Sandy's Garden ... An Invasion of Strawberries
Way back in the dim-and-distant past, after living with our uncultured garden for 20 years, we threw in the towel and resolved to have our garden designed and planted by professionals.
We invited Dougal Philip to accept the design challenge with a team from his garden centre – Alison, Jamie and Angus, accompanied by Dougal’s dog, to do the back-breaking work and transform our garden into a haven of easy-care delight.
Do I need to tell you, gentle reader, that Dougal and his expert team did everything that was expected of them and more? And do I need to tell you that a professional gardener’s understanding of the term ‘easy-care’ differs somewhat from mine?
Yes, our garden was much more attractive than it had ever been before; it was unquestionably much more-easily maintained; there was a lot less arduous toil and a lot more pleasurable pottering than had previously been the case.
But it did need to be regularly and assiduously tended
However, over the years, one very big difference has been a huge and welcome reduction in the amount of time we have spent dealing with weeds as the plants we want have thrived and spread, denying would-be weeds access to both light and moisture.
One of the ground cover plants introduced into our garden was Fragaria vesca, as it was known then, although recent research suggests they belong in the genus Potentilla, and they are often called Potentilla vesca nowadays.
It makes no difference to me, who has always used their common name ‘wild strawberries’.
You would have no difficulty identifying these attractive little plants, which look very much like miniature versions of those to be seen being grown commercially in their millions in Fife, Perthshire and Angus
. Wild strawberries are very seldom grown commercially in the UK because the fruits are very small, although they are delicious and many observers think their flavour is even better than that of the cultivated varieties.
I didn’t know until recently that wild strawberries are used in patisserie, particularly in France and central Europe. The cultivar Potentilla vesca ‘Semperflorens', is a favourite for use in for European pastries.
The list of European countries in which wild strawberries are found includes Albania, Austria, the Baltic States, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
The Romans cultivated them … Fragraria vesca is Latin for ‘small, thin fruit’ … and may well have helped to spread them through their empire. And the name ‘strawberry’ has nothing whatsoever to do with straw but comes from streabariye, a term apparently used by a Benedictine monk in AD 995 to refer to the 'straying' habit of the plant due to its runners.
And this is why I have an invasion of strawberries. After many well-behaved years, when the many runners which spring from each plant have been easily controlled, the past four or five years have seen an absolute plethora of plants spreading from a vast network of these roaming runners to the point where my ground-covering strawberries are overwhelming small, cultivated plants!
Gentle reader, if you want to see wild strawberries, the coup at Bo’ness now has a lot of healthy plants from my garden.