Podcasts and paths: 29 Jan 2022: Six on Saturday

I was once told that in winter it’s best to eat lots of comforting food and not look too closely at oneself in the mirror. It’s good advice, which I follow, and I am extending it to not expecting too much of the garden – of course it looks dreary, it’s the end of January and we are shrouded in foggy grey damp dullness:

So my first Six on Saturday is a form of escapism:

1 Podcasts are a great way to enjoy plants and learn fascinating things about them when you don’t have much opportunity to get up close and personal with them in the garden. Here are two I have been enjoying:

Gardening with the RHS: The UK’s Royal Horticultural Society had a great one recently about a farming to rewilding transformation the Knepp estate in Sussex, UK and an amusing take on an invasive species from an American naturalist from the Deep South of the United States. He discusses Kudzu, known as ‘the vine that ate the South’. Turns out it was a bit of a case of ‘fake news’ with wild exaggerations of its spread and consumption of entire houses and cars, although yes, apparently it does grow like the clappers. Then there was an interesting discussion about how the infamous Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) came into the UK – from one single male plant! Gardeners were encouraged to plant it. But there’s also the question of whether all native plants are good. Is bracken in the UK good? It’s a native plant but anyone who’s been to the lake district in the north of England knows it creates monocultures that are not good for biodiversity. And are all non-natives bad? As all plants have migrated around the world, where do you draw the line on what is ‘native’ and what is ‘non-native’?

Completely Arbortrary: I am learning so much about trees from this podcast, hosted by a young dendrologist from Portland, Oregon, in the US and his ‘tree skeptic’ friend. Now I imagine this isn’t going to be for everyone, there’s a lot of banter and the odd profanity, but I like that they don’t take themselves too seriously and there is a serious message beneath the larks. For instance their episode on Tilia cordata (a close relative of our European lime trees, Tilia x europaea) and the awful tragedy of the Wilsonville bee kill, in which 50,000 bumblebees died after the trees they were feeding from were sprayed with a neonicotinoid (a pesticide now banned in the EU). Unintended consequences: the pesticide was deployed to kill aphids that were dropping sticky sugar-water onto the cars parked below the trees (which could simply have been washed off with a hose).

2 Cardamine hirsuta, better known as hairy bitter cress, is an ephemeral weed. I recently learned that this means it is able to have multiple generations in one growing season – germinating, growing fast, setting seed, then doing it all over again, several times over. I’ve got it growing in that awkward spot, the boundary with one’s neighbours, in which what’s growing on whose territory becomes pertinent. I’ll have to ask them nicely to weed their side of the fence. On my side, I’ve used a hoe to chop the plants up and dig them into the soil. The ground is quite compacted here so this should help aerate and break things up a bit.

3 The first herbaceous perennial pops up. This is always a great moment. It’s a plant I love for its deeply divided foliage, its beautiful deep purple flowers held on spikes, and its mysterious and dangerous side – it is highly poisonous. Can you guess what it is? Answer at the bottom of the blog post!

4 Primula vulgaris. Another cheerful plant, just putting out the first lemon-cream flowers.

5 Asiatic salad greens. What’s that sunshine doing? And what are those lovely fresh salad greens doing at this time of year? These are my seeds but they are growing in my friend’s mother’s garden in Bangalore, India. I gave my lovely friend Meena some seeds before she left to visit her family there. Don’t they look good?

6 The glade path is complete. Ta daaah! I got it done, just needs edging now and planting up along the sides.

That’s all for this week, I’ve got my head down as have RHS exams coming up week after next, and there’s a lot I need to commit to memory! I might not post next week as we’re away for the weekend (to the original ‘Spa’ in Belgium, from which all spas derive) but I’ll be back in due course. Meanwhile The Propagator as ever will be hosting Six on Saturdays from around the world.

*The first herbaceous perennial to reappear in my garden is: Aconitum napellus.

31 thoughts on “Podcasts and paths: 29 Jan 2022: Six on Saturday

  1. I recognised the Aconitum, as mine has appeared too! Signs of spring, though really winter’s only just begun. January always seems such a long, dull and dreary month and February can be the harshest, though the snowdrops and crocuses should appear. Good luck on the exams 🍀

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  2. Cardamine spreads a lot here in the spring because of the seeds jumping everywhere… It’s hard to get rid of them. Your solution of burying is a good idea in winter, I should do the same but as soon as the flowers/seeds arrive: it’s too late… I do like the fountain and the bench: it gives a very restful and peaceful set
    Bravo for the salad seeds which gave a good result in India!

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  3. I have two favourite words, one is kelp and the other is ephermal. I read that bit out loud. Thanks for the podcast top tips, will definitely find the tree one, sounds a blast. Love the path, looks very inviting. Happy swotting, hope it goes well. x

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  4. Is Tiarella a perennial? I just discovered Heucherella, which is a hybrid of Tiarella and Heuchera. That useful information may not earn points for your upcoming exams. Good luck to you, a chara.

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  5. Hairy cress does not appear in my top ten hated weeds. I hate the plants and weeds that sprout from tiny hidden roots and nodules after you weed. You can always eat the cress if you are feeling vengeful towards it. Your shady glade is looking lovely. It is difficult to imagine now that you will be glad to be there in the summer. Amelia

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    1. I might investigate ways to eat the hairy cress as am sure it will be back. Put it in a salad? It’s actually very easy to weed it but it was spreading a bit too far and wide for my liking…

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  6. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a podcast. I’ll have to give those a go. Cardamine hirsuta does the old explosive, self dispersal of seed thing. Hey, I’ve remembered something from my revision. The best of luck with your exams if you don’t post next Saturday.

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  7. Another excellent source of gardening entertainment are the various online videos, many recordings of Zoom talks to gardening groups. The National Gardens Scheme, The Hardy Plant Society, The Alpine Garden Society, for example, all have talks available and non-members can pay to view per talk. The NGS has recordings available.

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  8. Your glade path looks amazing! I can imagine how lovely it will look during the growing season when all the surrounding plants are looking their best! I always learn something new from your posts – the podcasts, ephemeral…. Wishing you all the best with your exams!

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  9. I like it that the eggs are a sign of spring – of course they are but I had never really joined up the dots! Houseplants, tell me about them. I buy small sedate plants that turn into monsters. I was about to re-pot two but then realised that the next size up pot would be too big for the stylish woven pot covers. I sulked and left the plants in their old pots were they sulk back at me.

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