May Day: Give and Grow at Library Community Garden – Celebrations at Geldeston

At Sustainable Bungay’s 2nd Give and Grow day on May Day last Sunday the whole library courtyard garden was burgeoning.

“Whoah! Are those really the licorice mints (anise hyssops) I brought last year for the Plants for Bees bed? The bees will have a field day. My ones at home are a fifth of the size,” I exclaimed to everyone.

It wasn’t just the anise hyssops. Mints and hops, lungwort, miniature daffodils, fruit trees and Greek mountain sage were among the happy plants, testimony to all the work and attention people in Sustainable Bungay, the courtyard group and the library had put in over the past eighteen months.

Jenny showed me a vibrant, bristly plant she had been struck by during a weeding session. She’d left it to grow and it was now in bloom with tiny its bright yellow flowers. “It must have come with the compost,” she said. It was Fiddleneck (Amsinckia), an American relative of borage and comfrey, naturalised here and found on arable land. And it looked great alongside all the other plants in the bed.

Last year, Nick the Community Garden co-ordinator, met Steve, who wanted to clear a surplus of well-rotted chicken manure compost from his smallholding. Steve began receiving regular visits from members of Sustainable Bungay as we collected this amazing compost for the Community Garden (as well as our own!). We still had one or two bags in the shed and when we got home Charlotte put some on our new vegetable and flowers bed. That’ll get the amise hysspos growing!

And what about the Give and Grow? Well between 11 and 1 the courtyard was alive with people exchanging plants and swapping tips on growing, soil, which plants to put where, the different ways to eat the edible ones and what herbs were good as medicines. I’d hesitated to bring aloe vera along, thinking that people were always trying to get rid of it. But the first person I spoke to asked what was good for beestings.

“Well, there’s crushed lemon balm leaf,” I said.
“And aloe,” said Richard.
“Which we have right here,” said Charlotte.

The woman was delighted with the plant. They grow well on a bright kitchen window (they’re greener if kept out of direct sunlight) and are an excellent remedy for minor burns. I gave Elinor one some time ago and she breaks open a leaf whenever she scalds herself in the kitchen!

Among the fruit and vegetable plants were beans, tomatoes, cabbages, rocket, chives, aubergines, anaheim chili, raspberries and strawberries. And the flowers and herbs included alchemilla (lady’s mantle), columbine, houseleek, lily of the valley, masterwort, violets, pink evening primrose, lemon balm, marjoram and yes! anise hyssop. There were also some young and lovely rowan trees.

As Nick said, there is now a permanent Give and Grow stand at the Library Community Garden. Bring along some seedlings or young plants to exchange during normal library hours.

After the Give and Grow we headed from Bungay down the lanes to Geldeston Locks inn. Everywhere was full of may blossom, the sun was shining, and when we arrived the May Day celebrations were in full swing. There was a bit of a chill wind, but the place was packed, the mood was merry, the Morris Dancers danced (Rita told us she’d come to the Locks at 5 in the morning to greet the sunrise with the rest of the group – listen here to the dawn chorus birdsong and pipes recorded by Josiah also up with the larks), the Green Man wove in and out of the crowd, the May queen took the throne and a group of girl dancers twisted a rainbow round the maypole. By Mark Watson

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