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Mike's Blog - Day 217

Off to South Africa and Lesotho today with a late flowering “red hot poker”. This one is Kniphopia caulescens.

Its reputed to be one of the hardiest, coming from the mountain areas. Its unusual and stands out in the border with its sea green leaves. Happy with rain in summer but likes a dry well drained spot for the winter, easy to grow in a sunny spot. The rain last week has since finished it off, but it usually flowers well into October.

Dogwoods seemed to have reared their head again today. A few of you came back to me with some more explanations of their common name, so thank you and here we go.

The wild native one seems much more common in the south of England, as many of the common names originate there. “Dags” and “Dog” is certainly a common theme, but other names such as Skiver wood, Skiver tree, Skiver timber. From what I can see skiving is a leather craft term, using small sharp knives, “Skivers” to shave off small layers of leather to work it, these small skiver tools perhaps had wooden handles made of dogwood, an ideal timber for smaller tools.

Gatteridge, Gatter bush or Gatter tree are also common too, I can’t find much on this. It could be a reference to use as gates, gratings or fence, or there is even a reference to a Gatter being a weapon used by pirates or the British navy, a canon which could shoot wooden barrels that would shatter on impact, could this be a use for this hard wood?

There is also Widbin, Cat tree, Cat wood and Cornwood also appearing. The best I think is Snakes cherries and dogge berry tree, referring to the black fruits which are not fit to give even to a dog.

It evident that this plant has many names, alluding to its probably many uses, skewers and arrows are common, but also toothpicks and even pestles so it must be a very hard wood.

Mill cogs too, small pegs of dogwood used in rims metal wheels to create the notches needed to  connect with other cogs.

Ram rods, the thin strong straight rods used to clean or even load a rifle.

I suppose back in the 17th century you had to work with what was around you and not rely on an Amazon* or Tesco’s* and actually make something, and dogwood would be an ideal wood, readily available, easily recognizable and plenty of it in the hedgerows.

*other mail order retailers/supermarkets are available J.

I think we have now covered dogwood.