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Garden Ramblings, Issue #015
November 2005

Monthly musings on the garden scene

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In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Guest Article
- Henry Doubleday research Association
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources





Welcome to the November issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the Gentian.

The Guest Article this month is by Rosie Flores and the subject is Flower Power.

Despite the rather boring title I think that you will enjoy the story of how one man singlehandedly created an organic gardening organisation that is now a major player in the UK.

Special offers are hard to find this month. Hardly surprising with the Holiday Season fast appraoching, so this section is rather shorter than usual.

In the resources section the topic this month is trees. Here you will find details of several websites which together can provide you with anything you might want to know about trees for your garden.

If you want to keep up with all the news in the gardening world, you can read my blog Garden Supplies News.

Enjoy the issue.




Plant of the Month

Name: Gentian (G. sino-ornata), common names Baldmoney and Feldwort.

Description: Hardy perennial with lance-shaped mid-green leaves. This low growing plant is just six inches tall but has a spread of 12-15 inches. Bright blue trumpet-shaped flowers are produced in late autumn.

Origin: Native to Western China and Tibet.

Cultivation: Plant in March or April. They thrive in deep soil enriched with plenty of leafmould or peat which should not be allowed to dry out in the summer. Propagation is by division in March or by taking cuttings from the basal shoots in April or May.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble free but fungi may cause root rot on waterlogged soils.

Folklore: The name is derived from Gentius, an ancient King of Illyria (180-167 B.C.), who, according to the Roman author Pliny, discovered the medicinal value of these plants. The gentian is also known as Sampson's Snakeroot because it was believed to ward off serpents or negate their venom. Nicholas Culpepper's Complete Herbal published in 1640 claimed that it "strengthens the stomach exceedingly, helps digestion, comforts the heart and preserves it against faintings and swoonings". The closed gentian is still regarded, like a four-leaf clover, as a charm against all sorts of ill luck. However it was considered bad luck to bring it into a house, lest it be struck by lightning. Folklore suggested that death would follow if the flower was ever picked.


Flower Power

Flowers have always made people happy, but now scientists have come up with some amazing facts about flowers. A recent study conducted by the Human Development Lab at Rutgers University in New Jersey found that a single bouquet of flowers put a smile on 100 % of the recipients' faces. The participants reported less sadness, diminished anxiety, increased contact with family and friends, and an overall higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction - all of this, from one small floral bouquet!

Aromatherapy uses plant and floral fragrances to heal and refresh the body and mind. Every plant, flower, or herb has an aromatic essence that determines its unique smell or taste. These essences work through our sense of smell and trigger the brain to release chemicals that reduce pain and relax and calm the body. Aromatherapy is not a new concept. Anthropologists have revealed that primitive man used scented flowers and herbs for both ceremony and pleasure. Ancient Egyptians added the essence of chamomile to massage oils, and Greek athletes sprinkled themselves with scented nectar to enhance athletic performance. Cleopatra used pillows filled with rose petals to induce sleep, the Romans added lavender to their baths to soothe sore muscles and relax the spirit, and African tribes people coated their skin with fragrant oils to protect them from the sun.

It's been scientifically proved that floral fragrances can enhance our moods and health dramatically. For instance, lavender flowers and roses produce a calming effect. Fragrant flowers such as the lily, rose, lilac, and sweet pea are known to invoke feelings of romance. The fragrance of the yellow flowers of the ylang ylang tree is so captivating that Indonesians place it on the beds of newlyweds.

Besides changing your mood floral fragrances also improve your learning and productivity, too. In 1995, a study at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation showed that aromatic essences - particularly floral scents - increased learning speed by 17 per cent. It also showed that office workers worked more efficiently in offices filled with fragrant flowers than in odorless environments.

Our ancestors have been using fragrance to enhance the home throughout history. The bible notes the frequent use of frankincense. Shakespeare's plays have numerous references to potpourri. The ancient Greeks used to perfume the air of banquet halls, and the Romans sprinkled doves' wings with scented oils before releasing them into the room.

When people put their home on the market, they make sure to provide relaxing music and subtle fragrances. This makes a home more inviting. A home's scent is particularly important to potential buyers; it can make or break a buyer's interest. Placing fragrant bouquets or mild potpourri in selected rooms before an open house often results in a faster sale.


Rosie Flores is the administrator of GT Flowers, Inc, your source for your flower needs. Please visit:


Henry Doubleday Research Association

The Henry Doubleday Research Association is a UK charity that promotes organic gardening. The charity was established in 1954 by a man named Lawrence D Hills because of his fascination with one particular plant, namely Russian Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum).

But what was so special about this plant, and why did Lawrence Hills find it so interesting, and what was the connection with Henry Doubleday? These are some of the questions that this article willl attempt to answer.

Henry Doubleday who was born in 1813, was a member of the family whose ancestors sailed with William Penn to Pennsylvania and founded Doubleday & Company Inc. Henry was a great experimenter but not much of a business man. He patented a glue that was used on the first postage stamps, and it was the possibility that comfrey might provide a gum that first drew his attention to the plant.

Henry ordered some plants from Russia and the seedlings he received were a rare cross between the common white-flowered comfrey and the Caucasian variety which has sky-blue flowers. This strain proved to be very vigorous and he achieved the then unheard of yield of 100 tons an acre. Comfrey was promoted as a forage crop and Henry spent the last thirty years of his life engaged in research on the plant that it was his dream would feed a hungry world.

After Henry's death in 1902 his relations disposed of his belongings and all his records were destroyed. Following changes in farming practices, comfrey fell out of favour and was only grown by a few enthusiasts.

It was in the autumn of 1948 that Lawrence Hills claims to have seen his first comfrey plant. There followed a lifelong love affair with the plant and its use both for organic gardeners and as a high protein crop for feeding stock. In one of his many books on the subject he confessed "From that day to this I have never lived further away from a comfrey plant than a hundred feet and, more than any woman has, this crop has changed my life".

At that time Lawrence was working for his uncle on an estate in Norfolk, and it was here that his first experiments with the crop were carried out. Following a breakdown in his health, he left the estate and developed his career as a freelance writer for farming and gardening magazines.

The publicity gained from his writing prompted a request from a Canadian seed company for 5000 plants which he was unable to supply as he had none. However he was able to persuade a friend to fulfill the order, and he helped with the digging and packing of the plants. The goodwill generated by this transaction provided Lawrence with sufficient funds to acquire some land to start his trials.

In December 1954 Lawrence moved to Bocking in Essex and leased three-quarters of an acre of land which was to become his first trial ground. He needed a name for the informal organisation that was growing out of the fan-mail from his book and articles on comfrey, and so the Henry Doubleday Research Association was born.


Special Offers

With the Holiday Season fast approaching price reductions appear to be the last thing on merchants minds. In fact Dutch Gardens is the only one of the four that I regularly check, that is actually offering money off. Their bulb sale was supposed to end on 9th November but has been extended for an unspecified period.

Brecks are inviting you to "Discover the Elegance of Blue and White Gardens..." with a selection of perennial plants for shipping next spring, Gardeners Supply are concentrating on Gift Guides. And that is all that is worth mentioning this month.


Useful Resources

All about trees.

I am listing The National Arbor Day Foundation first because, among all the other information, this site has a comprehensive illustrated guide to all the different tree species.

Next a practical site. How to Prune Trees is a straightforward guide to this subject which can prove puzzling for beginners.

Trees are Good is published by the International Society of Aboriculture. Here you will find information on tree care and advice on choosing an arborist for those larger jobs that require greater skill than basic pruning.

Trees Forever proclaims its mission is: to plant and care for trees and the environment by empowering people, building community, and promoting stewardship.

Christmas Trees is a fun site that just had to be included at this season of the year. has a large collection of videos. I know that they are not all about trees, but definitely worth a look.

Finally here is a site that I have mentioned before, but if you still have any unanswered questions after looking at the previous sites, The Gardening Launchpad has a huge list of links about trees.


Update 4/21/2019 At the suggestion of Matt Hagens I have added a link to his article on Gardening with Kids


Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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