Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The language of flowers

There are lots of books that tell us about the meaning of flowers.  The Victorians were fascinated by the subject and hundreds of books were published about it.  A white rose means purity and innocence and a red rose means love.  The new tulips which now grow in our garden mean 'declaration of love' and our alliums mean 'prosperity'.

Even Shakespeare's plays were used, rue was said to indicate regret - this is from Ophelia's mad ravings in Hamlet:

 There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
O you must wear your rue with a difference

Rosemary is said to symbolise remembrance, the tradition of this is probably far older than Shakespeare's time  'There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.'  

We are lucky in England in that many of the flowers that grow wild have wonderful names that describe their traditions and meaning.  My favourite of these if Forget-Me-Not, a dainty and beautiful flower that we grow here at Hazel Cottage.  This year we even have some growing wild in our lawn!

So many flowers are named after Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The Madonna Lily of course, but there are scores of flowers and shrubs named in her honour, usually starting with 'Our Lady'.  Lady's Mantle still bears her name, but in medieval times clematis was the Virgin’s Bower and lavender was Our Lady’s Drying Plant.  In the fourteenth century the poet Dante called Mary "the Rose, in which the divine Word became flesh."  So of  course the rose is also her symbol.  Even the humble marigold - or Mary's Gold as it once was, is named after her.

Lilies at our local church at Easter
I tried to bring in a good number of flowers into the house for Easter.  This year I was blessed with a larger number of flowers as Easter was quite late. In addition to the daffodils we bought, I added forget-me-nots, grape hyacinth, pansies, chive flowers and flowering currants.


If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom. ~Terri Guillemets

Monday, 14 April 2014

Their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers

'Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.'  Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

We sat in the garden on a warm, bright Sunday afternoon eating home made rock cakes and watching the bees.  Suddenly spring is here and everything is blooming.  My spring garden is filled with bluebells, comfrey, tulips, hyacinths and primroses.  Even the borage has started to flower.  The whole garden was buzzing with bees, wasps and hoverflies of all kinds. 

I'm not an expert in bees, but we did see several different types - some bumble bees and some more shaped like honey bees.  Some were very dark and others were almost ginger or yellow.

They particularly love the comfrey flowers and spend most of the spring dancing around them.

I must state that I didn't take these wonderful photos - they are the work of Mr C, who is brilliant with things like this.    I did however make the rock cakes!

My sister and brother in law keep bees and were selling their honey at a local market this weekend.  These wonderful little creatures always feel rather miraculous and magical to me.

How doth the little busy bee 
Improve each shining hour, 
And gather honey all the day 
From every opening flower.
Isaac Watts

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A wet weekend in Devon

We are just back from a rather soggy weekend in Devon seeing the family.  I don't think the sun came out at all but nature carries on regardless and spring is indeed springing everywhere.  Every hedgerow was an intense green and resplendant with primroses and these lovely white flowers - does anyone know what these are?  They look a bit like snowdrops but are obviously too late in the year for those.

There is something special about primroses.  So gentle and simple and just so much part of our countryside. AE Housmann mentioned the primrose in his poem to the Lenten Lily

'Tis spring; come out to ramble
The hilly brakes around,
For under thorn and bramble
About the hollow ground
The primroses are found.

  This poem was rather sweet, meant to be a children's song:

Ring-ting! I wish I were a primrose,
A bright yellow primrose blowing in the spring!
The stooping boughs above me,
The wandering bee to love me,
The fern and moss to creep across,
 And the elm-tree for our king!
Wm. Allingham—Wishing. A Child’s Song.

If it wasn't for the fog you would be able to see that the farmland actually stretches further than the veg patch.  The veg patch has been dug over ready for planting, some cabbages are just in (out of view).

Some newly purchased sheep mowing the front lawn.  You can see the grass they've been eating on the left, and the lush new grass they have just been moved onto...

I believe the breed is a Dorset sheep.  They were very woolley, even having woolly legs!

We wondered whether this was the home of some rabbits or something else?

A hedgerow always seems to remind me of a Pre-Raphaelite painting and it always makes me wish I could paint this scene in detail.