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Perennials are the ones that grow like weeds, biennials are the ones that die this year instead of next, and hardy annuals are the ones that never come up at all.
-Katherine Whitehorn

Good Earth Friday

On Good Friday many Christians observe the hours of darkness of the crucifixion by turning off lights and electrical appliances. This accords well with Earth Day’s environmental agenda and so the coincidental timing of these two occasions, brings a rather poignant intertwining to the themes of sin, death, resurrection and salvation.

I rather shy away from publicly boarding the bandwagon of  world environment  issues, not least because the topic is emotive and the cause so seemingly mammoth. Nevertheless my tribute to Earth day is a personal and rather long-winded retrospective on the shaping of this green gardener.

house in the woods

dream house

Evidently I’d been born with a  love of nature so that wild places were the happiest of playgrounds and long after seeing the film ‘Thomasina’, the vision of a  house in the woods was my perfect idyll. Yet even whilst I was blithely enjoying the plethora of  little beasties that filled  playtime with fascination, Rachel Carson published her lyrical but seminal vision of DDT’s decimation of wildlife.  “Silent Spring” was a book I did not read until many years later when newer pesticides were still making her projections a foreboding reality

“all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings…Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change…On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh” 1

planet earth from apollo 11

The blue planet

A few days before my 17th birthday,  the awesome beauty of our blue planet was beamed back to us with the Apollo 11 mission. This completely novel, cosmic perspective of Earth had such a personal impact that I kept a postcard of the image as a bookmark for many years.

What followed was the era of flower-power when we baby boomers looked back disparagingly at the generations who had gone to war with each other as well anything and everything that despoiled crops and gardens. With proclamations of  love for mother earth, our generation perversely set the trend for acquisitiveness and waste in peaceful prosperity. It was the beginning of the cheap and cheerful disposable age when natural materials were replaced with what Mailer aptly called “excrement of oil” and Guthrie had long since prophetically sang that “Everything’s gonna be made out of plastic”.

Fortunately the austerity of the post-war fifties and an upbringing that abhorred waste left me with a natural propensity to make-do and mend, recycle and re-home. Such words were of little significance to previous generations other than as a way of life but then they did not have the indisposable pollutants of plastic and nuclear waste that we are now faced with.

spring flowers in the garden

native spring flowers

Back in our gardens though there has been a marked progress, with declining demand for herbicide and pesticide that had made our green spaces so hygienically devoid of  pests and their natural predators. As gardeners we are far less solipsistic, and much more aware of the wider network in which our plot belongs. I confess however that even with my organic agenda,  it took me a while to convert to peat-free compost until I read that peatlands only ‘grow’ by only a millimetre a year and 69% of this UK resource is used merely for amateur gardening. 2

honey bee on dusky Cranesbill

honeybee on native dusky Cranesbill

The seemingly xenophobic current trend for only growing native plants appears out  of sync in a multi-cultural society but the triffid-like invasion of species such as Japanese knotweed has rightly made us wary. The potential for cross-hybridising and biological invasiveness of alien species pose a threat to the genetic purity and ultimate existence of native plants. Personally I tend to grow flowers that pollinators favour – often these are the resident species to which they have adapted over time but to watch bees feeding on Mexican Salvias or even Indian Balsam raises many questions as to where we need to draw the line.

Red Campion wildflowers

Red Campion wildflowers

Instead of a house in the woods, Central London is home so my gardening ethos is simply to  maintain a green and wild space amidst the concrete. The result is not pretty – there is no grand design nor remarkable plants to admire. Instead common-or-garden  flowers mostly bloom here,  self-setters are given free reign, and I especially like the wildflowers which bring a whiff of the countryside into the city.

edible wildflower allium triquetrum

edible allium triquetrum

Looking suitably Pascal lily-like,  Allium Triquetrum or three-cornered leek, along with the aniseedy Sweet Cicely are just two of the edible flowers that I now use in the kitchen. Rather shame-facedly I am starting to learn what our forefathers already knew about foraging for wild food.

a toad in the hand

Wildlife in the balance

For all our love and care of environmental issues and the well-intentioned downsizing of our greed for the earth’s spaces and resources, there remains the issue that dare not speak it’s name – population growth. The maths is simple but the solution seems a world away. Nevertheless as long as we humans continue to expand exponentially, it is inevitable that all other life forms will hang in an increasingly precarious balance.  And then Robbie Burn’s words will take on an even greater impact than he ever intended:  “I’m truly sorry man’s dominion, has broken natures social union”. 3

sky darkens

sky darkens

“And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” Mark 15:33

The Earth is indeed a bountiful planet.  I hope and pray that it does not become a sacrifice to human folly and that as in the spirit of Easter celebrations, there is ultimate salvation for us all.

Easter blossoms

Happy Easter!

Other Earth Day Blog posts: I was prompted by a fellow blogger to participate in Sage Butterfly’s Earth Day Reading Project but as I could not choose 3 books, I’ve chosen instead a trio of environmentally friendly posts for Earth Day:
Experiments with Plants – Bluebells
Polkadot Galoshes – Coffee Buzz for a Green Planet
The Physic Blogger – The Reason I am a bit narked about Mr T

1. Rachel Carson “Silent Spring” (1962)
2. Plantlife – Protecting Peat
3. Robert Burns “To A Mouse”
Further Reading:
David Attenborough ; How many people can live on planet earth
Wild Food Guide to the Edible Plants of Britain: Eat Weeds
©Copyright 2011 Laura Thomas.
All rights reserved. Content created by Laura Thomas @PatioPatch

35 comments to Good Earth Friday

  • You have written so well about how important it is to honor the earth every day. Featuring wild edible plants is such a good way to be more aware of what is naturally available. And what great reads you have recommended by fellow bloggers! All of those are great examples of finding green. Thank you for participating in The Earth Day Reading Project and Happy Earth Day and Happy Easter!

  • Cat

    Laura, I will pray this along with you – that we would be better stewards of this earth.

    ‘Central London is home so my gardening ethos is simply to maintain a green and wild space amidst the concrete. The result is not pretty – there is no grand design nor remarkable plants to admire. Instead common-or-garden flowers mostly bloom here, self-setters are given free reign, and I especially like the wildflowers which bring a whiff of the countryside into the city.’

    To me, your above statement says it all; this is what we can do on our little patch of dirt, we do our best and learn as we go. Lots of us, making small changes that add up to revival!

    Have a blessed Easter Laura.
    Cat read my post..You Might Find This HelpfulMy Profile

  • Laura, what a beautiful post! Thank you so much for the shout out too, what an honor =) I love your words, they resonate so strongly with everything I believe. If we all just do the best we can with what little patch we have, we can make a world of difference…thank you for your beautiful words.
    Julia@PolkaDotGaloshes read my post..Coffee buzzfor a green planet!My Profile

  • Laura this was beautifully written and full of great sentiment. Change can happen, one garden at a time, one corporation at a time, and one community at a time, one nation at a time, but hopefully in time for a real and meaningful change to occur. It is hard too because the generation becoming aware, is also the generation largely responsible.
    Donna read my post..Into The Sunset- Sky WatchMy Profile

  • Happy Easter and Earth Day! Your beautiful flowers indicated such a happy and healthy garden you have. Just having plants around your house not only for aesthetic reason but you are also contributing in your own small way to make this earth a better living space to be shared with our future ancestors. Live green to make Mother Earth happy and healthy!
    p3chandan read my post..Outdoor Wednesday – Lovely morning!My Profile

  • Laura this was a very beautiful post full of wisdom and truth….I felt a kindred spirit as I read your words and could not help but draw so many of the same conclusions..well done and well said…thank you for inspiring me even more today…Happy Earth Day and Happy Easter!!
    Donna read my post..Earth DayMy Profile

  • Dear Laura, Such a wonderful Earth Day/Good Friday posting! I am so happy you linked the two events – and so beautifully. You echo my sentiments, but express them better than I ever could. Stunning photos, as always. Happy Earth Day! Happy Easter! P x
    Pam’s English Garden read my post..Earth Day Phenology EventMy Profile

  • Laura: What a thoughtful post! I, too, struggle to find a balance with natives and introduced plants. I am trying to move more and more toward the natives. Thanks for your well-spoken words.
    PlantPostings read my post..Plant of the month- LupineMy Profile

  • Laura a beautiful thoughtful post, I love your blue and purple native plants, a few words on the peat subject, the gardening world has really taken it on and have done a great deal to stop using peat and peat based products, however …. for every wind turbine they put up on peat moorland they are digging out enormous ammounts of peat and releasing tons of carbon into the atmosphere all in the name of ‘green energy’
    I agree with others that if we each do our bit it helps but it’s big business and the stock market that really needs to change, the real reason for wind turbines is to sell green units to companies for their green percentage and off sets for flights,
    Happy Easter, Frances
    island threads read my post..The Solitude gardenMy Profile

    • thanks for all this info Frances. You’ve cited another example of so called green technologies destroying the environment. Biofuels is another, not to mention toxic energy saving lightbulbs. We little people do our bit to save the planet whilst nothing changes at super structure level.

      • you’re welcome Laura, the reason I found all the windtubine info was because they were wanting to put nearly 200 on the moor near me, I thought wind turbines were good but then others started to inform me of the down side what shocked me most is that a windturbine has a life span of only 25 years, I looked at the children around me here and thought when they are in their 30s we will have given them a moor full of rusting hulks!
        now …. TOXIC energy saving lightbulbs! please tell me more I seen to have missed this one, Frances
        island threads read my post..The Solitude gardenMy Profile

      • Did not know WTs were so short-lived. Apart from the fact that energy saving bulbs contain mercury so are hazardous waste at disposal, when warm, they give off cancer-causing chemicals

  • - thank you Sage Butterfly; your meme inspired so many of us
    - appreciate the assurances, Cat, as sometimes have to remind myself why I garden
    - hi Donna (I see you are green apples too ;) ) praise indeed from you
    - and how richly green is your tropical world, Chandan
    - happy to feature you Julia. thanks for the mutual support as I did wonder how contentious this post might be
    - we kindred spirits must stick together, Donna :)
    - on the contrary, Pam, your words speak volumes
    - know what you mean PP but here in the UK we’ve plant hunted aliens for hundreds of years. When do they become native I wonder

  • What a beautiful post! I appreciate how you linked Earth Day and Good Friday so thoughtfully. It comforts me to find kindred spirits (as Donna aptly put it). I, too, try to grow what will grow well on the plot of land of which I am a steward. I’m not only a steward of trees and perennials, but of birds, insects and even microbes in the soil.

    (But NOT a steward of knotweed! Don’t even get me started on that :) )

    I love your concluding prayer. “The Earth is indeed a bountiful planet. I hope and pray that it does not become a sacrifice to human folly and that as in the spirit of Easter celebrations, there is ultimate salvation for us all.”
    Sheila Read read my post..Flowers- Love and Earth DayMy Profile

  • Your post is inspiring. The photo of the tiny toad produced an instant that’s-so-cute reaction. I was thinking as I read about your use of the word mammoth as a disincentive for jumping publicly on the environmental bandwagon. Then I read Frances’s comment above.

    The answers to the problems we face are not mammoth but reside within each of us. They are very small steps taken by millions of individuals to reduce our consumption and the way we consume. “Government” can do nothing without us. I don’t think we can blame the Earth’s woes on “big business” because we drive big business. They are only supplying what we demand. If we cut back, even minimally on the amount of energy we use, business wouldn’t be trying to supply it through wind turbines or otherwise because there would be no market. And every child born in the developed world contributes to the problem exponentially more than a child in the undeveloped world because he or she will use so many more resources.

    Sorry to go on like this but I feel very strongly that we have to save ourselves not the Earth. The Earth will go on very happily without us.
    Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens read my post..Chanticleer- A Pleasure GardenMy Profile

    • thanks for the controversy Carolyn – perhaps I unconsciously used ‘mammoth’ as a motif for the doomed extinction I fear! Shoud have said complex as there are so many strands many of which contradict or certainly raise even more discussion i.e. the interdependence of greed and profit. Perhaps it’s a Gordian knot – needs one bold stroke.

    • Carolyn I think you missed my point, big business tells us they put up windturbines for providing green energy when the real money from windturbines is made by
      1) selling green units to other businesses to create their green percentage, this means they do not clean up the way they produce their product which is what the green percentage was intended to make them do,
      2) sell off set to people who fly so they can off set their carbon footprint and feel less guilty about flying,
      most of us do not know what big business is doing as they keep it quiet and most people with stocks and shares look at profit and dividends rather than where and how their money is being used,
      yes individuals can bring about change as they did on this island where I live but only by finding out what big business is doing and looking over our garden fence, Frances

      Laura I hope you do not mind my responding, Frances
      island threads read my post..The Solitude gardenMy Profile

      • not at all Frances. I think the debate comes down to doing our bit rather than doing nothing whilst knowing that our bit is nothing to compared what business, governments are not doing!

  • Your words and pictures inspire as always… have a joyous Easter!
    Carolyn♥ read my post..I BelieveMy Profile

  • I probably appreciate this post so much because it matches so much of my own life – post war childhood, Silent Spring, space missions . . . even unease about the native/non-native question. Seems to me there are few real ‘natives’ in England and it’s often more a matter of how long a species has lived here rather than whether or not it has, at some time, been introduced.

    Lucy Corrander read my post..LIGHTS AND BELLS- MISTS AND FLOWERSMy Profile

  • Dear Laura, You write so beautifully! Lucid, moving and inspiring . . . truly a pleasure to read. I enjoyed the quotes and fear their truth is still not being heard by policy makers. I so agree that green energy must be thoughtful to all aspects of the environment . . . not business as usual . . . only with cleaner sources. Carving out the earth and using large turbines with windmills does not seem right to me. You are so right about populations and your choosing the Burns quote is perfect. The way you wove this essay together is so lovely featuring how one gardener blossoms into a mindful steward. I love the photo of your holding the tiny frog and the caption. Very powerful. In fact all of your photos are beautiful and the way you made the last into an egg is so clever. Your last words so poignantly touch me. Our planet is indeed a living organism and we are harming it. I do believe it will rid itself of us (and much of life as it is now including all flora and fauna) . . . the earth is reacting now to our abuse . . . due to greed and ignorance. I do think we have power we do not use. We can each make changes in our daily lives but we also need to reach outside our realms. I strongly believe that corporations left unregulated must be reined in. It can seem hopeless especially when all leaders are mostly bought. Salvation . . . there is hope in the word. Have a lovely Easter.
    Carolflowerhill read my post..Birds in Review Part XXXV A Bird Parade For Earth Day Yellow-bellied SapsuckerMy Profile

    • you and I are in complete accord Carol, just one reason I love Flower Hill Farm. Thank you for all the lovely compliments – and glad you spotted the Easter egg blossom too. Needed a lighter note to end on!

  • - hello and many thanks Sheila. Not a steward of knotweed obviously!
    - bless your Carolyn
    - and now even more in common, Lucy, since reading your Portland Bill post

  • Laura – Sometimes I get carried away with the way that you write, weaving different ideas together so poetically, that I don’t take in the content properly and then I have to read your posts again. This is one of those posts. It confirmed what I guessed about you already, that you are a thoughtful, sensible, down-to-earth person.
    Happy Easter.
    PS. Thanks for linking to my blog.
    b-a-g read my post..Foxgloves 23 APR 2011My Profile

    • really appreciate that you take time to read my posts so thoroughly, b-a-g, and like to think I match up to your character analysis ;) Your post on bluebells did raise that all important question of purity vs hybrids so a very pertinent link.

  • Laura – your post just blew me away! So much so, that I just edited my “Earth Day” post to add your link. You are so eloquent and thought-provoking, I want other readers to see what you have to say. Thanks for sharing.
    Shyrlene read my post..Earth Day Lots of Smart People Out ThereMy Profile

  • Laura, your post had me engrossed. Although I don’t personally shout the odds regarding environmental issues, I do take on board what those like your good self have to say. And yes I do act upon them, and at other times I crave an unfriendly fix.

  • Wonderful post Laura. Brave too, mentioning the population issue, something we tend to keep silent about for fear of offending. I’m sure the earth will recover from humanity eventually, once we are gone, but I would much prefer that we learn to be guardians and stewards rather than pillagers.
    Janet/Plantaliscious read my post..Bluebell Woods BlissMy Profile

  • - many thanks for the shout Shyrlene
    - being consistently ‘green’ takes so much effort, Alistair ;)
    - I like the terms pillagers vs guardians, Janet. Somehow we’ve been gagged by the spectre of eugenics but yet world population lies at the nub of all environmental issues. If the animals could speak they would surely mention it.

  • well-written, thoughtful, challenging, beautiful…

  • Your wonderful post is quite thought provoking. I agree with Carolyn that we must be responsible as individuals. But I don’t think we can ultimately save ourselves, or the earth. I believe the transformation will come through God, who created the earth and who will reclaim it. Forgive me if this sounds preachy, but in the Bible, Revelations 11:18 has an interesting prophesy which proclaims that God’s wrath will involve destroying those who “destroy the earth”. But God’s redemption and restoration involves mankind, his most precious creation, as well as the earth itself. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s promise to us. Despite our sins, there is hope! Happy Easter!
    debsgarden read my post..Making Friends and Garden MemoriesMy Profile

  • A most beautifully written and thoughtful post Laura. Thank you for sharing your gardening philosophy with us. Hope that you had a peaceful and joyous Easter. Thanks also for providing me with the id for a plant that has mysteriously appeared in my garden ~ red campion :)
    Anna read my post..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  • An eloquently written post Laura. I spent 11 years working with a team that was directly striving to undo some of the damage done to wildlife as a result of DDT and its metabolites. In some respects that damage was minor compared to the magnitude of destruction our species has wrought across the globe in total. It’s difficult to know what all the answers are to the damage we’ve done, and continue to do, but without hope, there is only despair. I can only hope and pray with you that we’re smart enough and compassionate enough to preserve what matters most before it’s too late. A belated happy Easter and Earth Day to you.
    Curbstone Valley Farm read my post..Hive Inspection- Colony ComparisonMy Profile

  • Laura,
    I am late reading your blog, but I am so glad I did, I am so aware of what we should be doing that sometimes I feel it is useless, but you post reminds me any little effort makes a difference and it’s worthwhile doing it. I try my best in my terrace and this spring I am working on my aromatiques and first salads. It is so rewarding! Lula
    Lula read my post..Visit to Parc Tenbosch- BrusselsMy Profile

  • - belated thanks Mike for your succint compliments
    - agree Deb, we surely need a greater hand to save us from ourselves
    - interesting work, Clare and no wonder your Curbstone Valley is so obviously organic
    - thank you Lula, we each have to do what we can even in the face of overwhelming odds