We’re surrounded by history every May when tall groups of woad (isatis tinctoria) add patches of yellow to the borders.
This plant is a prolific self-sower but not easily transplanted because it has a tap root system. It earns a place because of the ancient Britons’ blue war paint connection, once explored to the full with eager students in the science lab during natural dyes studies.
It also evokes fond memories of Wallington Hall plant exchange visits, undertaken years ago when friend Geoff Moon was head gardener there.
The crusader rose is another example of living history that brings an old friend to mind. An alba rose, it came to this country via a returning crusader knight who duly planted it in the garden of his moated manor house.
Aeons later, a new owner of the property found reference to it in his deeds and luckily had a gardening friend (Alnwick GP John Johnson) on hand to identify it.
John brought four stem cuttings north and generously shared them with me.
Over the years that followed, we compared notes relating to our special plant: Open quartered blooms, white-flushed pink, face-skyward, collect rainwater and rot prematurely in poor seasons. But a strong-grower, survivor and beautiful at its best. The crusading knight had good taste.