|Our English country-garden|
|My Grandmother's favourite rose|
|Last asparagus of the year and first red currants!|
|A friend I 'rescued' from a bucket of water|
|The shallots that I strung up for Dad|
|That is my A-level pottery pot in the background. Almost an antique!|
|The new wild-flower garden|
Home for a long
course I do not rue the day that I went home, over two weeks ago now, to help
my Dad after an operation on his hand to release the nerve squashed in the
carpal tunnel. I do, however, rue just one moment of the following day, when I
went out into Dad’s lovely garden, to pick some flowers for the kitchen
windowsill, wearing just my shorts, a short-sleeved shirt and no gardening gloves.
work in my Dad’s garden I am nearly always well covered, from head to toe. At
my Dad’s house, stored in my childhood bedroom, I have gardening gloves, hats
for all seasons, several thick, long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and sturdy
wear these clothes for gardening but I do not change into them when I just go
out to pick flowers.
picking is something that I often do on a whim, even when wearing a summer dress
and sandals. It is something I always joined in with spontaneously to help Mum
as she made bouquets to take to market.
But not any longer! Those days have passed for ever.
now on I will put on my gardening armour, whatever job I am doing.
The real gardening
was at home at the beginning of July, on a flying five-day visit, I did lots of
proper gardening, things like harvesting shallots, weeding the strawberries,
the parsnips, the asparagus and beetroot, and tying up the roses. Things that I
knew, if left undone, would be a worry to my Dad during the next week or two as
he recovered from the operation on his hand. All of this work I did while well wrapped
up in my gardening-armour. Not a stinging nettle, not a rose thorn, not even a
thistle, managed to penetrate it.
The nice bits in
been picking flowers in this garden for forty-four years! My mum and I used to
make gorgeous bunches of country-garden flowers that she sold on the car-boot
market. I still make up bunches for myself, my Dad, the neighbours and family and
friends, whenever I am at home. Mum planted her garden with all sorts of unusual
things to make these bouquets special.
Mum always did, this time I also picked a few sprigs of rue to use as greenery in my flower
arrangement. Its silvery leaves and yellowy flowers looked good amongst the
lilies, marigolds, margaritas and roses that I had already found.
was picking the sprigs of rue I decided to give the plant a bit of a tidy up. I
thinned it out and shook the tangled stalks apart that were heavy with rain
water. The plant was beginning to hang down on to a lower path, between the
flowerbed and the vegetable garden so when it rained it drooped and then brushed
against our legs. I chopped this all down, with bunch of flowers in left hand and secateurs in
the right, and by the time I had finished giving
it a good shake and a trim it was looking quite a picture again.
I thought about Mum and how she would like to
see that I am caring for her plants.
I wonder whether Mum had
I did the flower-picking on Thursday, my
first full day in Norwich. On Friday it was a dull day, colder and windy so I spent
the morning indoors, helping dad and making model houses, N-gauge, for my railway
layout. It was while fiddling with the little houses that I first noticed dark red
blotches on my arm. I suspected that it was due to an allergy to something that I had
touched before breakfast. Was it the bleach, the glue, the washing powder or
the lilies that grow beside the rose, that I tied back to stop it fluttering in
the wind? I suspected at first it was the lilies or the bleach but the patterns
on my arm indicated a more feathery plant.
|An N-gauge village|
By Saturday morning despite a day on Friday, of modelling and no gardening, and lashings of calamine
lotion, my hand and arm were very red and swollen. And they hurt - inside and out!
I jumped on my bike and took
myself to the walk-in surgery in the city centre. They confirmed a plant allergy and
suggested anti-histamine, and to continue with the calamine. I was glad about
that as the white, chalky zinc-oxide prevented me from seeing damaged skin and
therefore I did not worry about it so much as I continued my work in the garden.
On Sunday there was no improvement, in fact I
believe that it was worse, so I jumped on my bike once again and returned to the doctor.
I was told to carry on with the same treatment, which in the end turned out to
be the right thing even though at that time I did not know what the cause was.
I wonder whether when my Mum planted the rue
in her garden she had known that not only is it a herb and a pretty cutting-plant
but that it is also very harmful to the skin when combined with sunlight.
Rueing the day
I returned to Germany on the Monday, with my arm
covered in calamine and protected with a sock and long sleeves despite the heat.
As soon as I was home with access to the Internet I went Googling for names of
toxic plants that cause skin irritations.
Out of a list of hundreds I discovered about
twenty that grow in Dad’s garden, seven of which I had had close contact with,
including parsley, parsnips, lilies, asparagus and potatoes leaves.
It was not until I got to the R’s that I
found the culprit – common rue! Rue, the plant that I had given a very thorough
pruning with my right arm four days previously while picking a beautiful bunch
My fast track course
|Before it reached its peak!|
What a great thing the Internet is. I was able
to find out exactly what had caused the inflammation and blistering on my arm
and was armed with both the Latin and German names when I turned up to see a German doctor on Tuesday evening after work.
By this time I had a very red, swollen, blistering
and throbbing forearm, a few red, blistery patches on my left wrist and
some more on both knees!
At least I could now say with confidence what
I thought was wrong with my skin. It looked like I had caught the lurgi, but I
had in fact just rued the day!
I suggested to the doctor I had a photo-toxic
reaction to Ruta graveolens –
So out came his iPhone and together we Googled Weinraute (Ruta graveolens). He
agreed with me straight away, although he told me that the hairs of the processional
oak-moth caterpillar can also have the same effect. However, I knew it was the
I came away with cortisone and anti-biotic
gel to rub in the “burns” and a week later a skin specialist advised the
treatment to continue for two more weeks when a fatty cream can then be applied
for many months to come. The specialist also advised 50plus sun protection
cream until the spring, (I use this when I cycle anyway). I was told that those
are second degree burns on my arm and that hopefully they will eventually fade.
On the mend
This drama all began over two weeks ago. My
dad has since had the stitches removed from his hand; he is pain-free and is
recovering movement very well. Yesterday was the first pain-free day that I
have had since the red blotches appeared and the sunshine began to react on my skin, and
today is the first day that I can type two-handed without tingling in my fingers
and a burning feeling in my wrist. So it is time to get blogging again!
When I return to attack Dad’s garden again in
September I shall certainly be wearing gardening-armour whenever I step outside
the back door!
Lurgi— A nonsence word, Lurgi Strikes Britain, Goon Show,
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