There was a guy out watering his hanging baskets as The Dog and I walked past the other day. We stopped for a chat about the global issues surrounding the need for a more water retaining compost mix, to help hanging baskets to maintain an even internal moisture content, so he didn’t need to water them so often. I mentioned vermiculite, with some conviction. After some discussion we came to the conclusion that it was called something else these days. He favoured coconut fibre, himself.
At this point in the conversation, it became necessary for us both to lean against something, so we took advantage of a convenient wall. “You see those trees?” he said pointing to a few youngish trees fighting their way through the hedge surrounding the field across the road. “I planted those. They flowered for the first time this year.”
As we were both now comfortably supported by the wall, there followed a fair amount of hand waving and discussion until the trees in question were identified amongst the Hawthorn, Elder and Wild Cherry that occupied the corner of the field just over the road from us. “Yes,” he said “My wife’s sister went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham. When she came back she brought me a bag of Horse Chestnuts. So I planted them.
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.