in a book I can look at every day of the year is a special treat. A treasury of nature.

Thank you to everyone to read my review and left a comment. There will be many more books and gardening products to follow.

Links : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/02/14/the-wild-remedy-book-review/

Amazon :https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Remedy-Nature-Mends-Diary/dp/1789290422

Michael O’Mara Books https://www.mombooks.com/

Review of Making Winter https://bramblegarden.com/2017/12/16/last-minute-christmas-present-ideas-for-gardeners/

Please share on any social media platform you like. Thank you.

The Wild Remedy- Book Review

A Diary. How Nature Mends Us.

Emma Mitchell

Michael O’Mara Books. Hardback £14.99

ISBN: 978-1-78929-042-4

It’s entirely appropriate for a review of Emma Mitchell’s diary The Wild Remedy to appear here on Valentine’s Day. For Emma’s beautiful new book is a love letter to nature.

In almost 200 pages, Emma walks with us through woodland and the quiet country lanes of her Cambridge home. Through her eyes, we see wild flowers, birds and wildlife, bees and insects. It’s an inspiring and joyful journey. Her commentary is like taking a walk with a friend. She’s talking about how she feels and I’m nodding agreement at her side. Sometimes I find myself mumbling soft words of comfort and encouragement.

It’s a personal journey, written from the heart. Emma has suffered from depression for the past 25 years. Her response to illness is to walk, taking photographs and drawing what she sees. As I follow her journey, I’m hoping she finds solace in the beauty around her, in being outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. And although she never simplifies the struggles of depression and mental illness, Emma shines a light on her own discoveries, detailing how her encounters with nature significantly influence her mental well-being. Emma touches on new research into natural remedies, how nature affects our neurochemistry, for example.

Fortunately, I’ve never suffered from depression. But I’ve watched friends and relatives suffer, and felt lost and helpless to know what to do for the best. Alongside the medical treatments available, we are all realising that maybe nature has more to offer. Reconnecting with nature might be the salve we need as life becomes more pressured and stressful.

It can only be a good thing to take time to stop, look about us, and appreciate the beauty of simple things; watching the birds, finding a feather, turning over a smooth stone in our hands. Simple things. Powerful as any medicine, maybe.

The publishers have kindly offered one book free for a prize draw. Please comment below to be included. There’s no cash alternative and the publisher’s decision is final. The publishers will randomly pull a name out of a hat and will send the book direct from their offices.

Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share this review on any social media platform. The pictures above are my camera phone photos from Emma’s book.

Links :

The Wild Remedy contains 100 hand-drawn illustrations and 35 colour photographs.

The Wild Remedy https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Remedy-Nature-Mends-Diary/dp/1789290422.

I wrote about Emma’s book, Making Winter here: https://bramblegarden.com/2017/12/16/last-minute-christmas-present-ideas-for-gardeners/

About Emma Mitchell https://silverpebble.net/about-me

About Michael O’Mara Books https://www.mombooks.com/

In a Vase on Monday 11th February 2019

Spring flowers and a silver birch wreath. A honey -scented display for the summerhouse today.

Arriving home late from work, I’ve run round the garden and picked a few spring flowers to decorate the wreath.

This week, tete-a-tete narcissi and Iris Eye Catcher join the snowdrops in my display. I can report, the little test tubes I mentioned last week are working a treat. The double snowdrops have lasted seven days.

The test tubes arrived attached to a bouquet of orchids, a gift from a friend. As usual, I put them in the potting shed until I’ve thought of a use for them. We are all trying to manage without oasis florists foam, which is not recyclable and adds to pollution.

I twist a wire around the top of the test tube and press it into the twiggy wreath. It stays there securely, despite high winds. Storm Erik bashed the garden, but didn’t damage the display- with the summerhouse turned to face the shelter of the trees. I patch in some emerald green moss and fresh ivy to hide the workings.

Here’s where the flowers are growing, in the wild garden under beech, oak and cherry trees.

Double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Singles, Galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens.

Yellow aconites are finally starting to spread. They are slow to establish and like lots of leafmould.

I finish the day walking down the lane to pick willow stems for valentine hearts. And joy! The first lamb, born today. What a lovely surprise, and I’m glad it is a glorious sunny day. Not like last year, when they arrived in a snowstorm. Today is a good day to be born. I stand for a while watching the tiny lamb find its feet. Within minutes it’s jumping, all four feet off the ground. A sight I’ll never tire of, and another sure sign spring is not far away.

Links:

IAVOM with Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/in-a-vase-on-monday-and-so-it-goes/

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory http://www.hodsockpriory.com/

Yellow aconites https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/eranthis/eranthis-hyemalis

Floristry supplies Googies Flower Shop https://en-gb.facebook.com/googiesflowers/

Last week’s IAVOM https://bramblegarden.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-february-4th-2019/

In a Vase on Monday-February 4th 2019

I’m starting to miss sunshine and warm weather. I’m muffled up with coat, scarves, gloves, two pairs of socks, and still the cold seeps in. There’s been such a cold wind. The ground is frozen and the pond iced over. And yet, mooching about looking for something cheerful, I find chinodoxa- untroubled by the cold, the colour of Mediterranean skies. A little bit of hope.

A circle of silver birch twigs makes a pretty background for spring flowers. I just twist the branches like rope and tie the ends together. I’m trying not to use florists’ foam as it’s currently not recyclable. I’ve found a solution. A friend sent me a box of orchids, each one with a 7cm test tube of water, keeping them fresh. Recycling them, I twist a piece of wire around the necks and stick them in amongst the twiggy coils. Topped with moss, and hidden with ivy, no one will know they are there. I just have to top up the water each morning, and at the same time, add fresh flowers as I please. The wreath here was made on Saturday with wild clematis -old man’s beard- ivy and winter flowering honeysuckle lonicera fragrantissima. It survived high winds, mostly. Silver honesty lasted a day, then blew into the back field hedge where it glistens like a tiny mirror. And the star-like cow-parsley seed heads have gone. It’s an arrangement that changes with the weather. I like that. It’s real life. A reflection of what’s happening in my garden today.

So this morning, I’ve picked some snowdrops and chinodoxa and added them to the arrangement. Chinodoxa known as “glory of the snow” seems untroubled by the cold north wind. Such a delicate flower, and yet so hardy.

To add my own sunshine, I’ve found some aconites, Eranthis hyemalis. We called these gold coins when we were growing up.

Snowdrops nestle amongst the foliage. I bought the single variety , galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens. A little bit of history now growing in my wild garden. There’s been a garden at Easton for at least 400 years. A renovation project started almost 20 years ago, has rescued the garden for future generations to enjoy. The double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Another favourite place to visit with my Mum.

My wreath sits above the doors on our 1930s turntable summerhouse. We’ve turned our backs to the wind and swung the summerhouse around to face the wild garden. There’s wild garlic thriving on the right, under the willow. I’m really pleased to see snowdrops I planted three years ago starting to form little clumps. How long, I wonder, before the scene is a sea of white. I shall have to wait and see.

Links :

I’m joining Cathy for her IAVOM meme. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-skinny/

Chonodoxa https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/chionodoxa/chionodoxa-violet-beauty

Eranthis https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/bulbs-in-the-green/eranthis-hyemalis-winter-aconite

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory snowdrops http://www.hodsockpriory.com/about-us/the-gardens/snowdrops/

NGS snowdrop gardens to visit https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/snowdrop-gardens/

Lonicera fragrantissima https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/68665/i-Lonicera-fragrantissima-i/Details

Six on Saturday- photos from my garden

My grandfather Ted Foulds’ Sankey terracotta pots being put to good use on the potting shed window. Snowdrops from Hodsock Priory open day sales. Trees in the wild garden, reflected in the glass.

Iris Katherine’s Gold, a new sport of Katherine Hodgkin, thrives in my tiny terracotta pots in 50 /50 grit and compost for good drainage. Arriving home from work, I open the greenhouse door and all the iris flowers unfurl and pop open. A heart-lift moment in the middle of winter. Reminds me of a dragon fly, metamorphosing.

Citrus in the greenhouse. Each day I watch them ripen. I mull over my favourite recipes. Orange shortbread fingers. Lemons drizzle cake. Citrus marmalade. Pancakes. Lemon tea. What will it be? Scent from the flowers is another joy. Flowers open 12 months of the year.

In the potting shed, I wind some silver birch twigs into a circle. Winter flowering honeysuckle. Pale and beautiful. Lonicera fragrantisimma. A perfect partner for wispy wild clematis, old man’s beard. As always there’s ivy full of green berries. Simple beauty. And silver coins or honesty. Translucent in the February sunshine.

Perhaps a few snowdrops will match the icy chill in the garden today. It’s cold enough for snow.

Enjoy your weekend, and keep warm! I’m trying to weather the winter – any way I can. The garden is certainly helping. Though signs of spring are more than welcome.

I’m taking part in the Six on Saturday meme. Why not go over and join in. Here’s the link : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/six-on-saturday-02-02-2019/

Prize draw winners – The Immortal Yew

Tony Hall

Kew Publishing. Hardback. £25

ISBN : 978 1 84246 658 2

One of the pleasures of writing a blog is sharing a love of gardening with like-minded people. Books are also a passion of mine, particularly anything with a horticultural theme. So I was happy to be invited to write a review of The Immortal Yew, written by Kew Gardens manager Tony Hall. Stories of myths and legends surrounding yews dating back 2,000 years had me glued to the pages from start to finish. I was drawn in by the sight of the “lion’s paw” yews flanking the doors at St Edward’s Church, Stow-on-the-wold, a sight said to have inspired JRR Tolkien when he was writing about the gateway to Moria in Lord of the Rings. A photo of these strange, ancient yews provides the cover picture for the book. The publishers, Kew Publishing, very generously offered three copies for a prize draw on the blog. The winners, randomly selected, are Sharon Moncur, Philippa Burrough and Alison Levey. Thanks to everyone who left comments on the blog. If you didn’t win, please keep reading as there are many more books to follow over the next few weeks, including The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell, Island Gardens by Jackie Bennett, the English Country House Garden, George Plumptre, Oxford College Gardens, Tim Richardson, and The Christmas Tree by Barbara Segall. Winter is a great time to catch up with reading, before tasks in the garden entice us outdoors again.

To read my review, please click here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/01/25/the-immortal-yew-book-review/

What books would you recommend to gardening friends? What are your favourite books?

Links : Immortal Yew https://www.amazon.co.uk/Immortal-Yew-Tony-Hall/dp/1842466585/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548966993&sr=1-1

Kew Gardens https://www.kew.org/

Kew Publishing https://www.kew.org/files/kew-publishingjpg

Sharon Moncur https://renaissancegardener.org/

Philippa Burrough http://www.ultingwickgarden.co.uk/

Alison Levey https://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/

Please feel free to share this blog on any social media platform, linking back to this site https://bramblegarden.com/