Ah Sweet

Sweet Chestnut
Sweet Chestnut

A couple of weeks ago, when we were talking to the guy who planted the Horse Chestnut trees, he mentioned that he had also planted a Sweet Chestnut tree – just over there. Naturally we started to look ‘just over there’ to see if we could pinpoint a tree that looked as though it had been planted – rather than it had just volunteered. It didn’t take us long to spot a sprightly young specimen who still had the tatters of one of those plastic tubes young trees are planted in, hanging round his knees. As he is now fifteen to twenty feet high, it is fairly safe to say that he has outgrown the need for its protection.

We blame this one on the Romans. The nuts are ground into flour and cooked into a porridge – the cooking kills the bitter taste – then the porridge is fed to legionaries just before they go into battle, so they brought them with them when they moved in here – just in case.

Sweet Chestnut wood is very strong and has excellent water resistant qualities so is made into barrels for Balsamic Vinegar which (well, the real stuff, anyway) has to be stored for twelve, eighteen or twenty five years so needs a decent cask.

Dr Edward Bach said that an essence prepared from Sweet Chestnut flowers was needed by people who could see no way out and were at the end of their resources.

Oh, and the leaves are good for whooping cough. 

The Company You Keep

Impatiens glandulifera
Impatiens glandulifera

You shouldn’t really be looking at this picture, so try to just glance at it out of the corner of your eye. I’m very much afraid that it has been known to keep very bad company and you wouldn’t want to be tarred with the same brush now, would you? It hasn’t happened just once or twice either, this unfortunate alliance has been going on for quite a few years. This chap, Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera, was deliberately introduced in the UK in around 1839. He came over on the same boat, as Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed. He was recommended to gardeners for his Herculean proportions and his splendid invasiveness. Well, they were absolutely right about the invasiveness. He’s everywhere – across Europe, America and Australia.

Where it grows along streams and rivers, apparently it is best not to try to pull it up, you just tend to make things worse. It’s better to concentrate on improving the quality of the water and it will go away on its own. It really doesn’t like riverbanks that much and it is only there for the free lunch. Remove the excess nutrients from the water and it will wander off. The other thing about it is, although it may out-compete the occasional local plant, it does provide shelter for various local fauna that wouldn’t be there otherwise, so it isn’t all bad.

It really does seem to be trying its best to integrate.

Wild Oat

Wild Oats
Wild Oats

If you have a field of Oats and you suspect that you may have some Wild Oats in there too, I’m afraid you’re stuck with them. They are members of the same oat family, so anything you do to try to kill them off will, kill off the cash crop. Wild Oats started to be a problem to cereal farmers after the Second World War and reached their peak nuisance value in the 1990s. The question arises then, why try to kill them off, why not just harvest them along with the real stuff? Sometimes I suspect it has something to do with being in control. After all, the farmer planted the crop he wanted to grow, so volunteer plants obfuscate the master plan. Then, there is the fact that the more wild plants you have in the field, the less space, nutrients, etc. there is for the crop that’s paying the wages.

Dr Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) felt that restless people, who wanted to achieve, to become prominent, but who couldn’t decide what or how to reach their goals – or even exactly what their goal were, probably just needed a helping hand from a few drops of his Wild Oat flower essence.

Sowing Wild Oats, apart from irritating farmers everywhere, is a saying that goes back to the Romans. The seeds of the wild variety of oats, are small and hard with very little nutrition in them. So, anyone sowing Wild Oats was indulging in an annoying and pointless pastime.

And of course, you always reap what you sow.

Calm Down

White Chestnut Blossom
White Chestnut Blossom

You know when you’re trying to meditate and your head is full of stuff?  No, it’s not that I have a butterfly mind, more that I have a mind which would rather chase butterflies. Here, I have to confess, the last time I tried to meditate was long, long ago. I think I was prodding at Zen Buddhism at the time, trying to see if I could levitate, or cover seven miles in one stride. Don’t ask me why, it could be useful though.

Now, the Horse Chestnut came to this part of the world in the sixteenth century. That’s fifteen-odd-something if you want dates. We’re not sure how it came to come here but it could be that Britain, at that time, was the last stronghold of the Julian calendar and it just couldn’t get the hang of all these newfangled Gregorian days.

Why is it a Chestnut? No one seems to know, but everyone has their own idea of where the Horse bit comes from. First, it could be that it is being compared (unfavourably) to the Sweet Chestnut (no relation) and the horse could be a corruption of coarse, there is even a Welsh word that means ‘bitter’ that sounds a bit like horse, standing as a candidate.

Next up, is that it was used to treat horses and cows who had a bad cough, hmmm, a hoarse horse?

Then, there are the marks on the twigs, left by the leaves from previous years, which look just like little horseshoes – or so they say. Galileo had just caused a stir by looking through a telescope, so I suppose it’s possible that people went round looking at twigs with magnifying glasses, about then.

Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) thought that his White Chestnut Flower essence was useful to quieten a busy mind.

Flowers of Compassion

Beech Flowers
Beech Flowers

While we’re on the subject of Beech (see previous post) I thought you might be interested in these. In the 1930s, Dr. Edward Bach gave up his promising medical practice in Harley Street, London and went off to the country. He was looking for a better way to make people well. He had been playing around with vaccines and that sort of thing, but to use the stuff of the disease to cure, just seemed plain wrong. It took him twenty years, but he eventually came up with his flower remedies, thirty six essences made from flowers, just about as close to nature as he could get.

When it came to people whose illness could be traced back to anxiety caused by intolerance and lack of compassion, people who perhaps, lived with the frustration of feeling that their whole world was made up of individuals who just didn’t get it – or even just would never get it, Dr Bach would prescribe an essence made from the flowers of the Beech tree.

Now Beech trees only start to flower once they come of age, and for Beech trees this means thirty years old. They only flower at the top of the tree or sometimes on the sunny side, if one side has a sunnier aspect. Beech trees pruned into hedges rarely flower.

I felt incredibly lucky to find these flowers on the Beech trees just up the road.

Waiting for the Colour Version

Chestnut Flower - About to Open
Chestnut Flower – About to Open

Remember, you saw Chestnut flowers here first! I know they aren’t open yet but we need to stay ahead of the game. Is it going to be a white chestnut flower or a red chestnut flower? An important question.

Dr Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) devised a system of flower essences that could be used by anyone, without any special medical training, to modify their emotional state. Among the thirty six flowers that he recommends, are both red and white chestnut.

White chestnut to quieten an over busy brain for those who, for instance, can’t sleep for thinking about things.

Red chestnut was for those who take their responsibilities for others to extremes – he always phones at eight o’clock, and it’s nearly five past now, I hope nothing serious has happened – for example.

Mrs Grieve (1858 – 1941) mentions that the nuts are not suitable for human food and this may be the reason for its name i.e. Sweet Chestnut – an edible, similar but unrelated nut and Horse, as in only fit for animals, Chestnut. She says that the bark has some medicinal properties. She also relates that during the First World War, Horse Chestnuts were soaked and boiled then ground into meal. This was mixed with animal feed and fed to a cow, a sheep and a pig. The cow and the sheep ate it and showed a satisfactory weight gain and good health but the pig refused to eat any of the food with the nut meal mixed in.

Still, by doing this every pound of nut meal fed to animals saved an equal amount of barley or oats, which could be used as food for people.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.


Wild Rose and Honeysuckle side by side in the hedge
Wild Rose and Honeysuckle side by side in the hedge

It’s official – the past is over! What’s done is done. Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. We are starting the future NOW.

Here’s a piece of hedge that understands that the past is gone beyond recovery. Remember it, yes, we should, but we should not allow it to dominate our future.

Dr Edward Bach [1886-1936], made it his life’s work to produce a series of flower essences. He used these essences himself in his medical practice.

The Honeysuckle essence he used whenever his patient seemed to be stuck in the past. When the patient couldn’t move on, couldn’t get on with their life, and he felt that their malady was a result of this frustration.

The Wild Rose essence was used to give patients who were sunk in apathy, who couldn’t see anything in their future – and who just didn’t care that they didn’t have a future.

How apt that our hedgerows at the moment are bursting with Honeysuckle to give us all the needed push to force us to move on and let go of the past – and Wild Rose to help us to see that the future is where we want to be – and to go for it!

Any Other Name

Wild Rose
Wild Rose

I never think at all when I write. Nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well. Even more difficult when you have to do it in Latin. Ask Horace. But he knew a thing or two about roses.

Horace, (Roman poet, 67BC – 8BC) and even Homer (Greek poet, 600 or so BC), if he was real, spoke of cultivated roses, so it looks as though we’ve had a long and steadfast relationship with the cultivated varieties. “My love is like a red red rose” has been said in Greek and Latin and many other languages as well, for thousands of years.

Wild roses, on the other hand, are a disorderly bunch. The original Dog Rose has had to be subdivided into five separate species to try and keep up. A Dog Rose was originally a dag (as in dagger) rose – so called because of the thorns. Google says that the thorns help the plant to climb higher in trees.

Dr Edward Bach felt that an essence prepared from the flowers of wild roses could re-ignite an interest in life. Mrs Grieve recommended:
Place a layer of rose petals in a bowl. Place 4oz butter wrapped in waxed paper in the bowl and cover with rose petals. Cover the bowl tightly and leave overnight. Spread the perfumed butter on thin slices of bread and sprinkle on a few rose petals. Serve.

The Dog was quite charmed when she heard that there were dog roses. She soon lost interest though, remarking that they didn’t smell anything like a dog to her.