April Newsletter 2012

We are all busy on the nursery now with Easter behind us. The weather took a definite turn for the worse over the bank holiday weekend – gone were the warm sunny days to be replaced by wind and rain. Not much fun for all the guys out at the shows.

We have provided a banquet for the mice and voles this winter. They took a particular fancy to the saffron leaves as they came up and then progressed to the garlic. Their initial attack involved them pulling out the individual cloves and eating the roots off the bottom, then once the leaves started growing they nibbled these down from the top. Good to know we have such connoisseurs amongst our wildlife. For years we have had three or four farm cats around the nursery, but are currently down to one who is eighteen this year and I think slacking off in the mouse catching department.

 As usual the Pulsatilla was one of the first herbs of the year to come into flower. They are beautiful flowers and native in our bit of Southern England. They grow chalky soils such as Devils Dyke in Cambridgeshire – a great chalk earthwork ditch where it is said Edward the Elder slaughtered  the Danes of East Anglia in 905 and which gives Pulsatilla two of its other names, Danes Flower or Danes Blood. It is also called Pasque flower because it blooms around Easter time.

It belongs to the buttercup family and contains glycoside ranunculin which makes the herb quite toxic in its fresh state. It is sold dried and ground and used to treat diseases of the male and female reproductive organs along with inflammation of the respiratory tract. It should not be used during pregnancy and should be properly administered in therapeutic doses.

We have a handful of new herbs this season, one of which is Ashwaganda or winter cherry (withania somnifera). It is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine and belongs to the solanacae family – that’s potatoes and tomatoes for those not in the know. It can grow up to six foot in height and has small inconspicuous flowers followed by small red berries containing yellow seeds. It is high in alkaloids and traditionally the roots are used for conditions such as nervous exhaustion, insomnia, wasting diseases, diminished brain function and fatigue. It is also well known for its rejuvenating and life extending properties. As a plant native to the Indian continent, unfortunately it wouldn’t be hardy over winter in the UK.

There are a few new faces in the team this year and I am hoping to get Tony out with his camera in the next week or two to take some new mug shots for the team pages of the website.

Lorraine