No 2: Hawthorn
THE TREES that crop up most frequently in English place names are thorn and ash, but we shall never know whether these names once celebrated the most common trees in the neighbourhood, or trees that were sufficiently uncommon to be significant. Neither explanation interferes with the fact that hawthorns are ancient and venerable elements of our landscape. They are not noble in the way that a beech or an oak is. The great tree-man, Alan Mitchell, evidently thought them so humble that he left them entirely out of his fine book, Trees of Britain (HarperCollins, pounds 14.99). But they are survivors, growing in a wide variety of tough billets and providing food for an extraordinary number and variety of insects and birds.
More to the point, they are manageable. Any garden, however small, can accommodate a hawthorn, with its dense, interlocking branches and sturdy trunk. The wild hawthorn of hedgerows is Crataegus monogyna, which, even in old age, is scarcely more than 25ft tall. In areas where a garden drifts into a wilder country landscape, this would still be my first choice. Urban gardeners may like to choose showier types of thorn, such as Crataegus laevigata `Paul's Scarlet' with blossom of brilliant red, or C persimilis `Prunifolia', which has highly polished leaves to set off its large, persistent and showy fruit.
THOMPSON AND Morgan's Flower of 1999 is a new primrose-coloured foxglove, discovered by chance by one of their customers. It is a wonderful colour, with each individual flower heavily speckled in deep mahogany. Unfortunately, it is dwarfish - a contradiction in this particular flower. Foxglove `Primrose Carousel' is available at pounds 1.99 for 50 seeds. To place an order, call the credit card order line: 01473 690869. For a copy of Thompson & Morgan's new catalogue, call 01473 601090.
GENEROUS SPONSORSHIP has allowed the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to make a major feature from its collection of philadelphus (mock orange). The shrubs used to grow in two beds in the south part of the gardens, but were badly overcrowded. Most of the original plants sent by collectors had died off.
The few hybrids that remained were of little scientific value. The new feature is made up of 19 beds grouped round the base of the famous Pagoda at Kew. Fourteen beds will be planted with wild species, five filled with cultivars. Prepare your nose for a treat later this summer.
MARSHALLS, THE East Anglian seed merchant, has recently produced a simple leaflet showing which vegetables are good for us and why. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are top of its list of the 15 most useful vegetables, because both contain high levels of glucosinolates. There are two types of this substance: sinigrin, present in sprouts, suppresses the development of pre-cancerous cells. Glucoraphanin (in broccoli) helps neutralise cancer cells before they build up to alarming levels. But both sprouts and broccoli are also high in protein, iron and Vitamin A.
Other vegetables which Marshalls says you should be eating include carrots, endive (particularly high in calcium), fennel, kale, lettuce, parsley (all good for magnesium and Vitamin C), peas, hot chilli peppers, salsify, spinach, sweet corn, Swiss chard and turnips.Reuse content