Plants in the Garden

I thought it’d be fun to compile a list of the species I’ve deliberately planted over the last few years in the new garden and which have so-far survived. The list is here and is almost complete, although I’m sure I’m missing a few things. Some fun statistics:

  1. In total there are 100 species on the list (the nice round number is coincidental)
  2. These species come from 38 families and 81 genera
  3. The most represented families are:
    • Rosaceae, which provides most of the fruiting trees and shrubs (18 species)
    • Lamiaceae, which provides most of the common herbs (13 species)
    • Asteraceae, which provides a few herbs and vegetables (8 species)
    • Boraginaceae, mostly non-edible green-manures and nutrient accumulators (5 species)
    • Amaryllidaceae, which contains the garlic family (5 species)
    • Apiaceae, which provides herbs (4 species)
  4. These six families provide 53 of the 100 species, or just over half

One thing that making the list has highlighted to me is that I really should plant more umbellifers to encourage hoverflies, parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects. While quite a lot of space in the garden is taken up by umbellifers, most of it is one species, sweet cicely, which I plant enthusiastically since I love the sweet anise taste and it will grow almost anywhere.

Sweet cicely, source: Hectonichus, Wikipedia

I often pull off bits of the plant and chew on them while wandering around the garden in summer. Other species might not taste as good, but they’d probably extend and fill out the umbellifer flowering season.

Things are Growing, Part 1

We’ve finally reached the time of year when things start to come to life, and just a couple of hours ago I took stock of my seed trays in the greenhouse. I sow a lot of hardy ‘wild’ plant seeds early in the greenhouse, since quite a few seeds benefit from a period of cold, and even if they don’t it shouldn’t do any harm. Of the 29 species sown, the following are now growing:

Devil’s bit scabious, source: Fornax, Wikipedia


Soapwort, source: Karelj, Wikipedia


Smooth rupturewort, source: Michael Becker, Wikipedia


Mugwort, source: Zubro, Wikipedia


Alecost, source: Stanislav Doronenko, Wikipedia


Bergamot, source: Smartbyte, Wikipedia


Tansy, source: Georg Slickers, Wikipedia


Yarrow, source: Petar Milošević, Wikipedia

Then of course there are the tomato, aubergine and pepper seedlings in the house on the sitting room windowsill… the green times are coming.

We’ve Been Changing the Climate Since the Beginning of Agriculture

I saw these posts recently on the Real Climate blog, and thought they was interesting enough to repost:

The Early Anthropocene Hypothesis: An Update

An Emerging View on Early Land Use

Apparently, there is increasing support in academia for the theory that human land use clearing and changes after the invention of agriculture were responsible for some abnormal climate trends in the late Holocene, over the last 5000 or so years.

What is the Holocene? The Holocene covers the period from the most recent retreat of the ice until the present day. It isn’t correct to say it started at the end of the last ice age since we’re actually still in one: since scientifically an ice age is when there’s significant ice at th poles, and we still have plenty of ice there for now. But within the current ice age there are interglacial periods when the ice retreats northwards and leaves most of Europe, Asia and North America uncovered, and the Holocene is the most recent of these retreats.

A glacial period, source: Ittiz, Wikipedia

So what’s odd about the Holocene? In previous interglacials, greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere tended to decrease over time, but in the most recent interglacial this was only true until a few thousand years ago. Then levels of GHGs such as CO2 and methane started rising again. This could be explained by some natural change, or by widespread burning of forests and clearing of land and an increase in methane emitting livestock.

If true, this would demonstrate again the exceptional impact of humans on the global feedback systems that normally operate. We partly reversed the usual increase in tree cover and vegetation that happen during interglacials, and accidentally kept the world slightly warmer than otherwise it would have been. The most recent explosion in human impact would then just be an exponential acceleration of a very, very old trend.