Whilst I was walking round the garden looking to see if I could find some interesting and eye-catching plants on this last day of November I came across two very different toads. The first is a Toad lily; Tricyrtis. I had forgotten I had this plant as it grows in a dark and dingy part of the garden that I hadn’t looked at for a while. A friend who is sadly no longer with us gave this plant to me years ago and I’m not sure whether it is Tricyrtis formosana ”Purple Beauty’ or perhaps Tricyrtis Hirta. I wonder if anyone could tell me which it is?
I have never bothered to collect any more Toad lilies because I’m not sure that I love them enough to bother. Some of them have rather small flowers. They are spotted and orchid-like and of course anything in bloom now is welcome. I love Reginald Farrer’s description of them. He said; ‘They emit large and evil flowers, very late in summer or autumn, built on the scheme of a lily, but wried by perversity into an almost Aubrey-Beardsley freakishness of outline and heavy waxen texture and livid sombre colour of putrid pinks, freckled and spotted with dark purple till their name of Toad-lily is felt to be apt.’ I think that Reginald Farrer’s descriptions are always delicious; he had such a way with words. This one sums up the toad lily quite neatly. He says that they have an ‘inexpressible quaintness’ and so all that remains for me to say is that they are stoloniferous and require deep, rich, moist soil and shade. Maybe we should all have one or two of these autumn -flowering charmers.
My other toad is a toadstool; Amanita muscaria or the Fly agaric. It is called this not because if you ingest it you believe that you can fly but because people used to make a preparation from it to keep flies away. It is the toadstool that often illustrates children’s fairy stories and you see it surrounded by frolicking pixie and elves. I often wonder if the story illustrators who showed this first had been ingesting it themselves. I believe it is highly hallucinatory and toxic too.
I would love a little group of these toadstools; they are so pretty and brighten up a dark spot under some birch trees. They are ectomycorrhizal and grow on the roots of these trees. I believe they grow on the roots of pine trees too. Of course you can’t garden toadstools they appear where and when they want to.
In case there are any crazed druggies out there who think they might break into my garden to steal the toadstool I must add that I only have the one. And anyway as you can see from the photo something has got there first and nibbled it. That means that there are probably slugs crawling about my garden who think they can fly and who see pixies.