Jack By The Hedge

As a youngster in Leeds, I used to walk to Roundhay Park . On the way there I would suddenly catch the smell of patches of wildflowers by the hedges. They smelled of a mixture of garlic and onion, sweet and not very strong, and you had to cock your head and catch the wind and hunt for it.

It was Jack by the Hedge, a name I have always liked. The Latin name is Alliara petiolata. This particular plant is growing in our garden, unbidden. And it’s possible that in a busy year, in the general course of ‘tidying up’ I would have rooted it out almost before it appeared.

Well maybe, but what I do know is that this lockdown has slowed me down. I am simply appreciating more the things that do things on their own – plants that grow, for example.

One thing I learned now, researching for this short article, is that it is a biennial and in its first year’s growth the leaves are heart shaped. Then in its second year a spike grows in the middle of the plant and the second year leaves are pointy like an arrowhead, with serrated edges.

So, I can conclude that I did not grub it out in previous years, because if I had then it would not be showing second year leaves now. Good for me!

Other names for the plant are Hedge Garlic, Garlic Mustard, Poor Mans Mustard, Penny Hedge, but I like Jack by the Hedge.