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The Voice - December 2021

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

It has been another strange year with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the environmental COP 26 conference in Glasgow which was not able to fully allay our fears about the world’s environment.

Therefore, it is up to us to do what we are able to do to ensure a better environmental future. We can do this by ourselves or in groups, since it all starts in the garden.

From myself as Chairman, and the whole of The East London Garden Society we wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year for 2022.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.

The Great Eastern Parks Route

On 14 November 2021 the East London Garden Society walked the Great Eastern Parks Route as far as is possible at this time. Twenty of us, including walkers from the immediate Home Counties, met at the well-kept and structured Meath Gardens in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in which stands one of the few Black Poplars still remaining in the UK.

We walked to The Regent's Canal, looking south to The Limehouse Basin. After photographing a heron in Mile End Park we turned northward on the canal to Victoria Park which is recognised as one of the most beautiful parks in London, and possibly the UK.

After seeing Burdett Coutts garden and folly we ventured toward the Hertford Union Canal which is the link from The Regents Canal to The River Lea. After a beautiful walk under the A12 reaching The River Lea in Hackney Wick, we rested for a while.

We could have walked further north towards Hackney Marshes, but we chose south in the London Borough of Newham, walking toward the River Thames alongside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Passing sights of both natural and historical interest in this part of London we reached Three Mills, the oldest mill still working in the UK. After walking around this wonderful Georgian building we finalised our walk at Cody Dock just before The River Lea reaches The River Thames.

Everyone was pleased that this walk through nature in east London was available. Many had never realised the connections that were available in this part of the urban city. We look forward to our next walk in the Spring.

Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening had its first heyday during Victorian times. As plants such as abutilons, palms, and hibiscus were discovered by botanists in remote parts of the world, those who could afford to do so, filled their parlours and conservatories.

The more you know about your indoor plants and where they come from, the easier it will be to keep them healthy. Understanding a plant's native habitat can help you decide which potting soil to use, how often to water, what window the plant should be in, and whether or not it needs extra humidity.

But even if you don't have specific cultural information about each and every one of your houseplants, you can feel your way to success with some general guidelines.

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When a wound on a tree penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree secretes a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such a resin. Myrrh is harvested by repeatedly wounding the trees to bleed the gum, which is waxy and coagulates quickly. 

After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. The gum is yellowish and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.

Commiphora myrrha is native to Somalia, Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, (Somali Region of) Ethiopia and parts of Saudi Arabia. Meetiga, the tradename of Arabian Myrrh, is more brittle and gummier than the Somali variety and does not have the latter's white markings.

Fragrant myrrh beads are made from the crushed seeds of Detarium microcarpum, an unrelated West African tree. These beads are traditionally worn by married women in Mali as multiple strands around the hips.

In pharmacology, myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwashes, gargles, and toothpastes, it is also used in some liniments and healing salves that may be applied to abrasions and other minor skin ailments. Myrrh has been used as an analgesic for toothaches and can be used in liniment for bruises, aches, and sprains.

Myrrh is a common ingredient of tooth powders. Myrrh and borax in tincture can be used as a mouthwash, however long-term exposure to borax can be harmful to internal organs. A compound tincture, or horse tincture, using myrrh is used in veterinary practice for healing wounds.

Myrrh gum is commonly claimed to remedy indigestion, ulcers, colds, cough, asthma, lung congestion, arthritis pain, and cancer.

The 5th dynasty ruler of Egypt King Sahure recorded the earliest attested expedition to the land of Punt, modern day Horn of Africa particularly Somalia which brought back large quantities of myrrh. Myrrh was used by the ancient Egyptians, along with natron, for the embalming of mummies.

Wildflowers Are the Best Pesticide

Crop land does not exist in a bubble, which means some of the pesticides sprayed onto the land end up contaminating neighbouring fields, soil, water and air. 

Even in the case of systemic pesticides, which are taken up into the plant as a whole via pesticide-treated seeds, about 95 percent of the substances ends up not in the plant cells where it was intended but blown off as dust or permeating the soil and water.

The ultimate solution is not to fight against nature with the use of harmful chemicals, but rather to work with it, and even learn from it, embracing the natural tools already in existence to keep pests in check: namely, wildflowers.

Wildflowers are home to many beneficial insects, including lacewings, ladybirds, hover flies and parasitic wasps, the latter two of which are natural predators to common crop pests like cereal leaf beetles and aphids.

The new in-field stripes, however, make it easier for the beneficial insects to move about the fields and reach all the way to the centre. Wildflower stripes also go beyond another method of natural pest control known as beetle banks, in which raised strips are planted tussock and other grasses to attract ground beetles.

In-field wildflower strips move beyond beetle banks in a number of important ways. Perhaps the most important is that their focus is on supporting diverse communities of predatory and parasitic insects that kill pests. 

Research increasingly suggests that complex communities of predators and parasitoids are the most effective at controlling pests. In a report published in the journal Science, Boyd and colleague Alice Milner of Royal Holloway University London called for pesticidovigilance and wrote:

“The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation that chemicals which pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales, is false.

Throughout spring and summer, mixtures of neonicotinoids are found in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers growing in arable field margins, at concentrations that are sometimes even higher than those found in the crop.”

This means that plans to add wildflowers to conventional crop fields could potentially backfire and end up exposing pollinators to increased levels of pesticides unless efforts are made to slash pesticide usage at the same time.

Swap toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives or, better still, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a wildflower meadow or edible organic garden.

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Mulled Wine




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