Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Be Kinder to Nettles?

Unbelievably it's Be Kind to Nettles Week (14-25 May - note it's another example of time being stretched) and I don't think they mean the cultivated kind like the picture above taken in my garden yesterday, but the wild sort shown below from our neighbouring public land a few moments later.
I don't think my niece will be celebrating, in spite of efforts by major organisations like the Natural History Museum in London. She fell into a bed of nettles at the age of four whilst we were walking in the Cotswolds (oh the inconsolable screaming!) and has had an aversion to them ever since, poor thing. There also appears to be a campaign against them up at the allotment at the moment as several patches (including 1 on my plot) look like someone's put weedkiller on them. It's a shame really as they are such a versatile plant. So much so that this author has found 101 uses for them. I already knew about their attractivess to butterflies, the foul smelling concoction you can make to feed plants, cooking nettle soup and the use of their fibre for clothing, but there's also nettle cordial, tea and beer, plus insect repellent, dandruff treatments, omlette flavouring and a whole lot more! Instructions for using nettles as plant feed/pest control, nettle soup and hair conditioner can be found here. It seems they may have their use medicinally too, so perhaps we all should be looking at this much maligned plant a little differently from now on.

Update: Mark (The Green Fingered Photographer) asked what my cultivated nettle variety is. It's Hermann's Pride aka Yellow Archangel. I've found it to be a great plant to grow - as you'll see in my comments. However, when investigating suitable links for this update, I found that gardeners have been warned not to plant it as it's invasive. It's not proving to have these troublesome characteristics in my garden, perhaps it's not in its perfect spot. I thought I'd better pass on this warning though.

19 comments:

  1. I mentioned this event in my Thursday entry. I'm happy to leave some nettles in one or two places on the plot. I'd be a bit put out if anyone put weedkiller on them.
    Have a good weekend, and happy plotting! xx

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  2. If you stand back and look at a nettle impartially, it is an impressive plant.

    Apart from planting a small patch outside my front window, last year, I had a 'free standing' one.

    It grew alone, seperated from the other garden plants - so it could be seen properly.

    I looked after it a bit - 'pruned' it (so no-one walking by got stung) - and watered it occasionally.

    It had good shape, good colour. Even it's flower was acceptable.

    If nettles weren't so common, we'd appreciate them more.

    If they were rare, we'd be proud to 'own' one.

    Esther

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  3. Every plant has its good and bad points .. well, almost every plant ? .. I love the "101 uses" so many amazing things you can do !
    I haven't run into stinging nettles .. literally .. but from what people say it must be a huge OUCH ! Your poor niece !
    Like the post VP !
    Joy

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  4. I really like the top one, I have not seen them with white and green leaves, what is it called?

    Down at the wildlife garden next to my signal box I let a patch of nettles grow as they are really good for the butterflies that we have.I do have to watch them though as before you know it they are spreading everwhere.

    Cheers Mark

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  5. Before I answer everyone else, here's the answer to Mark's question I left over at his place:

    It's called Hermans Pride - makes a nice change from the usual White Nancy variety. It's a great little plant to edge a shady border. It gets a little leggy towards the end of the summer, but a good haircut brings it back like yesterday's photo. Insects love it too - so a good all round plant in my view and much tamer than its stinging cousin!

    Glad you have a patch near your signal box - though as you say, it does need to be kept in check a little. Luckily I can add any 'tamings' to my compost heaps.

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  6. Take note of my warning in my update piece re it being an invasive species. I haven't had this problem in my garden though - it stays in a nice clump and brightens up a very shady spot. Perhaps my dense planting around it has not allowed it to gain a foothold, or perhaps it's not quite in the right spot to take on the characteristics warned about it the article I linked to?

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  7. Hi VP,
    Thanks for the warning,the place I have in mind is in the green project that is taking place infont of my house, there is a blog about it http://lawleygreenspacegroup.blogspot.com

    Cheers Mark

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  8. You can also set invasives to battle it out.

    I've planted mint next to my front of house nettle patch.

    Esther

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  9. Hi Esther - good idea. Creeping Jenny would be another option I think!

    Flighty - I'm put out too :(

    Joy - I was impressed by the 101 too. And my niece? Much more than ouch! She has an aversion to nettles to this day - she fell in the patch over 7 years ago!

    Mark - I suspect it's a no no for the area you have in mind. Thanks for the link - I've lurked there a couple of times before. It's a good project you've got there :)

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  10. I've always fancied trying nettle soup but would rather someone else made it for me!!
    I've done your tag by the way:)

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  11. Always be on your nettle, I mean mettle!!

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  12. great post! Thanks for all of the info. I've never met a nettle in person and have just heard about their medicinal properties as well as their troublesome prickles

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  13. The only nettle I am familiar with is the horrible stinging kind in our pastures here in North Texas. I will be a hard sell, and I am certainly not going to try to make soup out of it. OUCH.

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  14. I have learned so much here! Nettles...who knew? not me! I don't have any but then things are different here! I spend all day weeding my flower beds and still have much work to do.....the disadvantage of having a large piece of property and trying to do it all yourself!

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  15. First of all Michelle, I hope you enjoy the Chelsea coverage, I had to tape last nights as the in-laws were round! I really laughed when I saw this about nettles on Flighty's blog, there is a week for everything nowadays isn't there! I must go out a get a photo of my clump! x

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  16. Suburbia - great tag response :) I'm not sure about the soup though!

    David - you can be relied on to provide the pun juste! Thanks for the honourable mention on post of the day too :)

    Melissa - welcome! So glad you found this useful

    Aunt Debbi - that's exactly the kind they want you to be kind to, but as you say - OUCH!

    Neva - no matter how much you do in the garden, there's always more to do isn't there ;)

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  18. I totally love the variegated one. It's wonderful. Since I could remember, I've always been kind to plants, nettles included, but nettles seem to have had a pick on me throughout my childhood ;-) Today it brings a smile to my face just spotting one in the neglected parts of my backyard. Even if I get stung while harvesting for the fertilizer concoctions. And Esther there is right, if they were not so bloody common, we'd be out in the nurseries looking for those rare, intriguing, wild nettles, so rich in homeopathic features.

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  19. Viooltje - welcome! I think it's another example of familiarity breeding contempt!

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