The closest we’ll get to Cornwall this year?

Echium pininiana

If ever there was a plant that reminded me of a place it’s this one and the oddest thing about it is that it doesn’t really belong there. The Echium pininiana really belongs somewhere around the Canaries but it’s found a wonderful niche in Cornwall where, because it seeds freely, it’s almost naturalised. This one came from our old friends because they love them too (he’s almost a Cornishman although he comes from over the border in Devon). Aside from being very architectural during the winter, it grows a huge flowering spike in its second year – the one in Tony and Glen’s garden is over fifteen feet tall. The other thing you need to know about it is that it’s related to the Viper’s Bugloss which, if you know it, is deeply attractive to bees and the like. So this fifteen foot giant is just covered in borage blue flowers all the way up the spike and can have dozens if not hundreds of bees and other insects nectaring on it. Better still, the day we saw it in their garden there was a virtual army of ants ascending and descending. It grows everywhere on the Lizard peninsula but it’s a bit fussy about soil so we’re going to plant this one on the allotment in the best place for its temperamental ways. If it succeeds, every time we look at it we’ll be reminded of one of our favourite places.

Elsewhere today we took up an invitation from some more friends to pick damsons, and so we arrived home with 20lbs of damsons and a big bag of bramley apples; then later we dropped in at the allotment and harvested some carrots which are looking fine. So more time in the kitchen for me; but just to show that even close to home there’s bags of natural history to enjoy we were taking a look at their new pear trees and noticed a grey dagger moth caterpillar having a chew at the leaves which were also carrying some pear rust. In close-up the rust is rather fine looking and it has a complicated lifestyle, relying on pear and juniper exclusively to complete its life cycle.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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