Saturday, July 02, 2005

Wall Lettuce, Gibbon, Creeping Jenny

There has been a lot of wall lettuce in evidence this year. Mycelis Muralis has pretty, yellow flowers, reddish stems and irregular lobes. It grows in rocky places and, notably, here on neglected door steps. You are supposed to be able to eat the leaves in salads. The seed heads are like tiny, dandelion clocks but with far fewer white-winged seeds. I see some that have gone to seed by the station in Sevenoaks. They are like spherical snow flakes.

Why, someone said this morning, should anyone want to read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empires? One reason is its entertainment value. For example, describing Gordianus, Gibbon writes: "His manners were less pure, but his character was equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested to the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that both the one and the other were designed for use rather than observation". The footnote reads: "By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left three or four children. His literary productions, though less numerous, were by no means contemptable".

It has been difficult to find things to grow in the dry and shady side of our garden, but this year it has become quite crowded with plant life. Creeping Jenny,lysmachia nummularia, is now providing brilliant ground cover. True to its name it reaches through obstacles to investigate the path to the front door.

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