Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Language of Flowers

We spent a sunny morning the other day walking around the beautiful old churchyard in the village of Birlingham, Worcestershire. (pictured below) This churchyard is famous in our area for the wonderful carpet of snowdrops and purple crocus in February. In fact by the time we returned with our two children who had come to visit us, the snowdrops were almost gone, apart from a few late ones with particularly long petals. There are hundreds of varieties of galanthus nivalis, the single snowdrop, and also many double varieties. This churchyard has several kinds and becomes a glorious snowy carpet when they are all out in profusion.

On this day we also saw early spring cyclamen, tiny little blue bells and one of my very favourite flowers, the primrose. I love all wild flowers and my garden is full of them. They outnumber the ‘posh’ plants. There is something about the delicacy of them, the exquisite miniature beauty that is so unshowy, often nestling amongst their leaves as if hiding from the common gaze. They are tough and survive and yet pick them and they droop in no time. These are plants that want to stay free and wild, not restricted to some vase indoors. I think I must identify with this longing for freedom, wildness and the great outdoors ... which may sound odd from someone who spends a good deal of time in front of a computer, looking at life through the eyes of a virtual world, chatting to people who seem like intimate friends but whom I have never even met.

I have certain favourites I confess. I can’t explain what their quality is but they do have a certain character and aura. Scabious, especially the blue variety, moves me inexplicably whenever I look at it. English, dainty, sweet scented bluebells in woodland profusion make my heart soar with the last joy of springtime before the British summer begins its muddled uncertainties of rain and sunshine, heat and cold. However, the primrose, which my daughter deems ‘old fashioned’ will always be my favourite. I look at their soft yellow depths and feel an almost mystical pleasure. I have no idea why.

Sometimes I feel sadness when I look back and recall the hedgerows filled with flowers, the vast areas of wild untilled land I once knew.  Cowslips take me back to a childhood in the late forties when I used to rise early and go forth with the farmer’s wife and her daughter into a Gloucestershire field that was covered in cowslips from end to end. We could pick them in those days, they weren’t as yet almost eradicated by intensive and careless, greedy farming.

Wordsworth as always, sums it up in his beautiful way…

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream
The earth and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore.
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen, I now can see no more.

from 'Intimations of Immortality'

In fairness, farmers now are far more aware of the environment and due to the madness of EU laws, many fields forced to lie fallow, have been turned by sensible landowners into wild flower fields again. Flowers are raised and sold for gardens and estates and we can rejoice once more in swathes of primroses, bluebells, snowdrops.

Flax fields, Worcestershire

Poppy fields, Gloucestershire

Favourite Quotes

  • My home is my retreat and resting place from the wars: I try to keep this corner as a haven against the tempest outside, as I do another corner of my soul. Michelle de Montaigne
  • Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony: Mahatma Gandhi
  • Friends are people you can be quiet with. Anon.