Garden Lore – Fact, fiction or a matter of opinion? Diana Laite reports on our meeting held in April 2019 when Jude Lawton tried to decide truth from fiction.

This was an entertaining title for the last lecture of the season. As Jude said, “Where do you start with so many things to choose from?” Before homing in on her personal bugbears she suggested that the head gardeners of the early 20th century had quite a lot to answer for – why, for example, would anyone want, or need, to wash flowerpots? This was a job allocated to garden boys in the winter to keep them occupied. Nowadays, when most people don’t employ a host of gardeners/garden boys it is a case of finding the quickest or shortest way to get things done. Do we really need to dig the garden? Perhaps we do more harm than good, exposing weed seeds and disturbing useful worms and beetles; better to weed without deep digging – it only leads to more weeding! When to water is another subject about which there are various opinions. Jude reckoned watering when convenient was perfectly acceptable, and not to worry if the sun is shining. After all, when there is a thunderstorm followed by bright sunshine the plants don’t scorch, so . . . Apparently, when tomatoes were first introduced to this country people thought that they were poisonous; this thinking arose because the wealthy, who could afford to buy such things, ate off pewter plates, and the acid from the tomatoes reacted with the lead in the pewter and caused poisoning. Poorer people who ate off wooden plates were unaffected! Some of the things that Jude touched on were really weird: cow horns filled with crystals attracting cosmic rays, how to encourage fairies into your garden. At the end of the day, when it comes to questioning folk lore, you need to ask the questions: ‘Does it really work?’ and ‘Is it really necessary?’

Diana Laite

 

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