Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sage - and Balance

Brigitta Huegel


I don't know what to make of this: the sage in my garden is getting scrubby. 
There will be enough leaves for Saltim bocca, but it makes me nervous that - on a higher level - it foretells change in hierarchical order. 
We have two sage-bushes: the one near the house seems a bit lackadaisical this year. The second bush has almost disappeared in the sea of evening primroses at the back of the garden: where I was too polite to say "No!" to the evening primroses, they now whisper in a soft moonlight yellow voice "No!" to me and block even the way to the red currants. (Only the birds are happy about that). 
And so this year the sage didn't grow as ample as usually. 
That makes me fret - somewhere I've read that there is an English saying: 
"If the sage thrives and grows, 
The Master's not the Master and he knows." 
A colleague of mine is utterly convinced that women who are more leading in life will become the mothers of sons. I do have a son. And surely I'm not a meek little flower. 
But since I stand in front of two full-grown 2 meter-men (husband: 1.98m; son 2.02m; both lithe and lissom and as pretty as a picture, but I deviate...), sometimes I feel a little bit ... reduced. 
Does the sage sense this? Where is my sceptre, where my crown? 
Speaking of crowns I think of the Quenn and then again of mothers. 
Sage, salvia officinalis, is the Queen Mum of all herbs. It is utterly versatile: it helps against a sore throat, as a herbal tea it shall reduce strong perspiration, and because of its hormone-adequate substances it is traded as a secret weapon against climacteric disorders. 
It sounds like a miracle drug, and actually one of the questions at the Medical School of Salerno in the 14th century was: 
"Why shall a man die, in whose garden sage is growing?" (Cur moriatur homo, cui Salvia crecit in horto?) 
Why indeed? 
As I discovered this interesting question, I rushed to buy another pot of sage at the farmer's market - just in case... 
Alas - then I had to discover that this question sadly was only a rhetorical one. 
The answer was: "Because against death there is no cure." (In Germany we say: "Against death there grows no herb.") 
So there bursts the bubble of the dream of immortality! 

But I can recommend the divine recipe of Saltim bocca - as comfort food



Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Dipsomaniac Hedgehogs



In TV they said that quite a lot of English hedgehogs have a real problem: dipsomania
Though poets like Shakespeare and von Schiller praise  "the milk of human kindness", these British hedgehogs, instead of lapping up that sort of milk from Hyacinth Bucket's 'Royal Doulton hand-painted periwinkle' plates, inspect the gardener's cunning beer traps for slugs and drink that amber nectar in one go. Or enjoy a little sip here, a little sip there, taking the slug-trap as a punch bowl with added slugs instead of strawberries. As likely as not they then will run zigzag across the carefully cultivated lawns, bawl loud soccer songs and tumble utterly pisseded on theirs pricky sides, slurring "I'm your mate, and I will stand by you..."
The German Hedgehog Society (that is not an invention of mine - they really do exist!) state that these stories must be utterly untrue - shocking horror stories invented by gutter press . They demand proof - evidently a German hedgehog doesn't drink beer. (You bet...) 
But I can understand the British: nowadays you have to search a long time to find milk that tastes delicious and not like the cardboard box it comes in.
Maybe when milk tastes like milk again, the hedgehogs will become teetotallers and abstain from beer - although, come to think of it: why should they?
Cheers! 


Britta Hill



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

At the Wayside


Britta Hill

I found a little present at the wayside. Husband also, another one. At our evening stroll we passed a heap of large trash. An old wardrobe, a few cheerless empty drawers, two big blue bin bags, one of them already torn open – and a cardbox with books.
When Husband sees books nothing can stop him. He climbed down the rampart to join another couple that already rummaged busily through the books. I stood in loftily distance on the rampart. But when Husband merrily waved a thick volume about “Women at Goethe’s Time”, I faltered. Curiosity won and I climbed down, wondering why they hadn't given these book to a jumble sale?
And then I became a bit melancholy, because these were evidently the last remaining possessions of a deaconess. It is not much that we leave behind when we go forever… 
When my glance fell on a small volume with white-green stripes and I saw the first part of the title, “Flowers”, that was enough to turn me into a hunter too. I reached out for the small Inselb├Ąndchen, No 281. Inside stood a name and a date, “Strasbourg, June 6, 1941”. Apparently a relative had ripped out the adornment page with a dedication – but otherwise it was as good as new. Inside were quite delicate drawings of  a whole year of wildflowers – snowdrops, daisies, anemones, march violets and others. Drawn very naturalistic, yet representing the style of its origin period, theThirties. Beneath its title “The Little Flower Book” was proudly typed: “In many colours”. And down to the present day the colours are as fresh as morning dew. They were used sparingly, yet expressive. Two sorts of green for the stem and leaves of a marguerite, and the petals not just white but shaded delicately by soft blue.
Some little flowers I welcomed like dear old acquaintances: the pink Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) that I loved so much as a child! (At the same time shuddering when “spit of cuckoo” stuck on it – which is the foam wrapper of a little cicada).
Most of those flowers I still know from growing wild in nature - then, but I can't show them to son...  
But lately one can find again some of the field-flowers at the edges of wheatfields: thick rows of corn poppy, and crown-of-the field (Agrostemma githado), and cornflowers, too. Which makes me very happy – though formerly the farmers hated it. The field-flowers belonged to the “Schabab” – the ‘herbs in a basket’ – and to these three (German) K’s (Klatschmohn, Kornrade and Kornblume) was added the chicory, common yarrow, ragwort and drug eyebright too. When a young man got these herbs from his Adored, he knew that he was rejected (in Germany we say: “To give someone a basket” if we refuse to see him).
Superstition warns not to bring cornflowers (accused to make bread mouldy) nor crowns-of-the-field (make the roof struck by lightning) into the house, and no Englishman will bring hawthorn over his threshold. A colleague put the fear of God into me when she explained that the little bunch of heather I had brought into our flat would bring us early death.
But that was many, many years ago, and nothing happened, Thank God!
But then: one day Death will come, after all, and then such a flower book lies at the wayside.
                                            And delights somebody else







Thursday, 4 July 2013

Chance and Flower sellers




Chances and flower sellers

At our farmer’s market we have two flower stalls, and one of them had cosmos for bedding out. Really beautiful high plants, with vigorous stems. The colour of the stem tells you which colour the blossoms will be: dark red have a much darker red stem than pink ones, and the stems of the whites are just green. And so I snapped the chance and bought 30 plants, although I carried already quite a lot of shopping. But I have learned this in the years of gardening: when the opportunity arises, one has to clasp it, no matter how packed one is. This is true for everyday life, too, you can’t say: “Luck, today doesn’t suit me, I have already so much to carry – please come again next week, on Thursday, at about 12:15 pm, then it will be more convenient for me.” Then luck will walk away and knock at another door.
The other flower stall I passed by quickly, because I have an unexpressed problem with the flower seller.
First I bought a lot from her, because her perennials come out of her private garden and so are from local soil. I was a garden greenhorn then – and at that time she gave me the advice, neither to fertilize nor to water - that would only pamper and wet-nurse the plants. I thought: “Wow, that sounds nice – then I have a lot less to do.”
But in the course of time I realized that the roses sometimes need a little fertilizer although our earth is rich, the lilies, too – and when once in a blue moon the sun shines four weeks without end one has to water too.
Well, and that flower seller, whose garden must be a wasteland by now, demands for her nameless perennials a lot of money. “45 Euro I must have for that peony”, she says for example with slightly pursed lips. Always it is: “I must have”, as if a Supreme Being dictates her the price. (But a number of the hardened delphiniums I bought from her made an ascension to heaven in the same way as the so-called weaklings of the commercial trader did).
Because for a while I have been such a good customer she now looks at me expectantly when I come to the farmer’s market, and that gnaws at my conscience, and I feel as Doctor Vaes’ wife in Timmermann’s novel “St. Nicholas in Trouble” might have felt, when she didn’t buy the luxurious chocolate ship “The Congo” but only two gingerbread cocks on a stick – “and then long time no see” …
I too rush past the flower-seller to the unemotional ‘commercial’ trader, who sells me hardened plants for a fair prices.
And the flower seller follows me with her eyes like Timmermann's Trinchen Mutzer, “whose heart had fallen into a thornbush”…

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Reading Cultivator: on Tussie-Mussies

Britta Hill

'A dear neighbour brought me a tussie-mussie this week. The dictionary defines tuzzy-muzzy, or tussie mussie, as "a bunch or posy of flowers, a nosegay," and then disobligingly adds that the word is obsolete. I refuse to regard it as obsolete. It is a charming word; I have always used it and shall continue to use it, whatever the great Oxford Dictionary may say.'
- Vita Sackville-West

Britta say: I own lots and lots of little vases - the one above is made of two kinds of glass - and use them often - so easy to bind a beautiful little tussie-mussie, so hard to steal from one's big garden too many flowers.

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Garden at Hampton Court Palace


Britta Hill

At first Anne and I feared that we would see the gardens only through window panes (though I love the picture of these apple trees dearly): dark clouds were approaching, first drops fell, and the outdoor visitors opened their umbrellas and fled inside.
But ten minutes later everything had changed, and we got the most remarkable impressions:
                                           the same apple trees - but in plain air:

Britta Hill

                                                              The park:

Britta Hill

                                                                 A huge arcade:

Britta Hill


                                               Wisterias over beautiful gardens:

Britta Hill

                                                             A knot garden:

Britta Hill

Beautiful in their simplicity was the Elizabethan garden - tiny and modest and gay.
And then the Great Vine, planted in 1768 for King George III by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the head gardener of Hampton Court Palace. Can you imagine that this glasshouse is filled by only one plant? It has the Guinness World Record: the largest vine - with a circumfence of 3.8m (12 ft 5 in) and branches typically measuring to 33m (108 ft) long. The longest measures 75m (246 ft) long in January 2005. In front of the glass house they keep a large acre free - because the roots of the Great Vine extend beneath this area and need all the moisture and nutrients they can get. (The grapes are only for eating - no wine is pressed).

Britta Hill

'Even up until 1920 Hampton Court grapes were kept strictly for the royal family only, with the vine keepers guarding them closely with numbering each bunch!' (I will not have that much trouble this year: the vine on my balcony bears exactly two bunches - very manageable.)
When the sun came out, we walked a while inside the gardens looking at the Thames.
And the view to Hampton Court Palace gave us a real Italian feeling:

Britta Hill

Britta Hill

Britta Hill



Thursday, 13 June 2013

100. RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Britta Huegel

You might like to have a look at my post on www.berlinletters.blogspot.de (there you'll also find one post on the Darden Museum London).