I recently read a tweet (on Twitter, no less)that immediately struck a chord , as I am sure that it would for many people. It asked what you would wish for . My grandmother always used to say ‘Be careful what you wish for ‘ and of course, as a child, I never really understood what she meant by that – the only things that I wished for as a child were things that I couldn’t possibly imagine feeling bad about having ! Only as I have grown into myself in adulthood have I really understood what she meant.
I have a thing for lavender . It’s a long term thing, although I can’t remember exactly when it started.
Probably – I think – when I was young . Smell is so evocative , and can take you back , in an instant, to Way Back When. . . lavender bags made out of Liberty fabric and tied carefully with a ribbon ,stashed away in my Grandma’s dark old oak carved cupboards . . . the lavender china pomander with birds painted upon it that sat upon her dressing table . . . bags of ( largely lavender ) pot pouri spotted (and deeply nosebag inhaled) in souvenir shops as a child on holiday in Devon . . . and , in the distance , if I listen very carefully I can hear faint strains of ‘ Lavender’s Blue (Dilly Dilly) ‘ travelling across the years from Childhood Land . Yesterday I looked up the lyrics on Wikipedia :
Lavender’s Blue , dilly dilly , Lavender’s Green ,
When I am King , dilly dilly , You shall be Queen
Who told you so , dilly dilly ,who told you so ?
Twas my own heart, dilly dilly , that told me so .
Call up your men , dilly dilly , set them to work ,
Some with a rake dilly dilly , some with a fork .
Some to make hay dilly dilly , some to thresh corn ,
While you and I dilly dilly keep ourselves warm .
Lavender’s Green , dilly dilly , Lavender’s Blue ,
If you love me , dilly dilly , I will love you .
Let the birds sing , dilly dilly , and the lambs play
We shall be safe , dilly dilly , out of harms way .
I love to dance , dilly dilly , I love to sing ,
When I am Queen , dilly dilly , you’ll be my king .
Who told me so , dilly dilly , who told me so ?
I told myself , dilly dilly , I told me so .
It seems strange to write those words here , and even more so to talk about them . It all seems almost unbearably twee, out of place, out of synch . This world that we live in ,of I-Pods and Internet . . . can it accomodate something as old fashioned as lavender , as bygone as the china bird painted pomander that sat upon my grandma’s dressing table ?
Much has been written about lavender having been introduced to this country by the romans. Of the Elizabethans using lavender to make wine . And of lavender being used as an antiseptic in the trenches during world war 1. Much has also been written of lavender being used to flavour cheese, sweets & biscuits. I found an excellent potted history of lavender useage here at http://lavenderfarm.com/history . And there are probably more, if you search for them.
I always carry a bottle of lavender with me . For cuts , it acts as a great , neat antiseptic ; and for burnt little fingers , blisters are ruled out of the equation with a drop of the Magic Stuff . For relaxation – drops in the bath , or on the t-shirts of fractious children ; and for panic attacks , anxiety or just feeling out of synch , or ‘ sorts ‘ . And for inducing sleep – a few drops on the pillow and you’re gone. And the resulting sleep is GOOD , a really deep sleep, just like the one that you knew that you really, really needed.
We planted the tentative beginnings of a lavender hedge here around eight years ago now , running the length of the front garden . We ordered quite a few plants to start off with , from http://www.norfolk-lavender.co.uk , they hold the national collection . Included in our lavender hedge are the reliable Hidcote , Munstead and the very unusual pinkish lavender ‘Loddon Pink ‘. The almost blue variety (in the first picture) is , I think , Hidcote – seeing it , one immediately makes sense of why it is ‘Lavender’s Blue’ and not ‘Lavender’s purple’ .
Despite late (and rather severe) pruning in early March of this year , the lavender hedge has really blossomed , both literally and metaphorically . When you cut lavender right back to just above the last green showing shoot that sits waaaaay back down near the base of the plant it feels like you are committing a criminal act ! It is like cutting Samson’s hair. This year I really did think that I had gone too far . I didn’t hold out much hope . But the lavender fought back , and some . And there has been an exciting by-product of the Lavender Stand – lots and lots and lots of bees.
Bees were everywhere that I looked yesterday.
They were outside of the front door , outside of the back door , in both gardens , Online – EVERYWHERE .
I do not know much , enough , about bees. Last year , I could tell the difference between a big off the scale bumble-ey roly poly bumble bee , and a honey bee . But not much else in between . This year my powers of observation have improved slightly and I can differentiate between four or five different types of bee that are visiting the garden and say fairly confidently ‘ that’s a bee , but it isn’t the same as that bee’ – but nothing else , no names , no types of bee .
Yesterday afternoon , pushing Littlest in the pushchair down the path I noticed that there were even more bees than usual chowing on down at Lavender Junction. It is usually busy at The Lavender Diner , but today it was teeming . The bees seemed a little more agitated than usual but I don’t think that the wind (which was really getting up) was helping . I spotted quite a few bees with white – how shall we say it – derrieres.Later , back at home and settled back in front of my PC , I tried to identify them . I visited http://bumblebeeconservation.org . But not knowing enough about bees I wasn’t confident in accurately identifying it. And I probably hadn’t looked closely enough . Lots of bees have white bottoms , apparently. Not just one White Bottom- ed Variety. If anybody reading this has any idea as to what kind of bee this may be then I would be very happy to hear to hear from you ; I’d love to know .
I do know that Bees are an endangered species . I know this , but like most people I do not know enough . I understand that there is an urgency about the situation . But I have probably been guilty of being too blase about it . After all , there are so many bees in the Welsh garden , especially this year . In the Spring we had planted a wildlife-friendly area at the bottom of the garden . It had done the trick – mission accomplished – wildlife everywhere, including many, many bees. In fact , the whole garden is a wildlife friendly garden , and we garden organically. So it is too easy to forget that it isn’t like that everywhere . That there is a real problem out there , beyond our ‘ wildlife friendly , bee friendly ‘ garden .
Yet it also strikes me that if we can do it – provide a haven for bees , lots of them , then anybody can . Here , it seems to be in the planting . If I could nominate a plant that the bees seem to really enjoy in the Welsh garden then it would be lavender . Closely followed by foxgloves and comfrey . The drone of lost bees nosing comfrey and foxgloves fills the air at end of day watering time.
But back to Wishes . And What You Would Wish For ? I too have my little ‘I dream of ‘ wish . A Lavender farm . That’s it . And until then , a Lavender Hedge . With lots and lots of bees .