Plant of the Month: June 2017

There is no doubt that, for a very long period, the pineapple was THE evidence, across Europe, of your wealth, your taste, and your ability to choose a head gardener for your estates who could manage a stove-house. This exotic fruit from the tropical jungle was allegedly encountered by Christopher Columbus on the island of Guadeloupe, which he visited during his second voyage, between 4 and 10 November 1493 (though I haven’t yet found a contemporary account which confirms this?). Continue reading

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To add to the gaiety of the nation in these trying times, I have for some time now been tweeting (@Prof_hedgehog) a #WordOfTheDay drawn from Thomas Wright’s Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English: Containing Words from the English Writers Previous to the Nineteenth Century Which Are No Longer in Use, or Are Not Used in the Same Sense; and Words Which Are Now Used Only in Provincial Dialects, first published in two volumes in 1857. Continue reading

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It may seem a little weird, when summer seems at last to be arriving, to be considering bark. On the other hand, in my wanderings on the Italian peninsula recently, I found myself photographing as much bark as I did leaves and flowers; and I took advantage of my period of restricted mobility  to do virtuous thinks like putting all my bark pictures into one folder. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: May 2017

When an unfortunate juxtaposition of my slippery sandal and the glass-like surface of a marble step in Venice had fairly uncomfortable consequences a couple of weeks ago, my second conscious thought (the first having been ‘I hope this wasn’t caught on CCTV’) was ‘Oh dear [a slight paraphrase], what about Chelsea?’ But I managed to hobble round last Wednesday, thanks mostly to the help of my devoted wingman, who sheltered my left side from assaults by elbow and the thrice-accursed backpack. Continue reading

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I was picking stems of my Deutzia to bring indoors (an activity which presents a rather more domesticated and delightful image of the châtelaine of Château Hedgehog than the reality), when it occurred to me that although I have been enjoying the beautiful (though sadly unperfumed) spring blossom of this shrub for more than twenty years, I had no idea who Mr (Herr, Signor, Monsieur) Deutz was (though it was a safe bet that the eponym was a man). Continue reading

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Not a Lion

The Twitter community of medieval historians have a recurring thread called #notalion. I ventured a humble contribution myself after our jaunt to Lisbon last year, but today I have come across a horde (herd, pack, pride) of not-quite-lions, all conveniently close together in and around the duomo of Modena, where we are spending a few days before moving on to La Serenissima. (It’s a tough job, being rude about the Biennale, but somebody has to do it.) Continue reading

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A Skeleton in the Cupboard?

One of the things I’m doing at the moment is browsing through nineteenth-century issues of the Gardeners’ Chronicle (online – God bless the Biodiversity Heritage Library!), cross-checking references to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. A lot of the material is predictable – notes on the Garden Syndicate reports to the Senate, short articles about developments in the garden, a researcher’s notes on earthworms – but occasionally something pops up which is truly bizarre. Take page 380 of New Series vol. 19 (1883). Continue reading

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