Sunday, 11 November 2012


Garden Ramblings

      I have a theory that, at any one time, about a fifth of the world’s population is standing in its  bedroom, scratching the collective head, and thinking ‘what the hell did I come up here for’. Which gives rise to the old joke about the high speed chair lift that’ll get you up there before you forget what you’ve gone for. It also leads neatly into the subject of forget-me-nots: there are a number of stories about how the plant got its name and probably the most prominent of these is that of the German Knight who picked a bunch of them for his beloved then slipped into a river. His metal armour was dragging him down but, as he surfaced for the last time, he was still holding the flowers and threw them to the bank, shouting ‘forget me not’. This seems unlikely to me, a more believable request, as she romantically bent to pick them up, being: ‘sod the flowers - toss the lifebelt’ – a phrase probably mis-translated by some failed German student. Whatever the truth of the story, it certainly presented a strong case for armour that floats.

Forget-me-nots at Arley Hall

      The forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) happily seeds itself after flowering in spring and the old plants can be removed to the compost heap. Clumps of the soft, hairy, leaves of new plants quickly appear after rainfall and shouldn’t be mistaken for weeds as they will guarantee a wonderful show the following spring.

Frost On Greenhouse Glass
      A lot of beauty in the garden comes only indirectly from your own work. As we’ve seen, the forget-me-not (and a number of other plants like Verbascum and foxglove) will perform the same unsolicited display feats as long as we don’t get carried away with the control- freak approach to gardening: hoeing out everything that we didn’t actually plant, on the basis that it must be a weed. Which brings me to another aspect of gardening: looking. Look at (or listen to) a great work of art and you'll find something new each time; concentration reveals hidden depth. The same with nature’s art in the garden. There’s a trick in looking, and rather than seeing the next job, appreciating what’s already there. The temporary aspects of nature give it an added zing, because what is there now may soon be gone forever.
Colour Pallet

       The trouble with common names is that often different plants get called the same thing, whereas the scientific one cuts through confusion by only referring to one subject. 'Forget-me-not' has a more romantic ring than 'Myosotis sylvatica' but, in fairness, Myosotis (meaning 'mouse ear' and referring to the appearance of the leaves) and sylvatica (meaning 'liking woodland') actually comes closer to telling you something about its appearance and natural habitat. Just when all this starts to make a bit of sense though, the botanists will sometimes step in and change the scientific name. They have good reason for this, but it gets steam coming out of gardeners' ears, so I'll explain it in another blog. I got the idea of adopting this 'next week' technique from the Saturday morning serial at the pictures: Buck Jones has just gone over a cliff on a waggon when the announcer's voice bawls out that we can 'see the next thrilling episode at this theatre next week'. The following week we find that Buck (who we definitely saw disappear over the edge) actually jumped off just before he got there.


      Another German legend about the naming of the forget-me-not concerns God: he was handing out names to all the plants when the Myosotis, concerned about being left out, shouted ‘forget me not’. At this, God, who was a bit knackered by this time (have you seen how many plants there are), boomed ‘ok, that does it for me’. And the rest, as they say, is history.

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous pictures. I particularly love the pink leaf.