smelly british natives

A garden visit a few days ago brought back memories of lanes and hedgerows in the south of England, in the form of two plants that grow wild in those places. Both of them, incidentally , with rather smelly leaves. First there was betony, Stachys officinalis, also called bishops wort and well known to herbalists for centuries past. It’s a member of the mint family, a very large family and a lot of them are aromatic in one way or another – pleasantly, like rosemary and thyme, or not so nice, like betony. The second plant was the stinking iris, Iris foetidissima, also called gladwin and roast beef plant. The flowers are small and dull in colour; its real glory comes in winter when the fat seed pods split open and show off their rows of scarlet seeds. So, two North European plants brought here, accidentally or not, by our colonial ancestors, and a reminder to us gardeners: as well as admiring the look of a garden and smelling the flowers, crush a leaf and sniff, you may be surprised!

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