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Posts from the ‘Satirical’ Category

The Dour and the Glory

We’ve had the thunderstorms and sandstorms, the flash floods in wadis (not in our garden, thankfully) and the roof flying off our beehive. Now, the heat has hit us and the garden is, in truth, past its spring best.

The story is mixed, however. There are shady areas where the grass is green, the plants thriving – among the fruit trees, for example. And there are splashes of colour from our faithful shrubs, hibiscus and rose. Meanwhile, the flame trees (Delonix regia) are filling the street outside the garden with a magnificent show, the odd branch spilling over into our garage and filling it with glorious, bright red flowers:

Even so, this isn’t the happiest time in the jasmine garden. Read more

Boris redux

Or: an epilogue to the drama

Last time I wrote about Boris and the rosemary, I concluded that he was a has-been and she merited rehabilitation. I no longer referred to them as one and the same. This was in late June, in Rehabilitating the rosemary

You may remember that Rosemarinus officinalis had a habit of growing out of control, dominating one corner of the garden and overpowering lesser flora by sheer, towering ambition.

By the end of June, we had come to an accommodation of sorts. The Boris genie was back in his box, as it were, and the rosemary had command of her plot. In fact, I felt I owed her some respect.

A further drastic reshaping of the herb in September seemed to do the trick nicely. Afterwards, rosemary kept her shape, flowered generously, attracted bees and other pollinators, and produced richly scented shoots full of essential oil. In short, she did everything a herb is supposed to do.

But: Cave Rosmarinum! Beware of jumping to conclusions, say I (not an exact translation).

Come October, the Boris inside the bush broke out once again… Absolutely irrepressible, the unkempt giant of the corner with the thatch going every which way made a storming comeback. Thus was Elizabeth David’s warning shown to be true: “A treacherous herb”, said she.

With inexhaustible energy and a blindness to the inappropriateness of taking over the whole plot, the herb is once more occupying more than a fair share of space and light. I do believe she/he is larger than ever, robust in the extreme and impervious to everything around – even to the presence of a superb lemon/orange tree with the strength of continents in its genetic heritage.

So this may not be an epilogue. It may be only the second act in a very long and unnerving soap opera: eerie in the extreme.

Parallel universe: On the cover of the British satirical magazine “Private Eye” last summer: Theresa May curtseying to HM Queen Elizabeth II. HM: “How low can you go?” May: “Well, I’ve appointed Boris as Foreign Minister.”


Rehabilitating the rosemary

It wasn’t the Queen of Hearts after all: it was the Knave. If I had paid closer attention to my Lewis Carroll, I would have anticipated it.

So while Boris is already a has-been (unless there is an epilogue to this near-Shakespearean drama), I’ll have to go back to calling my rosemary by its official name, Rosmarinus officinalis.

I’ll change her gender too. And my attitude along with it. The mother plant is a magnificent specimen, if totally out of hand, and there are any number of her offspring all around the garden, filling in gaps in the hedge at ground level, or growing up against the wooden fence separating the kitchen garden from the fruit trees, with more cuttings now established in three raised beds. So, yes, I should be grateful.

In Sirmione, Lake Garda, last month we found rosemary used as a hedge:

Rosemary in Sirmione  5.16

In the kitchen, rosemary is a wonderfully versatile herb, adding flavour to casseroles, pasta sauces, meat roasts and home-made stock, although legendary British food writer Elizabeth David would have none of it. Her advice is perhaps pertinent in the present context. Warning against its overpowering essential oil, she cautioned: “Rosemary has great charm as a plant but in cookery is a treacherous herb.”*

In the pharmacopoeia it helps ward off ageing and memory-loss, and relieves headaches, depression and nervous exhaustion, but is best avoided in pregnancy as it is spasmodic (may cause contractions). In Egypt you can obtain rosemary soap from the Nefertari natural products range; I’m thinking of making my own macerated oil to use in cooking – or maybe to rub on my aching joints after a day’s hard gardening.

So on the whole, I should curb my criticism of our overwhelming rosemary, I think. There’s nothing wrong if it grows like topsy as some of you have pointed out – it’s happy! And David had a point about the charm of rosemary, especially when it is in flower. Ours has multiple spikes heavy with pale mauve flowers, very pretty and an absolute magnet for the bees and other insects.

Long may she reign over her corner of the garden!

Rosemary in flower

*In Italian Food, Elizabeth David, first published by MacDonald, 1954