Plants, Bees and Fascism in the Garden (from July 2011)

This post was originally written two years ago in July 2011 for This Low Carbon Life, the Transition Norwich blog. I republish it now in July 2013, a very different year (with different sunflowers too!). The Bee garden at Bungay Community Library gave way to the Plant Medicine garden in 2012, which in turn became the Edible Bed this year; many of the plants stay on though, in a kind of floral multi-tasking, whether it’s bees, medicine or food. And the fascism? Well if on an individual level one of its starting points is the autocratic will to control everything in life according to MY WAY, I think MY WAY might have loosened its grip on me in the last couple of years!

Plants, Bees and Fascism in the Garden – from 18th July 2011

Every day this week on This Low Carbon Life, one of the crew will be telling a story in photos (and maybe some words!) on the theme of High Summer. As the weather turned wet and windy last week, John joked that we might need a plan B for our theme week. Or was that plan Bee? Everything reminds me of Bees at the moment – as if with Bungay Beehive day next Sunday (where I’m leading a Bee and Flower Walk and also giving a talk about honey as medicine), I need reminding…

Meanwhile back to the photos, and a few words about my letting go of fascism in the garden. I have grown a white-seeded form of sunflower for years now, faithfully collecting the seeds at the end of each season to plant the next Spring. You can see if you click on the picture below that the flower has vibrant gold sepals with a beautiful green-gold centre.

I’d nurture the young plants (probably quite obsessively) and Charlotte would always make sure she was somewhere else when it came to planting them out as I would become inexplicably bad-tempered.

Anyway, this year as usual I planted the seeds, the plants grew and I was alone when it came to planting them out. But what were these flowers that emerged ten days ago – with bronze flames!?! Then I remembered the dark sunflower we had in the garden last year given to us by Rose at the Transition Norwich Plant Swap

A moment of bewilderment and shock! Then over the next few days a strange sort of relief as I relaxed. I don’t have to control everything! The new sunflowers are undeniably beautiful. And it means that the bees have been busy in the garden too. I think I can live with them.

Anyway, it seems I’m not alone when it comes to ‘fascism’ in the garden. I was telling Becky from Greengrow about my sunflower awakening on Saturday at All Under One Roof, where she had a stall next to Sustainable Bungay’s.

“I know, it happens to me in the garden, too. And not particularly anywhere else,” she said. “Have you read any Zygmunt Bauman, the Polish sociologist? He talks about the fascist elements of our modern consumerist ‘gardening society’.”

But enough of fascism. Here are a few more pictures of my low carbon high summer. Here’s Charlotte on Saturday holding up the local paper with an article on Bungay Community Bees, featuring our main beekeeper, Elinor, and Elinor herself.

Here I am with Amanda, manager of Bungay library, looking at the Anise Hyssops I brought for the bee bed in the library courtyard garden this year. I talk about them so much that John tells me they are known locally as ‘Mark’s plant’ in Little Melton these days! Amanda says they are very popular with both bees and people.

And last but not least, here is a St. John’s Wort being visited by a honeybee in the garden. One of the great native wildflower medicine plants, I had never seen honeybees on it before. But this one clambered over every single flower gathering up the pollen. And yesterday the plant was full of bumblebees.

A few hours later: I just received a request from fellow Transitioner Nick asking if I’d lead the planting of the medicinal plant bed next year in Bungay Library Community Garden. I said yes of course and I’m already excited – by then maybe the fascism will have gone completely!

Pics: Banner of new sunflower, result of non-fascist gardening techniques; last year’s white-seeded sunflower head; new sunflower this year; Charlotte and Elinor at Sustainable Bungay stand at Satuday’s All Under One Roof; Talking Anise Hyssop with Amanda at the library; St. John’s Wort and honeybee

All text and images by Mark Watson under Creative Commons with Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives


5 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Mark,

    Snap! Here’s the quote that set me off, from Nazi propagandist R.W. Darré:

    He who leaves the plants in a garden to themselves will soon find to his surprise that the garden is overgrown by weeds and that even the basic character of the plants has changed. If therefore the garden is to remain the breeding ground for the plants, if, in other words, it is to lift itself above the harsh rule of natural forces, then the forming will of a gardener is necessary, a gardener who, by providing suitable conditions for growing, or by keeping harmful influences away, or by both together, carefully tends what needs tending and ruthlessly eliminates the weeds which would deprive the better plants of nutrition, air, light, and sun. . . . Thus we are facing the realization that questions of breeding are not trivial for political thought, but that they have to be at the center of all considerations, and that their answers must follow from the spiritual, from the ideological attitude of a people. We must even assert that a people can only reach spiritual and moral equilibrium if a well-conceived breeding plan stands at the very center of its culture. (quoted by D.Jensen in ‘Culture of Make Believe’, pp.589-90)

    Scarily close to the attitude of a lot of gardeners I know (albeit without the follow-through for human culture)… Sorry to miss your talk/walk at Unciv. In the end I decided to see Mark Boyle, but I wish I could have gone to both!



  2. Thanks Ian.
    Talk of ‘well-conceived breeding plans’ definitely gives me the willies, whichever quarter it’s coming from!
    Sorry to miss you too at Unciv. I really enjoyed your piece about it:
    Hope you’re fully recovered now, too.
    And hope to meet up some other time.
    all best wishes,


  3. Thanks Mark, appreciate it. Yes, am fully recovered now. Always useful being sick because you get to find out which, if any, of the herbal preparations you’ve made is effective (at least for you). In this case I already knew that a hot elderflower & yarrow infusion blows most colds and flu’s out of the water, but unfortunately the cherry bark / blossom tincture I made a while back proved inadequate in dealing with the cough. Back to the drawing board…

    re: breeding plans – yes, shudder-inducing. Who decides? Who has the authority to take control? How can we be sure they’re not acting out some unconscious childhood trauma or other psychological damage? From another perspective it’s just laughable: as if anyone’s really in control of who they breed with! Those things are just miraculous, unforseeable, continuously surprising happenings. You just have to let go, smile and enjoy the ride 🙂 Probably the same thing with plants, I would guess.



    • You may have thought of it already, Ian, but have you given thyme a go for the cough? I know several people it’s worked for when the cough’s been persistent. It’s a brilliant anti-microbial and tastes great (I like it on its own). Just thought I’d mention it.
      all the best,


  4. Thanks for the suggestion – will give that a try next time/thyme. I had tried it as a steam inhalation to clear up clogged sinuses before (really nice thing to do), but not for coughs before. Will let you know if it does the trick – just got to try and get another cold now!



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