Six on Saturday-Agatha Christie

I have just finished reading Agatha Christie’s murder at the vicarage. Within Christie’s work gardens and gardening come up again and again. Miss Marple is an avid gardener enjoying the opportunities it gives her to observe the comings and goings in her village. Garden parties are a regular setting. Christie herself even had a rather lovely rose named after her. In Miss Marple’s final case we know she is getting on as she is advised not to exert herself gardening. So I thought this week I would look at six Agatha Christie gardening links.

1. Deadheading the roses

I understand, Miss Marple that Mrs. Protheroe passed this way yesterday evening?

Yes, she did. I called out to her, and she admired my roses.

Miss Marple spends much time tending her roses. This gives her ample time to be a busy body observing her neighbourhood. My roses are doing very well but I am now having to start on my deadheading. Lots more blooms coming through. I have a mix of repeat flowering roses and old roses.

2. Secateurs

Miss Marple favoured bypass secateurs for her pruning as do I. I’m sure she’d appreciate the gold leaf gloves as well.

3. Poison plants

Agatha Christie worked for a period as a dispenser and had a knowledge of poisonous plants. Torre Abbey even has a garden dedicated to the poisonous plants of Christie’s novels. In Postern of fate, foxgloves were planted in amongst sage the murderer knew would be collected for the evening’s meal. My foxgloves are going over but they have held up well through rain and wind.

4. Ferns

I am developing several areas with ferns. The corner near the shed has the most established. One of the supposed highlights of Christie’s garden, though I’ve never visited, is the fernery. I have found myself giving more space over to ferns and the front garden is going to be largely ferns and hostas.

5. Rocks

“Yes.” she said, it must have come as a very nasty shock for him to come across you just then. But her turned it off very well-pretending he was bringing it to me for me for my rock gardens. Only-Miss Marple became suddenly very emphatic. “It was the wrong sort of stone for my rock gardens! And that put me on the right track!”

Even the wrong sort of rock can set Miss Marple on your case. I’ve dug in a few rocks we had spare to go in the front garden. I’d like to look at cultivating the moss for a more natural look. Natural yoghurt mixed with compost is supposed to work.

6. Mystery plant

Christie wrote great mysteries so here is one for all of you. My mum gave me two of these seedlings but didn’t know what they were. Gardens hour suggested morning glory but now we have flowers I can see that was wrong. Anyone solve the case?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this literary-themed six. Any other good gardens out there in literature? Now I finished one Christie I face the problem of what to read next as everything seems inferior after.

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Wildflower Hour-Lesser Celandine

This weeks wildflower contribution was lesser celandine (rannunculus ficaria). I found a patch growing in the shaded passageway behinf my garden, similar in nature to its natural habitat. This is a pretty common perenial growing in open woodland and along hedgerows. It is an early food source for bees flowering from March to May. while it grows in shaded spots it requires sun for the flowers to open.

As a part of the rannunculus genus this places it as a relative to varieties of buttercups, spearwort and crowfoot. It is quite low, forming clumps to a height of 25cm. The heart shaped leaves and small yellow flowers make it quite a pleasant sight at this poiny of the year when little is in bloom.

Poisonous if eaten raw it can cause livestock issues. It is native to Europe, but banned in some US states due to its toxic nature.

The poet William Wordsworth loved them enough to write three poems about them. When he died it was proposed a lesser celandine should be carved on his gravestone. However a greater celandine was carved by mistake.

Edward Thomas also used the lesser celandine as the subject of this poem.

Thinking of her had saddened me at first,
Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie
Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame,
A living thing, not what before I nursed,
The shadow I was growing to love almost,
The phantom, not the creature with bright eye
That I had thought never to see, once lost.

She found the celandines of February
Always before us all. Her nature and name
Were like those flowers, and now immediately
For a short swift eternity back she came,
Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore
Her brightest bloom among the winter hues
Of all the world; and I was happy too,
Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who
Had seen them with me Februarys before,
Bending to them as in and out she trod
And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.
But this was a dream; the flowers were not true,
Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there
One of five petals and I smelt the juice
Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more,
Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.

While a common wildflower I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more on the subject.

Edward Thomas-Spring thaw

Today have been the birthday of Edward Thomas. With the state of the UK weather it seems appropriate to remember him through one of his poems.

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Spring-Thaw

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed

The speculating rooks at their nests cawed

And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,

What we below could not see, Winter pass.

Thaw

Folklore Thursday: A short tale

This week is National Storytelling Week. For folklore Thursday we have been asked this week for one of our favourite folk and fairy tales. This week I have been doing Little Red Riding Hood in school, but for this week I’m going to go with a story I like to use to demonstrate oral story telling. My contribution was first brought to my attention my the notes in Brothers Grimm. It comes from Deutsches Sprachbuch von Adolf Gutbier (German Language book by Adolf Gutbier). It is a very quick story, but it sticks in my head for the rather terrible pun. My retelling may not be accurate to the original, but this is how folk and fairy tales carry on through the years, changing with each telling.

Once there was a chicken and a rooster in a farmyard. The chicken, pecking in the ground, found a little key. The rooster found a little wooden box. The chicken put the key in the box. The rooster turned it. In the box they found a little scrap of fur, a small tail.

This would have been a longer story, but it was only a short tail.

I don’t know if the pun works in the original German, but the story sticks in my head for it. Hope you’ve enjoyed my Folklore Thursday.

 

 

Nature Book Swap

The arts and humanities research council have announced the short list of the UK’s favourite nature book.

Here

The list is an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction and old and new. The books are all ones that have touched people in different ways. They all have some emotional impact.

I read a lot of nature books both fiction and non-fiction and as part of this blog I have shared many I’ve enjoyed. Following on from the dark is rising book group, the AHRC book list and the seed swap I wondered if anyone was interested in a secret nature book swap? You may have ended up with duplicates for Christmas. So here is a use for them.

The concept was done during the 30 days wild. Emails of interest are collected. People are sent an address to send on a nature book too. In this way people encounter new nature books and share their love of the written word.

If you receive a book you own or have read pass it to a friend or family member you think might like it. If you can’t think of anyone give it to charity. No harm having charity shops filled with quality nature writing. Someone will enjoy it.

So initially just looking for who is interested. If you are email me your name and address. All information will remain confidential except who you are sending a book too. I can’t except any liability for anyone who doesn’t receive a book. This relies on trust and goodwill. UK only so no one has excessive postage.

I’ll set a deadline of interest to next Friday 12th January. So anyone interested email: natureswap@mail.com

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The wonder of the Lost Words

In my Christmas Round up I mentioned my main present deserved a blog of its own. Having had time to reflect and enjoy reading it I now feel ready to comment on this book of wonder. I’ve only wanted to read a few pages a day so I could prolong the joy.

For Christmas Amy bought me The lost words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. I’ve been aware of the book before its release and had held off on buying it hoping I would receive it as a present. The concept of the book is brilliant for nature lovers and as a teacher who promotes outside learning irresistible. The Oxford Junior dictionary took out 50 nature related words and replaced them with words considered more relevant. These were mainly computer related words such as, “chatroom,” and, “broadband”.

I remember the news story back in 2015 informing us of this decision. While I can understand the reason it saddens me that it is considered more use for children to know what an attachment is rather than an acorn. Many of the changes were seen as a continuation of the disintegration of childhood. Children increasingly have more solitary lives, less time outside and a disconnect form nature. All of this adds up to less resilient children and potential increases in mental health issues. While an argument could be made that the computer time still allows children to interact with people on a global scale it isn’t the same as face to face interaction. This coming from an avid blogger and twitter reader. I appreciate the use of the internet in creating new communities, but it isn’t a replacement for being outside with your friends.

The lost words takes these nature words to use as a basis for an acrostic poem. One poem for each word. Then each word has a title page of the word and then an illustration page. Presented as a beautiful A3 hardback the artwork gets the space it deserves. It feels like a quality package, but is selling at a very reasonable price for something that feels so special. I’ve been a fan of Jackie Morris’s artwork after buying, “something about a bear”. I went onto buy many more of her beautifully illustrated books. The style is perfectly matched to Robert MacFarlane’s words. MacFarlane’s nature writing has been nominated and won many accolades over the years. The partnership between the two on the lost words is a perfect blend. The poems are written as spells. These poems are wonderful fodder for the imagination.

While Alice is currently to young for understanding the poems I like the idea that in the future we use the book as a basis for a wildlife treasure hunt. A fieldguide for childhood lost. We’d attempt to find all the items from the book. Some are readily available in our garden, some would require hunting. A book to go back to again and again. It’s currently making for a perfect fireside read during the cold Winter nights.

And as if by magic a goldfinch has been summoned to my garden.

Birds of a feather

Having written about my new bird feeder I think it’s a good time to look at what I am getting in the garden. Often Summer is quite a quiet time for the feeders with an abundance of food around for the birds they can find themselves. But with the sporadic weather going back and forth between torrential rain and baking sun when the sun is shining the birds are looking to fill up on high energy foods.

Nothing puts the pigeons off coming to the feeders. Even in the rain they will sit out on the feeder getting plumper.

With lots of young sparrows around the feeders have seen the house sparrows back and forth on lots of visits.

The starlings have been swarming in large numbers, then flitting off as quickly as they came.

The blackbirds have been enjoying the wet ground, picking though for the worms come to the surface.

The goldfinches mentioned in a previous blog.

I’ve almost seen the whole tit family. There have been blue tits, great tits, long tailed and coal tits. Although I haven’t managed any photos of the coal tits.

The ever present herring gull shed mafia has been keeping watch over its domain.

I’ve also seen wrens, collared doves, jackdaws, chaffinches and thrushes. Part of the reason for getting so many I believe is down to the variety of food on the feeders. The tits seem to be going mad for the suet and peanuts. The jackdaws come for the meal worms and kitchen scraps. The pigeons seem to devour everything. The finches like the niger and the sunflower heads.

I also have feeders on different levels. Some ground feeders and some up higher on the station. Then I also have some located hanging in the trees and these seem to be favoured by the smaller birds. It’s worth trying putting more than just a seed mix out if you want to attract a variety of birds. Or if there is something you particularly want put out appropriate food.

The insect life has also been pretty good with a good variety of butterflies, dragonflies and bees coming in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour through my garden birds and all have good weekends.

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I’ll finish with an Emily Browning poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.