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When we left tweeting to sparrows

OCCASIONALLY, I witter here with regards to my wee garden, as if I knew anything about it.

I don't. I can remember hardly any plant names. Nor do I remember the names of the neighbours' splendid trees.

I even have trouble looking them up. Even on the internet I can't find anything. It's like the stars. I've tried books and apps and Lord knows what, but putting a name to these children of the universe is never going to happen for me.

Luckily, I'm not the only one. The majority of people, as The Herald's headline aptly put it, "are perplexed by nature". A survey of 2000 readers for BBC Gardeners' World magazine found just one in 50 folk (2%) could identify all five pictures of common trees they were shown.

Only 5% could name all the most common shrubs, though a third could identify all five wildflowers shown to them. The survey found over-55s were better at identifying plants than younger people, and women were better than men.

Leading Unionist intellectual Alan Titchmarsh was flabbergasted, and frothed away about his fear that what was once common knowledge was now a mystery to folk more familiar with Facebook and Twitter.

He added: "I was born in an age when tweeting was something that sparrows did and a mouse was something that made a hole in your skirting board." Aw, shut up, you're turning the page sepia.

I took a test of various greenery and got one out of nine. That was the foxglove — digitalis — which is an interesting example, because I remember that eating it could cause a heart attack and that the medicine associated with it (for dealing with heart problems; it's complicated) is called digitalis.

So, where there's a story attached, they're easier to remember. Or perhaps it was the fear. If more plants were poisonous, we might remember them.

In a little green box, I keep labels from all the different plants I've planted over the years. Must be about 100 in there. The names mean nothing to me.

As with most people from 40 onwards, I'm worried about my wotsname — memory — and have concluded that it's because, since formal education ended, we don't really make any effort to cram things in, causing neurons to fester.

With nature, I've a feeling you had to be told the names as children. After that, they don't compute. Or even tweet.

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