Mid-May garden updates

Two frosts this week means no plums or damsons, and maybe no pears. But the medlar is in full flower, here’s a picture from a few days ago. The flowers are white and a bit like a wild rose.

Flowering medlar

The madonna lilies are all up! The third one is still a tiny sprout and the second has a mystery companion which seems to be some other kind of bulb. Was it in the soil below, in which case it’s come up a long way? Or was it somehow stuck to the lily bulb? I may investigate in the winter but for now I’ll let it do its thing and hope that it will reveal its nature some time.

Trio of lilies, with mystery companion, also finger (I’m rubbish with cameras)

I still have some spare skirret seedlings and somebody a few villages over wants them, so today I potted them up, carefully separating the little seedlings. I planted them too close together because I had no confidence in the germination rate, which in the event was very good. Fortunately they seem to be tough little critters. They are now four to a pot and I hope will be fairly easy to plant out once they’re bigger. I still have 16 seedlings left for myself and will have to dig out some space for them real soon now.

I confess, I potted up the biggest seedlings and gave up on the final tiny four which have gone into the hedge and do not appear in this picture.

Skirret seedlings of varying sizes

My grapevine arrived in the post today! All good monasteries should have a grapevine. I chose a Van Der Laan white grape, a Dutch variety which is apparently a reliable fruiter even in the UK and suitably hardy. Planting that out in the Bed of Julian cheered me up some. If it flourishes, we could go Greek and try stuffed vine leaves, maybe with Anglo-Saxon fillings?

It’s between the rhubarb (yeah I know, but it had to go somewhere) and the asparagus, which is still hiding.

Newly planted Van Der Laan grape vine (just pretend you can’t see the rhubarb)

Here’s the other end of the Bed of Julian with two Nine Star Broccoli plants in netting to keep off butterflies, and mama skirret with some babies around her. The broccoli is a perennial that should last four or five years and produce cut-and-come-again mini cauliflowers, with the leaves being edible also. The variety seems to date from the early twentieth century1.

Nine Star Broccoli and skirrets

The Anglo-Saxons has plenty of words for various brassicas, though obviously they wouldn’t have grown this variety. I don’t know how they’d have dealt with caterpillar infestations though – I think people didn’t actually know that caterpillars and butterflies were connected, so they’ll have had no idea how to prevent the eggs being laid. There’s so much knowledge that we take for granted now but that was utterly non-obvious for hundreds, maybe thousands of years prior to microscopes and leisured scientific observation.


  1. https://backyardlarder.co.uk/2017/04/nine-star-perennial-broccoli/