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Six on Saturday – Fake Mexicans & Clever Italians

Saturday, 22nd August (Lúnasa) 2020.

There is a distinctly beginning-of-Autumn feel about my garden as the fourth Saturday of August rolls along. There’s also a distinctly scary feel as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, regardless of the approach of the changing season. I’ve been reading about the history of pandemics and it’s very grim. As a species we are vulnerable. This time around, we have the benefit of science, but many refuse to heed advice. It’s a sort of Superman Syndrome, I fear.

My Six this week features four of my top ten plants that regularly do well in my garden. Included also is some information about Storm Ellen, blue pollen, enlarged testicles and clever Italians. To be clear, all are unconnected.

1&2 Fuchsia

Discovered in Haiti, Fuchsias are named after a German botanist, while some originate from New Zealand. All have the particularity of having blue pollen. This pollen was used by young Maori people to adorn their face, probably well before the official discovery of the genus. The plant is not known to have any medicinal uses. It’s just there to brighten up our lives, especially during pandemic times. The Smallpox Pandemic ravaged Europe on and off for centuries, but when it was brought to the Americas it killed up to 90-95% of the population in just a century. Smallpox was the first Pandemic to be completely ended by a vaccine.

“We’ll have a vaccine. Very soon. Very soon”, the Mexican fella said.

Fake News: He wasn’t Mexican.

Here’s a lighter brighter one.

3. Heuchera Binoche

Native American people used some Heuchera (Alumroot) species medicinally. The Tlingit native Indians used Heuchera glabra as an herbal remedy for inflammation of the testicles caused by syphilis. To the Navajo, Heuchera novamexicana was a panacea and a pain reliever. The Smallpox Pandemic (see above) reduced the population of Mexico from eleven million people to one million.

4. Nasturtium Alaska

I may have included Nasturtiums before, and I’m delighted to do so once again. This is Alaska and I like the flowers and the leaves. During the lockdown months since March so many amateur gardeners started to grow their own food. We know that the flowers of these plants can be eaten, usually in summer salads, and the leaves are a firm favourite with little caterpillars. This was not the case during the Black Death 1347, because this native Central American plant didn’t arrive on the scene until nearly two hundred years later. The Black Death killed an estimated two hundred million people in four years. On a trivial note, its very likely that several ego-maniacal tribal leaders lost power, simply because they thought it would go away. Meanwhile, it was at this time in Venice that the clever Italians had a clever idea:

At first, sailors were held on their ships for 30 days, which became known in Venetian law as a trentino. As time went on, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a quarantino, the origin of the word quarantine and the start of its practice in the Western world.

5&6 Dahlia

Native to Central America, the dahlia was first introduced into Great Britain from Spain in 1798. In Europe and America, prior to the discovery of insulin in 1923, diabetics, as well as consumptives, were often given a substance called Atlantic starch, extracted from dahlia tubers. This knowledge simply was not there during the Plague of Justinian in 521. An estimated half of the population of the known world died. Justinian lost power in a flash. Perhaps he thought it would just go away.

This is a smaller, yet equally beautiful dahlia, loved by the bees and I. It’s hardly worth highlighting that there’s no blue pollen here.

Unseasonal Weather

  • Monday was a washout. There was a passing shower here last Sunday night, but it took 24 hours to pass along to somewhere else.
  • Tuesday was the only decent day for cycling. When I checked on Tuesday morning the roses were a soggy mess, the gladioli were hanging horizontally and even the lettuces looked miserable.
  • On Wednesday night Storm Ellen arrived with severe level-orange winds that blew the entire soggy mess into tidy heaps in several nooks. There was severe damage to the dahlias in particular. The Café au Lait above was levelled.
  • Thursday was wet so we headed for a staycation to Glendalough, home of my friend Kevin, in County Wicklow, known also as the Garden County.
  • Friday was wet again. We visited the National Garden Exhibition to meet old friends. Such a visit needed to be marked with a gardening purchase or two, so we bought a small Acer and a big Budda.

We are an expanding group of gardeners who write. We write about six items in our gardens, and we do it on Saturdays. I’ve been doing this since June and I enjoy nothing more than reading about and seeing other gardens from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, USA and Britain. Lest we forget, hundreds more choose to publish on Twitter and Instagram. We follow the leader Jon and Jon follows us. You can find out more about it here. You may read and follow, or like myself, you may choose to write and follow. Either way, it’s great fun!

I do sincerely hope that no misinformation is circulating as I type. Primarily, I have used as my source. Full article here is worth an eight-minute read.


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0 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – Fake Mexicans & Clever Italians”

  1. It seems I am a head in sand type of gal. I have no inclination to read about earlier pandemics as the outcome is only ever grim. Your précis injected with plant stuff however is an entertaining read. Have a good week and hope the weather dries up

    1. Thank you, Dorris. Already the morning is bright and sunny. I’ll soon be off to repair some damage and perhaps see if I can get some lettuce & spinach into the ground. Best wishes, a chara.

      1. Though there was a tragic death in Co. Donegal – a father and two children – when the car went off the road and into the sea. The man’s wife survived, but what a sadness she will bear.

  2. Great and informative Six …! The nasturtiums bring a touch of red colour. And the story of blue pollen brings another very interesting point of view that I didn’t know.
    I hope Storm Ellen didn’t break many plants and pots in your garden …

      1. Sorry to hear that … They will recover next year though …
        To my knowledge the New Zealand fuchsia ( F.excorticata) is the one that has blue pollen, the others in my opinion don’t. Maybe I’m wrong . ( Ask @fuchsiarius on twitter or Insta, he knows everything on fuchsias)

  3. I’ll see your fuchsia blue pollen and raise you ‘edible’ fuchsia berries. Apparently a diuretic and febrifuge (reduces fevers). All fuchsia berries are considered edible, but some don’t taste nice. I have to say, I have never seen berries on my own fuchsias so cannot attest to their flavour.

  4. The three New Zealand Fuchsias have blue pollen and so does F. cyrtandroides, from Tahiti. None of the South American’s do, though ‘Lechlade Magician’ which is a hybrid of excorticata from NZ and magellanica from Chile, does. One of my books helpfully tells me that F. excorticata is used locally in steam baths and to treat bleeding after childbirth. It doesn’t say if it did any good. All that weather came to Cornwall after visiting you, slightly tempered by the fight your garden put up.

    1. Cheers for that, Jim. I have several experts updating today. This really is a magnificent group!
      I had read of several medicinal uses for fuchsia, yet as you say, few have any empirical evidence.
      Bad weather week indeed. Hope next week will be better.

  5. Sorry your Dahlia Café au Lait was damaged in the storm, I hope it will throw up a few more stems for you this year.

    Interested but scary read about previous pandemics. You are right about those who refuse to heed good advice. Those with this ’Superman Syndrome’ should perhaps remember that Superman had kryptonite to contend with. Mess with it at your peril.

    I’m hanging in there for a vaccine – it will come in time. Meantime we have the calming influence of our gardens.

  6. An interesting read indeed, and I will now examine fuschia flowers more closely to see if they are the New Zealand species or not. Nasturtium Alaska is really lovely with its variegated foliage.

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