Garden of Death- Welcome to the Darkside!

*Warning* this blog contains pictures of spiders!

You have the ‘Garden of Eden’ so why not have a … Garden of Death!

“In gardens, beauty is a by-product.  The main business is sex and death.”  ~Sam Llewelyn … Probably the truest garden quote there is.

The Garden peaceful and tranquil!

So what is a garden of death?

Well, all of them: the plants, wildlife from both the ground and the air… it is all around us.

Every garden has its potential killers, poisonous plants, silent assassins, aerial attackers and also those cuddly little pets that have a habit of bringing in near dead animals as a little present for you.

So for the animals that call the garden their home, every day is a battle for survival and for many, they are never very far from their potential killer.

As for living in the UK, a lot of the wildlife poses little or no threat to us humans but now and then, it may give us a nasty bite or sting. Being a Head Gardener, I have often wondered what it must be like writing a risk assessment in a Australian gardens department concerning the wildlife. Where the crocodiles, snakes, spiders, scorpions and countless other creatures pose a very serious threat to human life.

It is when we get to our plants, is when it gets really interesting … real killers are involved …

Devils Coach Horse Beetle

From the middle ages this cuddly looking critter has been associated with the Devil!

It takes on the pose of a scorpion when threatened by raising its abdomen and widening its jaws. It can also emit a foul smell from its abdomen area and excrete a nasty fluid from its mouth … can give a nasty bite but is not dangerous to humans.

It is mainly a nocturnal predator feeding on slugs, worms, spiders and woodlice etc along with carrion. Often can be found during the day under logs and stones.

Garden Spider

Beautiful varied coloured spider, that produces the most intricate of all webs to catch their prey.

They feed on mainly flying insects that are unlucky enough to land on her web including Wasps.

She builds a silken egg sac to lay her eggs in before she dies in the autumn … the spiderlings hatch out in the following spring … ah!

Woodlouse spider

Now this little terror I would not pick up! Why? (because I’m a chicken) This is one of only a few spiders in this country that can give you a nasty bite … plus it is an ugly looking bugger!

There venom is not dangerous but the bite can be painful, some have suffered an allergic reaction to the venom.

Mainly nocturnal hunters, their favourite prey being the woodlouse. It can be found during the day under logs, stones and other debris … you’d better check under the duvet tonight.

Grass snake

Non venomous, their prey is mainly amphibians but sometimes it will take small mammals; they are also a very good swimmer.

It is our largest snake, often found in compost heaps, near streams or ditches; they will do no damage in your garden and are not aggressive.

Adder

Our only venomous snake, they feed on small mammals and Lizards and are widely distributed throughout the UK; they prefer areas of acidic soil mainly woodland and heathland. Very rarely seen in the garden.

Their bite is said not to be serious to a healthy adult human, but medical attention is needed if you are bitten.

Wasp

Winged demons … evil little sods!

Seriously, very important part of the ecosystem, eating flies, aphids, caterpillars as well as being sweet toothed munching on  fruit, nectar and rubbish. Wasps, like bees are important pollinators.

Now for the plants.

The wildlife would happily find their own way in, but what if you were putting a garden of death together; what plants could you put in the garden?

Many, unlike some of the wildlife, are often beautiful in appearance and on first glance show no signs of being a potential killer.

The Laburnum

All parts of this tree are poisonous. It is the seed pods that are usually eaten by children, that can cause nausea and vomiting; can be fatal if a large quantity is eaten.

Taxus baccata (Yew)

All parts, except from the flesh of the berries is poisonous! Often with no symptoms when poisoning occurs, death may follow within a few hours.  If symptoms do occur, it is usually coldness, trembling and a weak pulse. Yew still remains poisonous even when the plant dies.

Aconitum napellus

It is one of the most poisonous plants in the garden, along with being one of the most popular. Only a small amount will give you a serious gastric upset, it’s the effect on the heart which can be the cause of death.

Datura (Angels Trumpet)

Datura/Brugmansia can cause confusion, delirium and hallucinations if eaten, along with drowsiness and sleep. All parts of the plant is poisonous, and again it can be fatal if eaten.

Digitalis (Foxglove)

Yet another very popular garden plant. Affects the heart by slowing it down thus causing heart attacks, can be fatal.

Hemlock

Often a case of mistaken identity. It is the member of the carrot and fennel family and has been mistaken for an edible! It attacks the nervous system and death is usually the result of respiratory failure.

Colchicum autumnale (Naked Ladies)

Muscle weakness, gastric problems, organ failure, blood clots, convulsions, respiratory arrest leading to a slow agonising death.

Deadly Nightshade

This for some is the most well-known of all the poisonous plants. Causing, dilated pupils, dryness in the mouth, thirst, problems swallowing, slurred speech, vomiting, confusion, convulsions all which can go on for days and then death.

The list is endless when it comes to poisonous plants.

It rages from plants that can give you a slight dodgy stomach complaint, all the way to a very slow agonising death … and just think I didn’t even mention any mushrooms.

Gardens are a very beautiful, peaceful and relaxing place to be in but also a place to give a certain amount of respect to….

Now in Sam Llewelyn’s quote at the beginning, it mentions both sex and death, now I have written a lot about death but nothing on sex. Well, I did have a go at this (the writing that is) but due to my rather childish nature, the first paragraph was littered with innuendo’s and double entendres, so I thought I couldn’t possibly leave that in; so I remove it completely.

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Wordless Wednesday: Lily – Robert Griesbach

Whole Lotta Rose(y)

No, this isn’t one of those Rock blogs … but there is a music link at the end.

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.”
~ Dale Carnegie

Rosa ‘The Garland’

The Rose, found in nearly every garden and is loved by most gardeners and non-gardeners. I say most … there has been one or two gardeners that I have met who swear blind to not liking even a single Rose.

They are often highly scented flowers in the summer and autumn. making Roses a popular garden favourite.

The rose is, according to fossil evidence, 35 million years old. The cultivation of roses most probably began in in the far east around 5000 years ago, and we now have well over 30,000 varieties … plenty to choose from then.

Rosa ‘Guinee’

In Greek mythology, it was the goddess Aphrodite gave the Rose it’s name but it was the goddess of flowers, Chloris who created it. It has also been used as a symbol for love, war and politics.

It is said that the floors of Cleopatra’s palace were carpeted with Rose petals, and that Confucius had a 600 book library on how to care for Roses.

Don’t know the name of this one- but it is an absolute beauty with a wonder full scent.

“Perfumes are the feelings of flowers, and as the human heart, imagining itself alone and unwatched, feels most deeply in the night-time, so seems it as if the flowers, in musing modesty, await the mantling eventide ere they give themselves up wholly to feeling, and breathe forth their sweetest odours. Flow forth, ye perfumes of my heart, and seek beyond these mountains the dear one of my dreams!” ~Heinrich Heine

Rosa Anna Livia

There are many different groups of Roses but my two favourites has to be the Climbers and the Ramblers. A beautifully trained climber can also look in the winter as well as the summer, a well trained framework is always pleasing to the eye. As for the Rambler, it can be grown up a tree, a pillar or spiral it around a support.

Rosa ‘The Garland’ again I know- but what a beauty.

Rosa Veichenblua

“A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.”~ Clive Bell

Rosa ‘Dublin Bay’

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily
do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.
If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”~ Therese of Lisieux

Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’

Rosa ‘Coopers Burmese’

“Do not watch the petals fall from the rose with sadness; know that, like life, things sometimes must fade, before they can bloom again.”

This one has been for my Uncle Brian, get well soon mate and for gods sake in future … do as you bloody told.

Wordless Wednesday: Bees part2

Sorry- This Garden is Now Closed

Have You Ever Seen The Rain….

Ah, it’s Saturday and time for a lay in… well that was plan A.

The overnight rain put pay to that one.

At at 7.30 am, I received a text from one of my gardeners telling me that a flood warning had been issued on Bin Brook. Around 9.00 am I received a phone call from the same gardener, saying that Bin Brook had burst it’s banks and large parts of the garden were under water. But more worrying was this picture he sent me….

Time to call back up.

Three of us went to assess the situation. The water level was only a couple of inches below the entrance of the hives…. more help was needed. So while waiting for the Bee experts to arrive we decided to check out the rest of the garden…

Status Quo – Rain

The Backs…

Back to the Bees…

After awhile the Bee people arrived, and the only way we could safely, save the Bee’s was to raise the height of the hives. Which was not going to be easy as they were becoming more active and also, this would have to be done standing in approximately two feet of water. The one-thing that was on our side, we had noticed that the water level was beginning to slowly go down.

Three went in to lift the hives and place extra height under the them, two done the lifting whilst the other placed the in the extra supports. While me and another gardener stood at the edge of the flood water slipping on our Nike running shoes, just in-case… well you can’t be too careful.

Success….

With the flood water receding and a drier weather forecast for the next couple of days, it will give us time to re-assess the situation.

Who’ll Stop The Rain.

No Bee’s were harmed in the making of this blog- but one gardener did receive three stings… the Bee’s obviously did not appreciate what we were trying to do for them.

Having the floods in our gardens wasn’t all bad news, there was something that did put a big smile on my face… but unfortunately- I can’t tell you 😉

Wordless Wednesday: Angelica archangelica

Hemingford Grey Manor (Green Knowe)

Now, this one is close to my heart.

It wouldn’t have mattered how many gardens I have worked in by the time I hang my boots up… this one will always be my favourite.

I have known about this house and garden all my life, like I said in my first blog, my Grandad ,this garden and the previous owner a Lucy Boston are the very reasons why I am gardening today. I also was very lucky to work there on work experience whilst still at school, then for a short while after I left school.

As a kid I always loved going to visit my Nan and Grandad who both worked there for many years, my Nan as a cleaner and my Grandad as a gardener. When Mrs Boston was not busy she would also spend time telling me the odd ghost story and, giving me a tour of the house and garden… I had many a tour as a child.

Wooden Mouse

The Manor.

The Manor was built-in the 1130’s, and is one of the oldest continually inhabited houses in Britain. It has had many changes over the years, but the original part of the house is virtually as it was over 900 years ago.

Lucy Boston wrote a series of children’s books called Green Knowe that where based on the house and garden, my two personal favourites being the ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ and ‘The Chimney’s of Green Knowe’. To this very day you can still see many of the items mentioned in the books, in and around both the house and garden, one of the items being a small wooden mouse.

I last visited the house in July 2008 and on that visit I still got the same magical feeling when I entered the Children’s Attic as I did as a child. Full of wonderful goodies for children both young and old, including a rocking horse and a set of very old marbles.

Children’s Attic

During the Second World war, Lucy Boston held classical music evenings for the local RAF men in the Music room. The gramophone is still working to this day.

Music Room

The Garden.

Loved the house… love the garden even more. For me it has always been a magical place even to this day. Even though I spent a lot of my time working alone, the one thing you never felt and that was, alone… but it never was uncomfortable.

The garden itself is approximately four acres in size and is surrounded by a moat. The main feature of the garden are the Yew topiary chess pieces laid out over the garden, some of them standing over six feet in height. I was given the wonderful job of clipping the chess pieces when I was only sixteen, I can assure you that the nerves were jangling away when I was doing this job.

Yew chess pieces

There are also over  two hundred old roses in the garden, along with a collection of Irises containing many Dykes medal winners. It has large herbaceous borders that contain many scented plants, this garden is a great garden to go exploring in; as you will never know what you will find next.

Herbaceous border

Lucy Boston died on the 25th May 1990 after suffering a stroke two months earlier aged 97. A wonderful spirited lady for whom I have a lot thank her for, she still managed to garden for many hours a day well into her nineties.

The house and garden today is owned by Lucy’s daughter in law Diana Boston. The garden itself is open everyday no appointment needed, but the house is by appointment only; I do strongly recommend that you see both house and garden.

If you do ever visit, the one thing I would recommend if you haven’t done already, is read ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ before visiting.

The Children of Green Knowe, written in 1954

………………………………….

One of many quilts that Lucy Boston made.

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