31 May 2008

bee catchers, snoxum and fairy weed

I've spent a number of days this week at home studying, well for a few hours a day at least. The cool weather and grey skies have made this easier. But this white foxglove has been seducing me to go out into our very small London garden.

We used to have a clutch of these in the garden at one time, but they gradually disappeared over the years. The seed originally came from the garden of a friend who lived out in North Norfolk, years ago. They've been variously sown in a number of John's gardens over the years. We think the seed must have returned back here in the soil of some aloe vera which John moved here earlier this year.

My Englishman's Flora lists over a hundred regional names for foxgloves. Names linked to fairies, thimbles, fingers, ladies and virgins, dogs, dragons, even clothes pegs. Snoxum comes from Gloucestershire; Fairy Weed from Ireland; bee catchers from Somerset.

I like the idea of bee catchers, those dotty flight paths enticing the bees up into the corollas. And there were certainly lots of bees around this week, hovering in and out.

Fairies are also supposed to have given the flowers to foxes to wear as magic gloves to make them invisible. And according to Irish folklore, "fairy weed" is the only plant that can bring back children who have gone away; powerful too for dealing with children left by the fairies.

We have around 60 young people in the garden. They're getting louder and I'm getting more stressed. I might have to invoke some fairy powers later. Or sooner.


Elizabeth said...

I love foxgloves, but our weather in this part of California, isn't always the best. They do well near by in Berkeley,and San Francisco,but not over the hill in the East Bay Area,so I can't plant any of these charming plants. They always remind me of Beatrix Potter water colors :)

colleen said...

You are so right about B Potter. I had not thought about that, but I've just consulted the garden expert and he thinks that Mr Tod had some.