For those who particularly wanted to see them, here is the first of my three lovely little Mandrake seedlings – being very quiet and well behaved as well, bless it! I’ve just put the seeds for Autumn Mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis) in a jar of water in the fridge. They need to stratify for two weeks before I get them into tubs – be a good time for planting them actually, because it will be more or less the dark moon when I sow them, which to my mind is a very appropriate time for planting Mandrake of any kind. The M.officinarum was stratified in filtered water in the fridge for two weeks, changing the water every day – quite a labour of love, bizarrely enough, since it meant that whenever I went away from home for a night I took the jar with me, which certainly got me some odd looksbut I quite enjoyed it as well. They were planted in a mixture of seed compost and sand – as per the lovely Mel’s instructions, see the link in the menu for her great site where I bought the seeds from. I’m going to be planting the English Mandrake soon, which isn’t a true mandrake at all – we know it as White Bryony over here, or Bryonia dioica. She’s really a very pretty little plant, as you can see below:
B. dioica likes to scramble up hedges and fences, and is quite commonly found around Lincolnshire, but I’m going to grow some seeds anyway because of how pretty she is. Poisonous, of course, but for an aggressively Mars ruled plant that’s not really surprising is it? As with most of the more aggressive plants, this little beauty demands to be treated with respect, and don’t be deceived by the delicate flowers – she’s a tough little survivor. I’m going to be growing some American Mandrake as well, which will be put in the fridge tomorrow to stratify for a week, then planted after the full moon.
The landscape around here is very slowly waking up, and oh boy does it feel slow at times – the sun, when it appears, is lovely and warm, but as soon as it goes behind the clouds again the wind is quite bitingly cold, and there’s mist around as well. In the fields the seeds are starting to come through though, for what I suspect will be cereal crops, and there are birds everywhere now – bluetits, chaffinches, great tits, blackbirds, robins, wrens, noisy sparrows and starlings, and many many others. There are some signs of spring as well – glorious bunches of snowdrops all through the village, which are like stained glass windows when the sun hits them. Aconites like little rays of sunlight settled on the earth, and of course the skies… the skies are just sublime.
I’ve had my hands in the earth quite a bit recently – not in the garden unfortunately as the weather has been nothing short of foul as a general rule, very very wet and extremely muddy – but I’ve been planting lots of seeds. At the moment, I have Butterbur in a tray in the hallway because it doesn’t like the light and its fairly shady in there. There’re Pleurisy root, Joe Pye Weed and Indian Tobacco in trays in the conservatory, and I planted Cardamom seeds this afternoon. There’s Chinese Milkvetch in a little bag in the fridge – the seeds need to stratify for about ten weeks, then be planted at at least 15C temperatures, so I figure putting the seeds in pots mid April should just about do the trick.
One other little beauty that you’ll miss if you don’t keep your eyes peeled is the little star lady herself, Stellaria media, or Chickweed. I think Stellaria is a much better name for this little dancer – she’s so small and shy but so very pretty when you look closer at her, with oval, plump leaves that are translucent in the light as if she’s absorbing all the sun and moonlight that she can get. A tiny trail of silvery hairs spirals up her stem – this is how you tell her apart from her cousins. The flowers themselves are small and delicate, with eight petals in pairs, encased in a pretty green cup. She’s one to watch – a good medicine for you after winter cold has kept you indoors, one to bring sun and moonlight back into your body and wash away all the winter gloom.
Soon there will be nettle tops in the fields, and the white archangel will be putting in an appearance, and not long after that spring will suddenly spring, as it so often has a habit of doing – after that, it’ll be all hands to the pump to get everything planted, and I’ll have the delightful problem of finding room for everything, since I plan to grow a very great deal of different seeds this year. Watch this space for any information I find on cultivating some of the more unusual stuff!