Henbane

All parts of henbane are very poionous. Nevertheless, for centuries it has been used as a treatment and cure for various ailments. And it remains in use for medicinal purposes to this day.

As a poison, one of the best known victims of henbane was the wife of Dr Crippen: he is said to have used an extract of the plant to kill her.

Henbane flower, June 2014, Anglesey
Henbane flower, June 2014, Anglesey

Some people find henbane flowers attractive. They’re certainly fascinating in a slightly ghoulish kind of way:) It’s a biennial plant which can be grown from seed, preferring a light, calcareous soil. But you really must be ultra-cautious if you do grow it: it’s poisonous to pets and livestock too, not just humans; and some books even claim that just sniffing its bruised leaves can cause you to faint.  Indeed one of the Welsh names for the plant is Llewyg yr Iar – meaning to make hens faint.

Plants for butterflies: hemp agrimony

Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) is one of the very best plants for attracting butterflies: even better than buddleia. Despite its name, it has nothing at all to do with cannabis or hemp.

Hemp agrimony flowers with red admiral and peacock butterflies.
Hemp agrimony flowers with red admiral and peacock butterflies.

Hemp agrimony is a hardy perennial that is native to the UK. Although seldom grown as a garden plant, it is certainly worth considering if you are planning a wildlife area in your garden.  It prefers soils that are moist a good deal of the time and quite a sunny position. Although it can be grown from seed, it is simpler and more reliable to divide a clump if you know somebody who has some they can share with you.

The flowers, a frothy mass of pale pinky-mauve appear in July and August – just in time for many butterflies. The dried flowers and leaves of hemp agrimony are sometimes used as an infusion which has a mildly cleansing and toning effect.

Lavender from seed – update at nearly four months

It’s taken almost four months, but the plants grown from seed sown in February are now more or less the same size as a micro-module would be at purchase.

This is the same seedling that I've followed all the way through.
This is the same seedling that I’ve followed all the way through.
These are the micro-module (cuttings) that we used to establish a field plot of lavender.
These are the micro-modules (cuttings) that we used to establish a field plot of lavender.

The verdict:

The lavender seeds germinated and emerged very well – and much more quickly than I expected, almost all had emerged within 14 days of sowing.

They grew very slowly – but they weren’t mollycoddled and were outside in very harsh conditions. Definitely not the ideal way to grow them, and it probably set the seedlings back by six weeks to two months.

The blackbirds loved them – they uprooted lots of the seedlings: just pulling them up for fun (same with some lavender cuttings I had growing at the same time).

The slugs loved them.  I planted a lot of seedlings out in a patch in the garden, thinking it would save me bother and produce stronger plants. But the slugs really went for them and I ended up digging the least damaged back up and putting them back in pots. So much for that being labour saving:)

The real proof of whether growing lavender from seed has been a success will only be seen over the next few years. Then I’ll be able to see what the adult plants actually look like and how they perform.

So far, I’d say if you’re not in a hurry and have the time to look after the plants, growing lavender from seeds is really easy. But, if you want a quick result and guaranteed consistency in the appearance of the plants, buying (or taking) cuttings is a better bet.

This was the post showing how things looked like seven weeks after sowing.

And here are a couple of the plants now, four years later (May 2017).

25072017lavender_s
Lavender (Munstead) sown as seed four years ago just coming into flower, May 2017 (how time flies!)

, just coming into flower.

 

Lovage – Levisticum officinale

The lovage seeds sown on 27th February have grown into sturdy young plants. Today, they were planted out into their final positions.

Cotyledon stage - 19th March (20 days after sowing).
Cotyledon stage – 19th March (20 days after sowing).

Lovage ready for planting out (109 days after sowing)
Lovage ready for planting out (109 days after sowing)lovage roots

 

Most guidelines say that the seed is difficult to germinate if not sown in the autumn it was formed: this wasn’t my experience – I had 100% germination and emergence from this late February sowing.

Lovage is a tall, herbaceous perennial: it needs plenty of space, but will reward you year after year with a plentiful supply of celery-ish flavoured leaves. Because it will die down over winter, leaves need to be harvested and dried or frozen for year-round use.