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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a native plant that is quite often grown as a culinary herb. It is perennial and robust.
The leaves taste a little bit of cucumber. To get nice juicy leaves, the plant needs quite a moist, rich soil otherwise they have a tendency to be bitter and dry. The plant is rich in tannins and generally astringent: the Sanguisorba part of the Latin name means “blood absorbing” and it has been used to staunch wounds, but mainly it is a culinary herb.
Tortrix moth caterpillars stitch leaves together to provide a little shelter for themselves, and then they graze away unseen inside their little tent of leaves. They’re a regular problem for me on choisya and rosemary, but today I found one on a young lovage plant. They seem to favour the strongly aromatic plants, leaving most others alone.
The only way to deal with them, because they are hidden inside the leaves, is to nip the affected part out. If you open up the leaves they have stitched together the caterpillar will thrash around quite wildly in a bid to escape and find cover again: and then, you’ll quite likely drop it.
It amazes me that such a soft and juicy little caterpillar is able to pull together and then glue quite firmly tough, leathery leaves like those of choisya. But I’m not impressed enough to spare them!
Ants tend to get a bad press in the gardening world: they farm aphids, they tunnel everywhere, and they sometimes bite or squirt you with formic acid.
But sometimes ants are beneficial, acting as pollinators to flowering plants. Othertimes, they are simple thieves – drinking nectar without transferring pollen. I think the latter is the case in this situation with the ant “stealing” nectar from a rosemary flower.