True blue forget-me-not flowers and related folklore

Forget-me-not flowers, from Les Fleurs Animées,  by J.J. Grandville (1803-1847)

The dainty, true-blue Forget-me-not flower, or Myosotis, is a European native now naturalized throughout much of North America, including spots in my garden.

The name comes from the Ancient Greek μυοσωτίς “mouse’s ear”, which the foliage is thought to resemble.

This harbinger of spring and member of the Borage family, prefers moist habitats and spreads prolifically in partial shade along the edge of a woodland.

Once planted, they’ll likely always be there! They self-seed readily, but they’re easily removed if one feels they’re starting to take over the garden, tho’ I can’t imagine anyone feeling that way.

Rogelio de Egusquiza, Tristán e Iseo (La vida) 1912

Medieval folklore tells us the tale of a knight errant and his lady-faire who walked along a river.

That gentleman bent down to pluck a bouquet of these flowers for his lady-love, only to lose  his footing on slippery rocks. He fell into the river and the weight of his armour was too much. It pulled him underneath the watery depths.

It’s said that his last words cried out to his damsel, before being claimed by the depths was, “Forget-me-not”!

In a similar tale, a young couple, on the eve of being married, walked along the banks of the Danube. The bride-to-be saw one of these lovely flowers floating on the waves, which seemed ready to carry it away. She spoke of her admiration for the beautiful flower and her regret for its destiny.

Her husband-to-be, induced by love (and probably wanting to impress), gallantly stepped into the water to retrieve the coveted blue flower.

He grasped the flower but unfortunately he sank into the watery depths, but made one last effort to throw the flower upon the shore at the moment of disappearing for ever, where he exclaimed, “Virgils mich nicht” since which time this flower has been made emblematical, and taken the name of Forget-me-not.”

Because of this, it’s fairly obvious why one of the main meanings for the forget-me-not in Victorian floral language concerns ‘Love in absence’.

To this day, the forget-me-not is given to someone who you hope will keep you in their thoughts. A lovely little reminder for us all.

 “That name it speaks in accents dear
Of love, and hope, and joy, and fear;
It softly tells an absent friend
That links of love should never end;
Its whispers waft a swelling breeze
O’er hill and dale, by land and seas,
– Forget-me-not”

 


Sources

  1.  The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe; Fitter, Fitter, Blamey; Collins; 3rd edition 1978
  2. USDA, NRCS (n.d.). “Myosotis sylvatica”. The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team.
  3. The Language of flowers. Publication date 1834, Osborn & Buckingham, New York
  4. Harper Douglas, “Etymology of forget-me-not,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed April 24, 2022,
  5. NBN Gateway.Myosotis sylvatica Ehrh. ex Hoffm. [Wood Forget-me-not], NBN Gateway. Retrieved 24/04/22
  6. The sentiment of flowers; or, Language of flora, by Tyas, Robert, 1811-1879, Publication date: 1869

 

 

Flowers of the Sun – Sunflower Symbolism and Ukraine

The sunflower, a favourite subject of painters, is also a favourite plant in many gardens.

As a symbol it represents optimism, longevity, and peace. It is the national flower of Ukraine.

The symbolism of the sunflower takes us to a deeper level since Russia invaded Ukraine.

It has become an emblem uniting the world against unprovoked Russian aggression.

All flowers face the sky, seeking their daily dose of daylight, but the sunflower does it best, loyally following the sun’s path across the sky on a daily basis, not unlike one of Apollo’s mythical & loyal lovers.

Apollo guards the flock

Apollo, known by many as the sun god of ancient Greece & Rome, is also the god who wards off evil. How fitting too, that he is also a patron and protector of refugees.

Right now, artists around the world are sharing their sunflower art. That’s my painting contribution above.

Artists like me are also using the hashtag #sunflowersforukraine & #IStandWithUkraine, in an effort to offer a sense of solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are far away, from me at least, where I sit here in Canada, watching events unfolding, with horror in my heart.

Essentially, when one feels helpless to act, but feels strongly enough about the travesty Russia is imposing on Ukraine, artists of any genre can in some small way, take a stand against a greedy dictator like Vladimir Putin and his land-grabbing, senseless war.

So, let the sunflower continue to shine a harsh light on Russia, or any country & ruler who thinks its okay to invade a neighbour without provocation, or act aggressively towards another for the sake of personal gain and ego gratification.

A bully is a bully is a bully.

Let the sunflower be a beacon of light for the Ukrainian people, where darkness turns to the light, just as a sunflower follows the sun.


In closing, to the woman who stood up to Russian soldiers by putting sunflower seeds in their pockets, you are my hero. 🙂

Crocus flower- myth and sentiment

Crocus (Krokos), once a beautiful mortal youth who loved a nymph named Smilax, let his impatience get the better of him, (unrequited love?) ultimately angering the gods. They turned him into a spring blossom.

It seems he didn’t learn his lesson re: impatience.  A win for us as the purple, white, or yellow flower he encompasses still hurries, not for nymphs, but to be one of the first blossoms to greet the spring among melting snow.

There’s another version of the Crocus myth which involves Hermes, the messenger of the gods. Said to be lovers, and while participating in athletic games together, a discus thrown by Hermes hit Crocus upon the head, killing him instantly. Hermes, grief-stricken, transformed his lover into the spring flower we all know and love.

In any case, myth or not, it is a sight for sore eyes to see these lovely, seemingly delicate but not, flowers bloom after a long winter.


 

 

March: In like a lion, I’d say. But, houseplants keep me sane.

You know that old proverb, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”

I suppose that’s especially true here in Ontario because March straddles winter and spring.

It tends to offer harsh or inclement weather, exactly like the kind of snow squalls we’re experiencing today.

This is what I’d call a lion! Unpleasant weather in the beginning of the month.

As the saying goes on to state, it’s then supposed to become milder and more palatable weather by the end of March.  I’ll believe it when I see it. 😉

In the meantime I’ve been fussing over my houseplants. I get to this point in winter where the season has lost its charm. The snow’s not pretty any longer, and I’m sick of shovelling.

More importantly, there’s too much of it on top of my garden, which makes me think I won’t be outside walking around barefoot anytime soon! Likely mid-May.

But back to the houseplants, I have more than many, and less than some.

When I closed my business I scaled back on the amount of greenery around the house, which is a good thing in hindsight, considering there’s only so many spots for plants, but I’m not above buying another, or accepting a cutting from a friend.

The plants I’ve kept are getting me through winter. Especially this winter!

They take my mind off of the pandemic and help to keep my focus on being a nurturer of sorts, instead of paying too much attention to things in the outside world that I cannot change.

Winter can be bleak and dark and monochromatic, which means I long for the greenery and lush scenery of spring and summer. Isn’t it just good for the soul to drink in nature? Winter means less drinking for us, but for plants, ironically it means more.

I take each of my plants to the sink. I water them until they can’t absorb another drop. That way the whole root ball gets a drink, meaning healthier plants. It takes a bit more time, but I’ve got that in spades right now til I’m back at work.

In winter, with the oil furnace blasting dry heat, I find plants dry out much more quickly than they do in the summer when there’s more humidity in the air.

The sun is also lower in the sky right now, so more sunlight comes in the windows, that is when the sun isn’t hiding behind snow-laden clouds.

Some of my larger plants like the amaryllis get a trip to the bathtub.

I give them a big drink and let them drain out so as not to have a mess on the table where they normally live.

That way too, I can mist the foliage and give them a chance to feel like they’re in their natural habitat once in a while, instead of my very dry winter house.

Though all the plants seem to thank me for the good care I offer as they continue to thrive in this completely alien environment in which they find themselves, some will even offer gratitude in the form of a flower. Then I know I’ve done right by them and enjoy the blooms of winter, which are possibly more precious than the perennial flowers whose blooms I’ve come to expect each year out in the garden.

I can’t imagine a house with out houseplants. Even just a pot of herbs for cooking. Basil will thrive in a bit of sunlight and you can pinch some to offer fresh flavour all year long.

And seriously, not having at least one plant would be akin to not having art on one’s walls! Boring, flat and without personality. Their life adds depth to ours. They help clean the air and offer a way to excercise our need to nurture something. 🙂

In closing, I’d love to hear about your houseplants.

I’m also happy to help with any questions on how yours can thrive too, if they happen to seem a little sad this time of year and you’re not sure what to do.

With the March lion out there today, I’m not surprised if some plants aren’t beside themselves jumping for joy. 😉 But this too shall pass… In the meantime, stay safe & warm, everyone.

Happy indoor gardening, for now!

 

The art of Canadian wild flowers

Irises and Lady slipper orchids

“Canadian Wild Flowers” (1868) was one of the first serious botanical works about nature and plant species in Canada 🇨🇦

Offering many beautiful lithographs of the wildflowers found in this country, this pictorial work written by Catharine Parr Traill & illustrated by Agnes Chamberlin, was a notable accomplishment for women at a time when we were largely unwelcome in a male-dominated scientific world.  –  The entire book is in the Public Domain and free to view online through the BHL digital library portal, with thanks to the Canadian Museum of Nature: HERE

A dose of art and the beauty of nature might help take our minds off the chaos currently taking hold of our world, if only for a little while.  Stay safe, everyone.