Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Dunnocks and Dock

Come into the garden, its magical trees
Dapple the sun as they sway with each lazy breeze
They'll set your mind at ease

So begins Carly Simon's song "The Garden," from 1971, still a favorite of mine. It seems appropriate for today's post because aside from Monday's London walkabout, the garden is where I've been spending virtually all my waking hours.

It's in an especially fertile period, when everything is blooming and the critters are nesting. Little brown dunnocks, like the one above, are chasing each other through the branches in their amorous dance, and we've seen tits and robins and magpies and parakeets on the feeders. The parakeets have finally figured out how to fit their heads between the squirrel-proofing bars on the seed feeder, so they can snack all they want.

Here's our clematis, which is blooming like crazy right now. All the newly potted dahlias have sprouted and are growing by the day.

Most of yesterday, though, was spent working, rather than mooning about under lazily swaying Simon-esque trees. Remember how I mentioned dock, that pestilential weed that bedevils English gardens and fields? Even the UK government has classified it as noxious. I got to work on clearing ours.

The problem with dock is that you have to pull it up by the root. Leaving even a little bit of root apparently allows it to regrow. And getting the whole root is a challenge because it's a long, brittle taproot and it's usually very securely anchored. Above you can see that I did a good job pulling the one on the left, a so-so job in the middle, and a terrible job on the right. That right-hand plant will probably be back in a matter of days.

But look at how much I took out! I was proud of myself, even if some of the roots did break and I'll have to revisit the situation one of these days. At least I caught them before they set seed. (Apparently the seeds can remain viable in soil for fifty years!) I also took out other weeds and mowed the grass.

Someone asked in the comments a few days ago if dock also grows in North America. According to Wikipedia, broad-leafed dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is found on all temperate continents. There are many other types too, all broadly known as docks or sorrels, including some that I remember from my years in Florida. I'm not sure they're all as problematic.

In other news, my employers are talking about having the school library staff come back to work, even though classes will not resume on campus for the rest of this school year. I guess the plan is to have us available to check out books for students and their families -- once they're allowed to revisit campus under government restrictions -- before the start of summer break. I'm fine with that, provided we come up with adequate safety measures and controls. The details are still being worked out, but my furlough ends as of this coming Monday so I guess I could be working as soon as next week -- probably on some back office projects initially.

My flight to Florida in June has been officially cancelled by British Airways, and in exchange I applied for a voucher to use in future travel. I thought it was unlikely that trip was going to happen. Dave and I still haven't heard about our planned trip to Brazil in July, but I'm sure that's pretty much scuttled as well. Last I heard, Brazil wasn't doing well on the coronavirus front, partly because they have a president who's just about as disconnected from science and reality as Donald Trump.


  1. It breaks my heart to witness your persecution of the dock plants so in a way I am glad that you are about to go back to work. Serves you right. You should be made to carefully swab the surfaces of every book in the library - including "Broad-Leaved and Curly Dock – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses" by Robin Harford.

  2. Parts of my garden are blighted with ground elder.....another one that reproduces from the tiniest bit of root left in. They are amongst other plants so can never get it all out! It comes through from next door's wilderness !

  3. Your garden must be so beautiful right now. I love clematis but only had a very traditional purple. Yours makes quite a statement.

  4. Look at that sweet little bird!
    You have dock, we have betony which I hear you can also eat but not gonna happen here. The roots look like grubs. You know, you could pack up all your pulled dock and send it to Mr. P. so that he can plant it or eat it or use it medicinally.
    Back to work, huh? Well, I guess you might as well go sit in a library as sit at home. Not that you're doing much sitting at home. Your garden has probably never looked better in the entire history of it!

  5. spring is at its tail end here though we had one last little cool front come in last night. the last one as summer is pounding on the door.

    I have no intention of traveling by air until there is a vaccine.

  6. Spring flowers are the best balance to these crazy times. The colors and fragrance, enough to remind us of better days.

  7. The Dunnock is similar to the sparrow. (sort of) Your clematis is beautiful. Enjoy your garden, hugs, Edna B.

  8. I'm sure you've had enough time of and will be happy to go back. It beats pulling weeds!

  9. My employer is also working on ways to allow people to come back the office. Since my work is easily done at home, I'm sure my group will be some of the last to return. I bet you are happy you have such a great garden to enjoy these days.

  10. That's good news about your furlough being ended. How do you feel about going back in to work? Assuming everyone is masked, it should be fine, right?

  11. We have various weeds, popping up through the gravel, that we have to attend to. And our next door neighbor apparently doesn't notice the weeds as the entire lot is aflood with them. Sigh.

  12. Your garden is so beautiful. Time off from work has been good for it.

  13. That dunnock is a sweet little thing. I was reading about dock after you posted last week, and apparently it can be eaten . . . did you? lol

  14. YP: I like Ms. Moon's suggestion -- I'm going to mail you my dock so you can regrow it on your own turf!

    Frances: Fortunately we don't have ground elder. One plague is enough!

    Mitchell: Clematis is a very confusing flower -- so many different types!

    Ms Moon: Hmmmmm...betony. I don't think I know betony. Maybe I've just never noticed it before!

    Ellen: Yeah, I'm with you. Barring an emergency I'm staying on the ground for a while.

    Robin: I agree. The nice thing about this enforced "time off" is it gives us an opportunity to go outside! (As long as we can do so safely.)

    Edna: They are sort of sparrow-like. LBTs, as my bird-watcher friends call them. (Little Brown Things)

    Red: Yeah, a little structure wouldn't be a bad thing!

    Sharon: I think if you can still work at home there's no reason NOT to. I honestly just don't have much to do when I'm at home.

    37P: Yeah, basically I said I'm happy to do it as long as we're able to maintain distance and control library access so we have only a few people in at a time. As it turns out I'm going to be doing more back-office stuff, and not dealing directly with patrons.

    Catalyst: Some people just don't mind them. And honestly, weeds ARE just plants. The only time I object is when they begin to take over!

    Allison: Yeah, we've been able to do a lot out there!

    Jenny-O: Supposedly it can be eaten but I haven't gone there!

  15. We have garlic mustard in our NY woods, which was supposedly imported to the Americas as an early spring green but to my taste is unbearably bitter however early. It's a biennial but vast amounts of long-lived seeds, and poisons the ground for other plants.

    I would probably try eating the dock since I grow sorrel on purpose!