with only the Celandines to tell of hope

Gardening is not just about weeding and watering and tilling the earth it is about dreaming of the shape of things to come as a consequence of these menial tasks.  Well, I try to convince myself it is.

I had a design for the bottom of the garden, a woodland glade sheltering spring flowers and providing welcome shade in the summer.  Unfortunately, the area had been left to fend for itself for a long time before we took over.  It had not coped very well.  It had been invaded by brambles that choked the growth of most plants, except the ivy, which managed to see off the rest of the plants and was starting to cover the trees.  There was no choice but brute force and the brambles were cut back and the roots dug out but the ivy has not yet been finally defeated.

However, after the removal of the brambles I could see a natural glade appearing at one end although the level of the soil was low at that part.  This was quickly (relatively) remedied by our neighbour who was creating a pond and had nowhere to dump his soil!

Finally my dream of the woodland scene in spring lit by the yellow Winter Aconites was becoming a reality.  Before actually possessing a garden I had been an avid reader of gardening magazines and I had read several articles on Winter Aconites.  They provide a carpet of sunshine in the dark days and are happy to live under the canopy of deciduous trees. Even the Latin name Eranthis hyemalis, meaning winter flower in Greek fitted in with the theme.

There is a beautiful time lapse film by Neil Bromhall on You Tube showing the Winter Aconites pushing through the melting snow.


The bulbs of Winter Aconite can be bought and planted in the spring time.

Only I forgot this crucial stage.

Never the less, this spring my woodland glade was covered in a carpet of yellow Winter Aconites.  They do look beautiful and I had to ask myself if I had really planted them and forgotten about it.  Then I thought about the soil from our neighbour’s garden. Then there was more doubt and searching for close-up photographs of Winter Aconites on the Internet.

I quickly realised that my bright yellow flowers, like large buttercups were not Winter Aconite, the leaves are not similar.  This left me with another problem.  What were they?  My kindly neighbours do not know the name of anything you don’t eat so I could get no help there.

I decided to post an identification request on a French web site http://www.visoflora.com/

I got a rapid reply from a member and could confirm that what I had was Lesser Celandine or Pilewort.

What’s in a name?  But I must admit I was very disappointed. My woodland glade was carpeted with Pilewort, old herbal remedy for haemorrhoids.

It warranted further research.  Ranunculus ficaria , Lesser Celandine in the UK and Fig Buttercup in the States does not get a universally good press.  It is considered an invasive weed in the UK and in some states in the USA.  One suggestion I found was to treat it with a systemic weed killer.

It is not all bad news as it is a native plant in the UK and Europe and provides an early source of pollen for bees just coming out of hibernation. Many people look forward to seeing this bright yellow flower as a sign that spring is on its way.  Good enough reason for me to keep it where it has grown.

It was supposedly William Wordsworth favourite flower and he wrote three poems on the Celandine.  http://www.wordsworth.org.uk/poetry/index.asp?pageid=298

The Celandine has also found its way into English literature, “Throughout the gusty winds of March dust-laden and with only the celandines to tell of hope…”  The Lone Swallow by Henry Williamson.

So I am in good company wishing no harm to my new arrivals.

Another happy ending?