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!

 

Cheeky Red Fox – Often maligned, they’re not so different from us!

Looking out the kitchen window this morning, I spotted several turkeys in the yard running up the hill. It was then I saw what they were running from. A lone fox on their tail!

She didn’t have a hope in hell of catching one, though I give her points for trying! Everyone has to eat.

The birds are bigger than her, and can be pretty vicious if need be. They have big claws used for digging, and can peck like a hammer drill.

Turkey in our yard

Contrary to what many think, (remember that WKRP in Cincinati episode where turkeys dropped like wet bags of cement?), turkeys can fly. They would have taken to the trees if they thought that vixen was a real threat.

The turkeys roost in the trees up that hill overnight for protection against any predators. I see them out all the time, walking down our road and through around our property like families do, a group out for a stroll. 🙂

What I don’t see often enough these days are foxes. The few I’ve seen, with the exception of this very healthy looking lady, have contracted mange, which I suspect has to do with their low numbers in this area.

As a gardener, I’ve noted the rise in number of mice, voles, and chipmunks this past year around our property. I imagine the tide will turn again, and when it does, foxes will have plenty to eat.

Red foxes feature prominently in folklore and mythology. In Greek mythology, the Teumessian fox was a described as a gigantic fox destined never to be caught.

In Celtic mythology a red fox is a symbolic animal and a shape-shifter. Some folklore in England states how witches were thought to take their shape to steal butter from their neighbours.

In European folklore, the figure of Reynard the Fox symbolises trickery and deceit. Many of Reynard’s adventures may stem from actual observations on fox behaviour; he is an enemy of the wolf and has a fondness for blackberries and grapes.

Chinese folk tales tell of fox-spirits called huli jing that have nine tails. They’re known as kumiho in Korea, and Japanese mythology offers the kitsune, a fox-like spirit possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom.

The cunning Fox is commonly found in Native American mythology. It’s portrayed as a companion to Coyotes. Fox, however, is a deceitful companion that often steals Coyote’s food.

In light of all the folklore and myth surrounding these experts at survival, except in today’s case of my friend vixen thinking she could take down a turkey, it seems to me, we humans have been projecting our fears on to foxes and other animals since time began.

Perhaps in the case of a fox, that’s because humans share many of its traits….

Afterall, they’re creatures who seek food, shelter, and want to survive, thrive, and take care of their families, just like us!

I can’t fault them for that. 🙂

Valentine’s Day herbs – Divination for the pursuit of love, and for escaping love, too.

There’s an old Valentine’s Day custom that was anxiously awaited by potential would-be lovers each year. It took place on the eve of February 14th, and this harmless process of divination incorporated bay leaves as a way to dream of one’s future beloved.

Described in a newspaper article, a late 16th century periodical called the Connoisseur, it went something like this:

“Last Friday was Valentine’s Day, and the night previous I got five bay-leaves, and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillows, and the fifth to the middle; and then, if I dreamt of my sweetheart, I was told that we should be married before the year was out.”

I’m not sure if that practice was ever successful, but I don’t think it would hurt to give it a try if one is seeking a suitable mate. 🙂 I imagine one’s pillow would smell nice at the very least, and it would be easy to purchase bay leaves at the grocery store in order to give it a try!

Apollo and Daphne attributed to Piero del Pollaiolo, 1480

On the flipside, the story of Daphne and Apollo, introduced to us in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, bay leaves, or a tree really, is used as a method for escaping the pursuit of love (lust is more likely), instead.

In this tale, perpetual virgin Daphne, the river nymph, while pursued by Apollo, the Greek sun god (who could be considered a stalker and one who wouldn’t take no for an answer) was transformed in to such a tree to escape his clutches, and not a moment too soon, either!

Daphne’s metamorphosis into a laurel tree may have been a form of escape from Apollo, but he later crafted a wreath out of her laurel branches, keeping her within his grasp afterall.

Michael Drayton, in his “Muses’ Elysium,” heralds the Bay leaf like this:
“The garland long ago was worn As Time pleased to bestow it:
The laurel only to adorn The conqueror and the poet.”

In any case, love isn’t always a bed of roses, back then or now. Sometimes it’s a bed of bay leaves. 😉

 

Saving seeds and sowing seeds goes hand-in-hand

Spring is just around the corner. That happy thought leads me to my happy place; being outside in the garden.

Here in central Ontario Canada, there are still a couple of months before that can happen. After all, it’s February and the only thing growing in our yard are the piles of snow, and if I want to wander through my garden, I’ll have to shovel a path first. But that’s not an unhappy thought as it means I have plenty of time to plan this year’s plot and start germinating seeds.

Starting seeds indoors is the perfect way to get a head start in a shorter growing season, and the seeds I’ll sow this spring include tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, along with some tender herbs and annual flower varieties, were harvested last summer and into the autumn.

Scarlet runner beans

I’ve been a seed saver as long as I can remember. That’s not exactly true. I remember when it first occured to me that I could save seeds. It began with the sale of our family farm. While cleaning out the kitchen, I discovered several varieties of flower seeds in the top kitchen cupboard, right at the back, likely placed there decades before by my Great-Grandmother.

Mrs. Woman & Sweet William

The old tin I discovered contained Sweet William, Hollyhock, and others heirloom varieties, a real treasure. I immediately planted them in my garden back in Toronto, and still grow flowers from those original seeds, 20 years and two houses later.

The Farm

All of that might make me a seed sentimentalist, but I’ve since learned other reasons for saving seeds, and one of those reasons might convince others to give it a go.

Here’s my list of reasons. Please feel free to let me know if you can think of anything I may have left out.

1.) Saving seed appeals to my motto of “waste not want not”.

I hate to see anything good go unused. The economical reasons alone, especially in today’s financial climate and pandemic, makes a ton of sense. Seed savers know that by gathering up seeds and storing them carefully away for next year’s garden is preservation for next year’s crop, and less money to fork out. (Pardon the pun!)

2.) Personal selection.

Saving Nasturtium seeds

I like the thought of developing my own vigorous strains over several seasons of selective seed saving. Saving seeds from the plants with the qualities you most prize, you will soon have varieties that are ideally adapted to your garden and growing conditions.

3) Maintain bio-diversity.

Fewer and fewer old varieties of food crops are available, so seed saving keeps vegetable varieties and the world’s food choices diversified. Think Irish potato famine.

Today many of the world’s food plants are disappearing, including vegetables, grains and fruit varieties. Approx. 70 % of the world’s major food plants have already been lost. This is because modern agriculture practices require high yield, uniform plants, so the genetic base of the world’s food plants has been greatly reduced. This has left the world dependent on a few, closely related varieties of each crop.

4) Historical value. (For the sentimenatlists like me)

Many plant varieties we save or trade are living links to the past. Seed saving is a way to link with our ancestors. As gardener’s this is a responsibility and opportunity to pass these wonderful heirlooms to future generations.

5) Sustainability.

We don’t need big corporate seed companies taking care of us and choosing the foods and flowers that we can grow. Many of these companies sell varieties that are tasteless, but travel well. That’s not a good enough reason for me. Self reliance is very satisfying. It is our right to save seeds and make sure that there is enough variety on the planet. Bio-diversity is part of the cycle of life.

6) Covid-19

This year especially, I’m relieved I took a bit of time last year to harvest, dry and carefully store my seeds. I don’t have to rely too much on trying to locate any of the varieties I already have on hand when supplies are short, and like toilet paper, they may be hard to locate.

In any case, if you can save your seeds this fall, next spring you may thank yourself, too. Happy Gardening!