Parsley and Memories

My first experience with herbs was in the backyard of the farmhouse where I lived as as a young child. Parsley was the only herb my foster grandmother grew, but it made a great impression upon me.

I remember picking the pungent stems, just the way she showed me, chewing a few of the curly little leaves while I worked. The taste was pungent, savory, peppery, the flavor of spring, of tradition. My grandmother told me stories as we harvested, of life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when she was young.

She was nearly ninety, when I was born so the tales she told of tradition, of gardening, and just plain living, were nearly forgotten by most, even then.

Some years I’ve cultivated nearly a dozen varieties of herbal plants. This spring, I lacked time and energy for so many, but I couldn’t resist starting a couple pots of parsley, in memory of Grandma Lee.

Parsley loves cool weather. It’s sometimes healthy and full at Thanksgiving, ready for use in holiday turkey dressing. I’ve never planted it in late summer, but perhaps that’s a possibility.

Sunlight Gilds Thunderbolt Hosta and Peeks Through Drooping Branches of Norway Spruce

Seated on the lawn on a recent muggy afternoon, this view made me think of cypress swamps and Spanish moss.

Perhaps that comparison is a stretch of my imagination, triggered by my wandering mind and the uncomfortable weather. I’ve never been to the south myself, to view such, to me, exotic plants. But the thought was pleasant.

Though the air feels saturated and solid, like it could be sliced with a knife, in the words of a former co-worker, “I’m not complaining about the muggy conditions. My snow shovel is hanging on its hook on the garage wall”. It’s got to be a good day.

Queen Anne’s Lace Triggers Memories

O’Brignal banks are wild and fair,

And Greta woods are green,

And you may gather garlands there

Would grace a summer queen.

-Rokeby, Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1822

Ah, for the days when poets composed sonnets to weeds.

I’ve always loved Queen Anne’s Lace, though in America farmers and gardeners seem to discount its beauty and consider it a pest.

But it’s much less invasive and dangerous than some later arrivals, like knotweed, poison hemlock (and garlic mustard, though I must profess my love for it too, in spite of the fact that it may be taking over forest borders from more demure wildflowers like trillium, spring beauty, bloodroot).

My mother told me the name of Queen Anne’s Lace way back when I was a child. She said it was a weed, but I sensed a part of her appreciated it like I did. I still imagine bridal bouquets whenever I see fields sprinkled or frosted with clusters of the frilly blossoms.

The Complete Language of Flowers by Sheila Pickles tells us that the name references Queen Anne’s love of lacy head-dresses. The tiny purple floret at the center of each bloom is said to represent blood from Queen Anne’s finger when she pricked it while making lace.

Geraniums – The Flower that Makes Us Think of Home

A clay pot filled with pretty, cheerful geraniums symbolizes home to many of us.

Geraniums seem American to me, but The Complete Language of Flowers by Sheila Pickles says they are found all over the world.

I always think of them as the most domestic of plants, their bright blooms that last all year cheering family and visitors from their spots on indoor tables and windowsills, in pots on doorsteps, or nestled in flowerbeds.

Sheila Pickles associates them with the Mediterranean “where they tumble out of terracotta pots and down painted stone walls, the very color of them creating a festive mood.”

Most people purchase fresh geranium plants each spring, but I have saved the roots over winter, hung them upside down in a cool place, and replanted them the following spring. I’ve also over-wintered them as houseplants, back when I had the space.

New plants can be started from cuttings too, if one has time to do so.

They’re generally carefree and easy to grow, and reward us well with their mood lifting color, whether we select traditional scarlet red, or the myriad pinks and whites available in today’s garden centers.

Lilacs – Flowers of Love and Death

Lilacs are said to symbolize first emotions of love. But white lilacs have dual associations of youthful innocence and also death.

Supposedly a white lilac will refuse to bloom if another lilac in the garden is cut down. Some say it’s bad luck to bring a white lilac into the house.

I don’t know about those concepts, but to me lilacs symbolize the fairest time of year – early to mid-May, and Mother’s Day. I recall picking a bouquet many years during young adulthood, as a gift for my mother on that holiday.

Their sweet scent was a welcome perfume in the kitchen where the purple – and yes, we had white ones too— blooms ruled the dining table for days.

The lovely photo is from Sheila Pickles’ The Complete Language of Flowers.

 

 

 

 

Periwinkle, Myrtle, Vinca Minor – Names for a Sweet, Charming, Little Purple Flower

Periwinkle

Lines written in Early Spring

by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 

Through primrose tufts in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths’

And ‘tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes

 

What a charming little poem about periwinkle, myrtle, vinca, whatever one calls the trailing vine with the simple, pretty bluish purple blossoms.

My mom referred to it as myrtle, the catalogs seem to call it vinca, though it differs from another non-trailing vinca now popular in garden centers.

The Complete Language of Flowers by Sheila Pickles mentions many former medicinal uses, and says it is one of the oldest of flowers.

The poem mentions of its trailing between primrose plants, and I always planted it in flowerbeds, to accent taller plants and keep down weeds.

 

 

Crown Imperial – Ruler and Protector of Spring Flower Beds

Sheila Pickles, author of The Complete Language of Flowers, describes this as the most majestic of flowers. Indeed when I first saw it in a bulb catalog decades ago, I was most impressed.

I was determined to order one but never have. It is said to give off a noxious scent. Perhaps that’s why it’s reported to protect bulb beds from rodent damage.

Ms. Pickles says it “looks down on all the surrounding flowers, as a king may look down on his subjects,” thus it’s highly appropriate name.

Daffodil Days

Nearly the only spring bulb that isn’t eaten by rodents, daffodils are among the most reliable of flowers. Highly popular, the traditional large yellow ones dot lawns, fields, woods edges, brightening rainy April days.

I love all the varieties in the Brecks and other catalogs of bulbs, but alas, lack funds and stamina to order and plant them all.

Daff-a-down-dilly, daffodilly, lent-lily, are some of this flower’s traditional nicknames. They symbolize regard and chivalry, and naturalize well.

Many poets have written poems about them. Here’s a popular one:

Daffodil

by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

From The Complete Language of Flowers by Sheila Pickles

Book Review of The Complete Language of Flowers By Sheila Pickles

I do love the British- At least their whimsical attitude toward gardening and home life.

This book is like a lovely museum devoted to flower lore and Renaissance and 19th Century paintings – of long ago scenes of children and adults, seemingly intoxicated by the pleasure of languishing in verdant settings filled with color and greenery.

Author Sheila Pickle should be commended for recording in such a wonderful way, the traditional symbolism and tradition of classic flower species.

I shall have to seek out her other works, including, The Essence of English Life, and Simply Christmas 

I plan to include posts referencing The Complete Language of Flowers over the next few months, with full credit to the book and its author.

If you love gardens and nature, if you long for the days when spare time on fair season days was spent, not with eyes glued to a screen, but lazing in the sunshine reflecting upon the symbolic essence of flowering plants, you must seek a copy of this book.

A first rate escape from stress.

 

Seeking a Simple Tool for Practical Purposes

So many implements we used to take for granted are now quite rare. Neither a trip to a hardware store, nor a big box building store yielded a simple metal bucket like this one.

It’s seen some hard use and I wanted to replace it with one less worn, but I will have to look a bit further. Perhaps a traditional farm store will have one, though they don’t carry everything they used to.

I left this one outside accidentally last spring, but liked the way it looked in this setting so left it there.

Some may see it as a piece of junk, nestled amid the weeds next to a worn railing, but to me these types of scenes are a form of art.