Kissing’s in season when gorse is in bloom

2014 01 010

My granny (unlike my mother) wasn’t known for her horticultural expertise, but she did teach me the saying above.  As a consequence, I spend a lot of time checking the state of the Duver’s gorse to ensure kissing remains a la mode, and I’m cheered to report that you can all ‘buss on’ (although preferably not on the bus).

Following last week’s foray to the cosseted microclimate of Ventnor’s Undercliff, I thought I’d see what was flowering in the more ‘real’ world of St Helen’s Duver.*

And the answer is that the Duver’s flora is almost as cheering as Ventnor’s, albeit a little less obvious.  Firstly, from the R88 footpath down to the Duver, the banks are smothered with a fresh, zingy green (almost as cheering as the new growth of Alchemilla mollis, but less frilly), accompanied occasionally by a rather dull flower (no offence).

The plant is Petasites Fragens, (because this is about me getting an education too).  The common name of a related species, Petasites hydridus, is ‘Butterbur’ apparently due to the fact that the leaves used to wrap butter before the advent of fridges.  I don’t think I could really justify that name for these leaves, unless you’re talking the sort of butter pat you get with your scone.

Also near the top was a rather chewed violet as well as small, low growing pink flower that I’m struggling to identify.  Help please!

And to the right of the path you can see the first few heads of wild garlic or Ramsons (Allium ursinum).  Later in the spring the smell pervades the whole path with a Gallic perfume.

2014 01 013

And lastly, back to the gorse where we started.  There are many bushes on the Duver which happily withstand the windswept site.  Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a member of the Pea family (Fabaceae), which makes sense when you look at the flower shape.  The flowers are apparently edible, but can’t say I’ve tried.  I think I’d rather stick to the garlic, but then what about the kissing?

GARDENING WORK THIS WEEK:

  • Let’s be honest, not much, but I did finish cleaning the greenhouse
  • And I found another packet of Sweet Peas – Matucana, so I’ve popped them in.

 * “Duver” (rhymes with cover, not hoover) is Isle of Wight dialect for an area of sand dunes.  St Helen’s Duver is the largest surviving duver on the island.

There was a (men only) nine hole golf course on this site from 1882 which became the ‘Royal’ Isle of Wight Golf Club in 1883 when Edward, Victoria’s eldest son, later Edward VII, became a member.  Later, in the 1930’s, David Niven was a member.

In 1961 the few remaining members decided to present the land to the National Trust, with the land to be kept as an open space for all time.

With thanks to the National Trust for this information.  See full article here.

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