Thoughts of Spring and Crocus flowers lead me to the garden

n the first day of Spring my thoughts always lead me to the garden.

One of the first flowers to greet me after a long winter is the lovely Crocus.

With petal colours varying from white, purple, yellow, and even striped, this small perennial bulb, (corm), planted in autumn for its spring show, originates from the Alps, and offers abundant blossoms that brighten up the beds, often while other parts of the my garden are still heavily laden with snow.

Ancient legend relates Crocus as an unfortunate lover. The myth centres around his unfulfilled and tragic love for Smilax, a woodland nymph, also transformed but in her case, as a brambly vine. His sorrow it is said, awakened sympathy from the gods who aided his metamorphosis into what we now know as this dainty spring flower.

According to old lists containing flower meanings, the Crocus flower is equated to both ‘Spring’ and ‘cheerfulness’. And why not after a long, dreary winter?! Both meanings seem quite appropriate!

Out from the heart of the Crocus,
There leaped to my heart a song,
It was as though an angel
Had borne the word along,
And its message drew and held me,
Until my soul was strong.

~ E.M. Hill

Saffron, the stigma from Crocus sativus is a very expensive spice. Along with being a food additive, it scents perfumes, cosmetics, and is a component of traditional medicines. Studies show it works as an anti-carcinogentic, boosts the immune system, and is an antioxidant.

Shown on frescoes dating from 1700 B.C., it’s no wonder this flower has been cultivated and harvested since ancient times in the Middle East, North Africa, India, and throughout the Mediterranean region.

In any case, with three feet of snow still to melt in my neck of the woods, I’ll think of this flower, and others, biding my time until I get to enjoy their presence once again.

Happy Spring!


 

Four-leaf clovers – More than a lucky Irish symbol

You don’t have to be Irish to know a four-leaf clover is a universal symbol of good luck. This accepted belief is as old as the hills.

A description from 1869 states “four-leaf clovers were gathered at night-time during the full moon by sorceresses, who mixed it with other ingredients, while young girls in search of a token of perfect happiness made quest of the plant by day”

Druids held four-leaf clovers in high esteem. They too considered them a sign of good luck.  As much as I love to read about, and devour any information on these mystical figures, I do take some of it with a grain of salt.

The sad reality is, we just don’t know much about Druids. Except for information written by the likes of Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and Strabo, who as Roman conquerors, and Druids being their enemy, any account from them is likely to be biased.

There are however, many Irish myths and legends pertaining to Druids which may hold historic value and even factual events. But I digress…

Irish folklore tells us finding a clover with four leaves will bring you good luck, however finding a stem with five leaves or more will not bring you more luck.

I’d have to disagree with that. The odds would have to be pretty high for someone to find one, so I’d consider it even more fortunate, indeed!

Each of the four leaves has its own representation, though this varies depending on who you speak with about it. Generally, the most popular meanings are:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love
  • Luck

By the same token, a clover with three leaves has symbolism, too. According to Pliny, it’s connected to the Holy Trinity. In addition, clover was used to make a salve against snake bites, since snakes represented Original Sin, and encouraged by that dastardly serpent in the Garden of Eden. Here, each leaf represents a good deed. In this case:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity

The most widely cultivated clovers are white clover, Trifolium repens, and red clover, Trifolium pratense.

Clover shoots up easily, even after repeated mowing. It produces nutritious crop for livestock and fixes nitrogen in the soil, which reduces the need for synthetic fertilizer. It grows in all kinds of climates, and it’s a great addition to your compost bin.

Last but not least, it’s one of the earliest plants to produce flowers, making it an important source of nectar for our pollinators, especially bees.

Of interest to floral historians, the Four-Leaf Clover in floral language means – ‘Be Mine’.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to find a four-leaf clover. I pressed it between the pages of a book, and since then its sat, on one of the bookshelves in my house. Now that I’m writing this post, I’ll have to search for it.

I figure it doesn’t matter if you find the same one twice! When it turns up, it will still be a lucky find.

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya. Make sure to wear something green!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 


Sources:

  • Rutherford, Ward (1978). The Druids and their Heritage. London: Gordon & Cremonesi.
  • Celtic Studies Resources: Did the Celts or Druids Perform Human Sacrifice?
  • Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia. c.78 CE.
  • Tacitus. Annales. Second century CE.
  • Masters MT. 1869. Vegetable Teratology, An Account of the Principal Deviations from the Usual Construction of Plants. Robert Hardwicke Publisher, London, P 356.
  • Mark Kinver, Science and environment reporter, BBC News – Science/Environment – Bumbles make beeline for gardens, study suggests
  • The bouquet – A Poetic Treasury of Flowers, Their Classics and Vocabulary, (pg. 13) by Walser, G. H. (George Henry), 1834-1910
  • Cyclopedia of practical floriculture by Turner, Cordelia Harris – Publication date 1884
  • The images are royalty-free. Use and share as you like.

Vermicomposting – Let worms do the dirty work!

When it comes to vermicomposting, earthworms will do the ‘dirty’ work for you.

Most people know worms turn waste into beautiful compost outdoors, but this can be done indoors, too. It’s an easy way to compost much of your kitchen waste.

Worm castings, the black gold by-product resulting from vermicomposting, contains 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil; some of the main minerals a healthy growing plant requires.

Castings are also rich in humic acids. This soil conditioner offers a perfect pH balance. It contains plant growth factors similar to seaweed. What could be better for your garden?

Here in Canada, snow covers outdoor composters and gardens for several months at a time. It might seem easier to take compostable kitchen scraps to land fill. However, for a small investment, vermicomposting can reap benefits far and above the 40 bucks initially spent, and it can be done year round, right in your kitchen!

Here’s how:

  • Purchase 2 plastic storage tote bins from the hardware store.
  • Drill ¼-inch holes in the bottom, sides and top of the box, not just for drainage but for aeration. You don’t want to smother the worms. The box should be approximately 1 square foot of surface area for each person in the household. – e.g.: A 2′ x 2′ x 2′ box can take the food waste of four people.
  • Bedding materials can include shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard, peat moss, and partially decomposed leaves.
  • Worm boxes should be filled with bedding to provide the worms with a mixed diet, as well as a damp and aerated place to live.
  • Tear newspaper or cardboard into strips before first. Bedding material should be moistened by in water for several minutes. Squeeze out excess water before adding it to your worm box.
  • Cover food waste with a few inches of bedding so flies won’t become a problem.
  • Make sure the worm box doesn’t get too wet.  Worms will not survive and fruit flies will appear. That’s when it will smell. -> Troubleshooting worm bins
  • Red wigglers are considered the best worm to use for vermicomposting. They thrive on organic material such as yard waste and fruit and vegetable scraps.

Do feed them:

  • Coffee grounds or filters
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Small plant material
  • Tea leaves with bags

Do NOT feed them:

  • Bones
  • Milk and Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Greasy foods
  • Meat
  • Peanut butter
  • Pet/cat litter
  • Vegetable oil/salad dressing

To Harvest castings, feed one end of the box for about a week. The worms will find their way to that side to feed. Remove two-thirds of the worm castings from the opposite end and apply fresh bedding. Start burying food waste in the new bedding, and the worms will move back. The cycle continues!

Tip: Save the casting in a bag to spread on the garden, and top dress some of your indoor plants. They’ll love you for it.

Here are more great links to get you started… Have fun! : )