Category Archives: plants

More British Wild Flowers.

Today I’m going to talk about something that is useful as well as pretty. this flower graces our hedgerows every spring and gives us wonderful free fruit in the summer.

I am, of course, referring to the Bramble.

Bramble fruits are known as blackberries because of their black colour. And they are delicious in a pie or crumble, especially when paired with apples.

Image by Gábor Adonyi from Pixabay

As you can see, the fruit is red before it turns black, but it is only ripe when black. The red fruits are hard and sour. Each ‘fruit’ is made up of a number of small

Brambles are found in hedgerows and have long, thorny stems. Gathering them can be a somewhat painful experience, but well worth the occasional scratch.

If you wait too long to go out foraging for this delicious fruit, you will find the wildlife has got there before you. Not only humans, but the birds enjoy this fruit as well as a variety of insects.

Brambles belong to the Rosaceae family, which also includes the rose. Five heart-shaped petals and five sepals. The leaves are divided into three or five serrated leaflets. The leaf stalks are also prickly.

They grow almost anywhere, and have long roots which, I can tell you from experience, are almost impossible to get up. In spite of their wonderful fruits, they are a nuisance when they appear in your garden. They can root and produce new plants if the stems touch the ground, thus quickly taking over. This isn’t a problem in the hedges or scrubland, but not welcome in the garden.

Having said that, they are important to wildlife. They are a food source for bees, both honey and bumble. Some caterpillars eat their leaves, and foxes badgers, mice and birds eat the berries. A large clump will also provide a good habitat for wildlife, especially grass snakes (which, incidentally, are harmless).

You can buy cultivated blackberries in the supermarkets, but why would you do that? You can get this fruit absolutely free, and it’s a great afternoon out with the kids.

Just be sure that everyone has long sleeves, and if you have a dog, make sure he doesn’t like them, too. I had a dog that enjoyed them, abd we couldn’t put the bowl of gathered fruit down or he’d eat them.

FUN FACT.

I gave the name of Bramble to a dog that attached itself to Fero in my Wolves of Vimar series, Book 2, The Never Dying Man.

(Here are links to Book 1, The Wolf Pack, and Book 3, Wolf Moon.)

If you want to make a blackberry and apple crumble, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

  1. Peel and slice the apples and mix with the washed blackberries and put into an ovenproof dish, size depending on how much fruit you have.
  2. Add sugar to the blackberries and apples, according to your taste.
  3. In a large bowl, sift 170 grammes (6 oz ) of plain (all purpose) flour.
  4. Add 85 grammes (3oz) softened butter, cut into small pieces. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Add 85 grammes (3oz) of caster sugar and mix well in.
  6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the fruit and press down slightly.
  7. Sprinkle with sugar (optional) and cook in a pre-heated oven, 180C, until golden brown.
  8. Serve with custard or ice cream.

You can alter the quantities of crumble mix depending on the amount of fruit you have.

I had some of the mix left over last time I made a crumble. I seemed a waste to throw it away, so I pressed some into a couple of biscuit moulds and put them in the oven. I cooked them until they were golden brown. They turned out to be rather sweet, but crunchy biscuits!

For more recipes, and a few old-fashioned hints, you can buy Viv’s Family Recipes by clicking on the link, or the book cover in the sidebar. You can then choose your favourite book site to buy.

In this recipe book I give some tried and trusted recipes from my family and friends, as well as some from my grandma, dated 1909. (Most of which I’ve not tried! They are very carb and fat-heavy, and many require long cooking. But it’s interesting to see what they used to eat in days gone by.)

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Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

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British Wild Flowers: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Many of you will have heard of the book by Alexander, Dumas, The Scarlet Pimpernel. This story told of a British aristocrat who rescued French aristocrats in the Revolution. He got his name because he took as his emblem a simple, small red flower.

This flower is also known as Poor Man’s Weathervane, or, according to the Wildlife Trust, Old Man’s Weathervane, or Shepherd’s Weathervane, but where I come from originally, it was Poor Man’s Weathervane!

This simple little flower got its name because it closes its petals when the pressure falls, and bad weather is on the way.

It is a pretty little flower that was once a weed of cereal crops, is now in decline because of the way farmers now farm the land, spraying crops with herbicides to maximise their yield. It is now found mainly in gardens and roadside banks, and other waste ground.

It is easily overlooked because of its small size, which is a pity, because it’s a pretty little flower.

The picture, which I got from Pixabay, makes it look larger than it is in real life. The flowers are only about 1 cm across. I think it’s a lovely little flower and I hope it doesn’t decline further.

I have one small plant in my garden that comes back each year, and I hope it stays. I don’t think of it as a weed, because a weed is a plant growing where you don’t want it, and I want this wild, little beauty.

Do you have a favourite wild flower? If so, what is it? Where does it grow?

Please leave your comments and answers in the comments box.

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

Wild Flowers of Britain. 1. The Dandelion

Some people will refer to these plants as weeds. But what is a weed? Grass growing on your lawn is not a weed, but if it grows between your beloved flowers in the flowerbed, then it is.

In the above case, the grass is growing where you don’t want it, hence it’s a weed. So a weed is any plant growing where it’s not wanted.

I have, in the past, bought plants from garden centres and put them in my garden. Sometimes I regretted it as they wanted to take over the whole garden, even though they might be pretty. They have become weeds.

A weed is a plant growing in the wrong place.

So here are a few wild flowers, not growing in the wrong place!

The first of these is one that is often disparaged, and called a weed wherever it grows. That’s the Dandelion.

These plants are so-called from the French, ‘dent-de-lion’, meaning ‘lion’s tooth’. If you look at the leaves, you can see how this name came about. However, the French call it ‘piss-en-lit’ or ‘wee the bed.’

When I was growing up, we told each other not to pick dandelions or we’d wet the bed. There is a miniscule truth in this as the sap of the plant has diuretic properties.

I also believe that the leaves make a spicy addition to a salad, but I’ve never tried it myself.

When we were growing up, we used to call the seed heads ‘Dandelion clocks’. We blew the seeds of, counting ‘one o’clock, two o’clock etc’ until all the seeds were gone. then that was the time. We never really believed it, but it was a fun thing to do. And it helped spread the dandelion seeds.

Personally I like dandelions. They are lovely flowers, and make a bright carpet in the springtime on roadside banks.

Here is a picture of a field of dandelions in Parthenay, France, just outside the walls.

I have a vague memory of being told that during WW2, people used to make coffee from the long tap roots. It would certainly be caffeine free! Anyone who has ever tried to dig up a dandelion can testify to those roots!

Dandelions, though, have a high propensity for absorbing things around them, that includes weedkillers and pesticides, as well as heavy metals such as lead, so it is as well not to eat them from anywhere near roads, or places where herbicides and pesticides can be absorbed.

Wikipedia tells me that dandelion flowers were used to make a pale yellow dye, and the inner ribs of the leaves made a purple one.

They can self-pollinate, which is useful for them as they flower early, so they can pollinate themselves before insects are around, but their bright yellow flowers attract bees as soon as they emerge in the spring. Be careful of using herbicides on them, though, as it can harm or kill the pollinating insects.

And, of course, the Rolling Stones made a song about this flower. Here’s a link to YouTube so you can listen to it.

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A visit to the National Botanical Gardens of Wales

Last September I had a holiday in South Wales. It was one that had been cancelled during lockdown, but now we could go on holiday once more.

The weather was fantastic, and two things pleased us. The first was that a leg of the Tour of Britain (cycling) was starting from the local town. The second was that The National Botanical Gardens of Wales was just down the road.

These gardens are in the Towy valley in Carmarthenshire. They were opened in 2000 on the site of a mansion belonging to a family called Middleton. They built their mansion here in the early 17th century. It was bought in 1789 by Sir William Paxton, who had the idea of turning it into a water park.

There is a lot of history to this place, and you can find out more on Wikipedia, by following this link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Botanic_Garden_of_Wales

We visited these gardens twice, and I thought I would share some of the pictures I took with you.

Here they are.

The Dome was divided into areas representing different parts of the world.

I don’t know what this plant is, but it’s interesting.

This was the apothecary’s hall with an interesting apothecary’s garden behind.

I was intrigued by this poem. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the garden behind the hall.

In the tropical house there were many plants in flower. Here are some of them.

And finally, not from Wales, but my garden. It’s a pity I can’t post the scent of the daphne bush. It’s wonderful. This was last year, and it’s even better this year.

I love to hear your thoughts, so please add your comments to the comments box.

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)