As the warmer weather gets into full swing, Lewes’s gardens give us lots of talking points around town. But in truth you don’t need to stickybeak over someone’s garden wall for talking points about plants. The ones that creep out through the fissures in the flint walls are strong little things that beg to be noticed.
So here are the names and faces of three varieties of purple flower that might make persuading whinging kids up steep Lewes twittens a little bit more bearable – especially if you have a child called Freya, Stella or Jenny…
1. IVY-LEAVED TOADFLAX
The favourite flower of my friend Elly, who inspired this post after we talked about our favourite flowers on the back of a small photo feature in this month’s Viva Lewes. I like that this is also known as ‘Creeping Jenny‘, ‘Climbing Sailor‘ and ‘Pedlar’s Basket‘.
These little toad-like flowers came from Mediterranean Europe – Italy specifically – via the Chelsea Physic Garden and are now seen widely across the colder European countries. I am cheered to tell you that this flowers from May until November (what a little trooper). It’s also eaten like cress in Southern Europe – although I am not recommending that you to try it without doing some research, of course.
2. POSCHARSKY’S BELLFLOWER
This starry blue beauty came to our shores from the Dinaric Alps in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, the RHS (which cultivated its own version called ‘Stella’) mentions Croatia, Bosnia and Herzogovina on its page. So this plant also has excellent Eurovision songs at its roots. It’s traditionally planted in rockeries and flowers from late spring to early autumn because it’s all about loving the long daylight hours (who doesn’t?). But since it’s ‘undemanding’ it clearly also does well in flint walls and are what my friend Elly calls ‘escapees‘.
They’re also known as ‘Campanula poscharskyana’, but varieties and other names include – but are not limited to – ‘Blue Waterfall‘, ‘Blue Gown‘ and ‘Freya‘. You can eat the leaves in salads, but again, please do your own research before you pick and consume anything.
This grows in gardens all over Lewes, but also in the walls of St John sub Castro in The Pells – and probably others. It loves bad soil (winner). Butterflies and wildlife adore it, but some gardeners don’t as it seeds aggressively and can take over. Consumed, it has a sedative effect (it can aid sleep when taken as a supplement) so is also classed as a drug!
Here’s a historical snippet about it: in medieval Sweden it was sometimes placed in the wedding clothes of the groom to ward off the envy of the ‘elves’.
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