At the beginning of 2014 I set myself a target to learn more about botany and identification. In order to do this in a more creative way I signed up to a botanical illustration course at Kew Gardens in London but have not completed as many drawings as I would have liked. However, I have managed to identify some key wild flowers and shrubs at Navasola but decided to try and see what seeded itself most easily when I prepared a patch of soil on my real rock garden. It has come up with a vivid green and grassy presence and below are some of the cheeky common garden wild flowers or weeds that have self seeded there this Spring. I now know more about my friends and foes in the garden areas of our really wild finca and will keep watching this spot.
These have also tested my botanical skills as some are so common and not in our Mediterranean Book of Wild Flowers. Thanks to other blogs such as Tramp in the Woods I have been able to identify the Common Fumitory and our dead nettle which is slightly different with leaves clasping close to the stem; a Hen Bit dead nettle. I have also sent everyone crazy on two different small white flowers. Our friend and ecologist has helped but we are still struggling on the exact species. But although both small and white there is a big difference between the two; one in the Campion family and the other in Cress was our latest judgement! Small things to make me wonder and wander around looking for and looking at!
Our wild child Ms Peony Broteri is now settling down for the winter with hopefully tubers deep down by the chestnut tree roots and the seeds hidden away. Have been told the seeds can take two years to birth into another wild and seductive Ms Peony.
We spent some interesting hours at this Seed Network Fair in one of the nearby towns in the Sierra Aracena. There was an exchange of seeds by various people or collectives that are trying to cultivate organically or here in Spain ‘ ecologica’ or ‘ bio’. We were able to visit a plot of land that had been an abandoned ‘huerta’ outside the smaller village of Las Chinas. The aim of this collective was to cultivate organically and to be able to use abandoned land. The collective was called ‘sin tierra’ without land. It was great to see the young people involved in horticulture and we saw the most amazing sized tomato too! We have now bought some very tasty veg from them. Am not sure how my own attempt at self sufficiency will go and maybe it is better to support other projects and help people make a living out of growing on a small scale.
There was also a stall about permaculture in the Sierra Aracena and some very tasty apple juice was being shared from a wooden press. I struggled with my Spanish but attended some talks on how to conserve seeds and preservation of fruit and vegetable. Speaking to Trini who was giving some of these talks and who runs a very successful Eco Finca it was clear she also meant the biodiversity of flowers and all kinds of cultivating. She felt that monoculture can damage the environment. Is there hope for more small scale farming and the ability to support the natural world along with feeding the billions of human mouths. One of the food myths on the BBC web site from the UN was that large agribusiness was the way forward for the future. The suggestion was that small scale farmers are major producers of food to feed the world already and that biodiversity of the natural world can be supported by this type of farming.
Wakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties. The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.
Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed
The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.
Wakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.