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.

How to best grow Basil, and some Folklore, too

Basil – Arguably one of the most popular kitchen herbs today, it adds just the right flavour to so many recipes. But, did you know there is folklore surrounding this tasty plant?!

Inspired by #FolkloreThursday on Twitter for some time now, I began researching my favourite plants and flowers to learn their history, and what connections if any, they may have to ancient lore, superstitions, or stories.

In parts of Italy to this day, Basil is considered an herb that inspires love. Its scent is thought to bring about sympathy, and Medieval Italian maidens gave their chosen love a sprig of Basil to ensure their love would be returned in full.

With antibacterial properties, basil is considered to be good insect repellent. Along those lines, it’s good for hornets and wasp stings too, according to Culpeper, “Being applied to the place bitten by the venomous beast, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it“.

To carry a sprig of Basil in your purse or wallet is supposed to be a way to draw money and abundance to you and your bank account.  <-  I’ve tried with limited success. 😉

In dispute of what I’ve shared above, the Dierbach’s Flora Mythologica der Griechen und Römer, claims Basil represents poverty. In addition, the approved modern English ‘Dictionary of Flowers,’ states that offering Basil is a way to show hate to one’s enemy.

Who are we supposed to believe? Better not chance it, I’ve just removed the sprig of Basil from my wallet. Perhaps that’s why there was limited success.

According to ‘The Expert Gardener’ (1640), a work “faithfully collected from Dutch and French authors”, and a whole chapter devoted to the times and seasons which one should “sow and replant all manner of seeds”, this book offers special reference to the phases of the Moon. Specific to Basil and when to sow, reads: “must be sowne in March, when the Moone is old.”

As it’s still February, we’re not quite there. Another month to go before sowing those seeds. But when you do, here is some practical information on how best to grow it.

Basil will reach a height of 24″and spreads from 12-15″
Germination takes 7-10 days, and they should be sown at a shallow depth of 1/8″

Planting Season, other than the folklore above, I suggest outdoors in containers, 1-2 weeks after the last Spring frost has gone. Basil requires full sun for best success, and well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

In any case, with more than 150 varieties of Basil available, my personal favorites include Lemon Basil (Ocimum citrodorium), Purple Basil, less common than its traditional green counterpart, but with an uplifting, punchy flavour and a rich, show stopping colour, and last but not least, the ever popular Italian Large Leaf Basil, that some call Genovese.

All three are perfect for pesto, pasta sauces, and herbal vinegar.

Basil is best used fresh, picked from containers close to your kitchen! Mine are by our dining room door where we have sun all day long.

Thankfully, Basil has very few pests, and you can also use it as a companion plant to repel mites and tomato worms. As the saying goes, ‘Tomatoes loves Basil’.

Basil loves its tips pinched, which will encourage fuller plants, delay flowers, and keep it from going to seed.

I suggest letting one plant go to seed so that you can save them to grow again next year, or share with friends.

Personally, I grow Basil indoors on our sunny windowsill all year long. The seeds can be planted anytime!

Pest Recipe – Wall Flower Studio – Feel free to print and share.

Enjoy!