Late to the houseplant party

I have spent the last few years finding out everything I can about growing plants outside, but when it comes to houseplants I still have a blind spot. For some reason, my brain fails to compute that houseplants, like all plants, need watering and feeding. The real miracle in our house is just how long some…

Rewards and fairies

  “I’m Puck, the oldest Old thing in England,” says the eponymous magical creature in Rudyard Kipling’s children’s book Puck of Pook’s Hill.  The landscape around Kipling’s East Sussex home Bateman’s seemed very old, almost timeless when we visited on a beautiful crisp autumnal afternoon. It is that time of year when the leaves on…

Mums the word

In France at this time of year the florist shops are full of colourful displays of chrysanthemums. But do not make the mistake of buying them for someone as a gift. Here as in most Catholic countries, chrysanthemums are reserved for placing on graves  on La Toussaint, All Saint’s Day, on November 1st. In China,…

Hollyhock Envy

There is something missing in my garden. Actually, there’s lots missing. In Spring it was filled with tulips, narcissi and hyacinths  from all the bulbs I planted last autumn. In early summer there were alliums and peonies. But now it is looking a bit bare and what I crave to fill it most of all…

Take Comfrey

‘Knitbone’, ‘bruisewort’, ‘boneset’ and ‘knit back’; these are just some of the folk names given to Comfrey, hinting at its long history as a medicinal herb. It was widely used to promote the healing of wounds and fractures, hence its common name, which is a corruption of the Latin ‘con firma’, alluding to the plant’s ability to…