These notes were found in the desk of our former garden writer Colin Will some time after he stepped down as our regular columnist here at The Trendy Garden. Unfortunately the flowers he describes do not bear any scientific names which would help to identify them more precisely. Dr Will has not responded to our enquiries on the subject, but we thought you, our loyal readers, might like to see if any of them are growing in your gardens at home.
Thomas Culpepper, Editor, The Trendy Garden
Bummerty’s one of those flowers
that always brings out a smile.
Their wee blue and yellow petals
are like faces, with black eyes
and a jammy mouth.
You have to hunker down
really close to see them.
Most of the time you come across
a Swedish carpet of them
in a woodland clearing.
See – you’re smiling. Knew you would.
Purple Anstruther, as the name suggests,
is a seashore weed, thriving beside
those tidal streams that run both ways,
pumping smelly water up and down
from farmland to saltmarsh,
in and out to sea. It’s tall,
as it has to be, for when Moon,
Sun and Earth are in alignment
their stems are submerged. Some years
storm surges wash them all away.
Pity. They’re bonny things.
Often confused with Common Musket,
this hedgerow plant likes full sun
and a well-drained soil.
A metre tall in favourable spots,
the flowers are mauve, not the deep purple
of the Common kind. Ripe seed-pods
burst open with a sound like gunshots.
Not Kalashnikov or automatic pistol,
maybe a small-bore Mauser, more a crack
than a bang. But loud enough
to startle blackbirds, frighten wrens.
Rambling, spreading, giving good
ground cover, this can be thuggish
in the suburban garden.
The stems are wiry, tough
and knotted. As the name suggests
it can catch the careless foot
on a summer walk, but this releases
such a sweet scent it’s almost worth it.
Pink flowers in delicate panicles
rise above the clumps, soft candles
on a green birthday cake.
A plant of sunlit uplands, mountain moorland,
the sunbristle nestles in the lea
of tough tussock grass. It’s carnivorous,
specifically arachnivorous, preferring spiders
to any other food source.
Ground-hunting spiders, seeking height
from which to launch an ambush,
climb its long red bristle where,
at the tip, a sticky droplet,
more tenacious than superglue,
leads to remorseless digestion.
Opinions are divided on the plant’s benefits.
The old herbals pronounce only
that it wards off serpents
and may cure whimsy, but
no medical effects have been proved.
Dr Snoddy, in his apothecary shops,
sold a tincture, an alcohol extract,
for treatment of the scruples.
Crushed stems release the smell
of vigorous sex – one trusts
between consenting adults.
Colin is a poet, short story writer and saxophonist from Dunbar in East Lothian. His new book of poems, The Night I Danced With Maya, will be published by Red Squirrel Press on 22nd July, his 75th birthday. www.colinwill.co.uk