Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Rape in the Garden..

In the midst of the lush fullness of early summer something sinister lurks. In dark corners, innocent green leaves and bright flowers give way to an altogether more malevolent breed of plants.
In the woodland, perched above the high cliffs where jackdaws circle cawing their own clattering nonsense, a stange and rather remarkable plant has burst through the leaf litter with breathtaking speed. Three weeks ago there wasn’t a trace of it and now, metre-high spikes of deep purple flowers.
It is an orchid, Limodorum abortivum, which spends up to ten years growing quietly underground, parasitising the fungi of the woodland floor before deciding it’s time for a bit of sex. It doesn’t bother with mundane things like leaves or branches, just roots to feast and flowers to fornicate. If I get reincarnated as a plant I hope it’s this one!
Now seems to be the moment for such charlatans plants to shine. A broomrape (Orobanche) has appeared in the cold frames, much to everyone’s amazement. It’s no-where near as pretty as the orchid - more of a cross between asparagus and a yellow deadnettle - but interesting nonetheless. 

Broomrapes are a large group of parasitic plants - often mere curiosities to gardeners in Eurasia, but serious pests to farmers elsewhere in the world. There are hundreds of different kinds adapted to grow on everything from ivy to yarrow to potatoes.
And finally... one I didn’t just 'find'. Back in the winter M said to me “Here’s some mistletoe, think you can grow it?”  To which I said “errrm”.
We let the berries ripen on the cut sprigs until early March, then I smeared the berries on branches of an olive tree (better not tell The Olive Man) and this is the result:

PS apologies for the lack of pictures on this entry. Will post more when I get a replacement memory card for the one that has just died...

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