Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Midnight Garden

The garden at night is a throughfare for the wild fauna that lives round here. Badgers, foxes and the owls gentle cry can be heard if you are awake at night. Well the other night, I was truly woken by terrible animal noises in the garden, thinking that the badger had once more got hold of one of the hens, leapt out of bed and with Moss we went to investigate. Moss flew to the pond and there was great scuffling round the reeds as he flew up and down but no other animals, and the hens were still safe and absolutely quiet in their house. Turning back to the house, the full moon shone over the roof illuminating the garden, and as I stood with rather cold bare feet in the grass I wondered if there were any garden devas around.
A garden at night is a strange experience, it holds mystery in its dark corners, the branches of the trees outlined against the dark blue of the sky, the noise of the day has gone and silence reigns, except for little rustles in the bushes, and then there is the majesty of the moon, crystal clear silver, etched into the dark sky with a smattering of stars.
On reflection the next day, I worked out that the kerfuffle I had heard was two foxes fighting over a 'pigs ear' that Moss gets once a week, but is'nt too keen on. So he carries it around (so no one else can have it) and had left it in the garden in the end, which solved his problem beautifully when it got stolen.

My one remaining fritillary (Fritillaria Meleagris)
This chequered rather exotic looking flower is said to be a wild native, but Geoffrey Grigson seems to suggest that it was an Elizabethan import from the continent. There is a field that it can be found in at Fairford, apparently it was also found round Oxford but Grigson reckons that they were garden escapees from the 16th century. As always it has a colourful naming history; Snakes Head is pretty obvious; Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote "Snakes Head like drops of blood..the reason of name is from the mottling and scaly look".
So by definition it becomes 'bloody warrior'(this to do with the alien Danish blood spilt in this land), its called Mournful bell of Sodom in Somerset, Oaksey lily (Oaksey parish,Wilts) and Toad's Head (Minety,Wilts). The reference to Oxford is 1785 when they grew in Magdalen College. Even the latin Meleagris is made up, on the continent it refers to the marking of the guinea fowl, whereas in England it refers to to the chequer board appearance of the flower; all in all it deserves its reputation of something rather dangerous, for it is in fact poisonous.
Taken from The Englishman's Flora - Geoffrey Grigson; one of my favourite books, alongside his wife's Jane Grigson's Vegetable book, a feast of recipes with history included.

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