If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I am very passionate about old-fashioned flowers! Besides their loveliness and fragrance, which modern hybrids cannot equal, they are so rich in history.
I recently started reading "The Gardener's Atlas" by Dr. John Grimshaw, and am finding it very fascinating. Yesterday, while looking for something to keep my mind off the intense cold we've been enduring, I actually hit upon what I think was a brilliant idea! Why not make a list of all the flowers and herbs grown in my garden and research their origins and histories? With almost sixty different kinds, that ought to keep me well occupied until Spring! I will randomly pick a flower from the list, and share what I learn here on my blog for now. Eventually, I may start a new page here on my website just for these plant histories, so I (and anyone else) can find them easily.
The Sweet William, or Poet's Pink ("Oeillet de Poeteit" in French) is one of the most chersihed flowers in my garden. It is native to the mountains of southern Europe, from the Pyrenees east to the Carpathians and the Balkans, and is believed to have been cultivated by monks as early as the 12th century. It was planted in the gardens of Henry VIII's palace of Hampton Court in 1533.
The first to mention D. barbatus was Dr. Rembertus Dodeons, physician to Emepror charles V of Germany, who published his New Herball, or Historie of Plants" in 1554.
The origin of its English name is unclear. The botanist John Gerard (1545-1612) was the first to refer to it as Sweet William. Perhaps he called it after his contemporary, william Shakespeare. Some think it may have originally been called Sweet St. William, to commemorate St. William of Aquitaine, while yet another possibility is that it was named for William of Normandy, although this seems unlikely.
Gerard speaks of it as a common flower. He writes that "these plants are not used either in mete or medicine but esteemed for their beauty, to deck up gardens and the bosoms of the beautiful".
Thomas Jefferson noted when the Sweet Williams began to open in april 1767 at Shadwell, his boyhood home. He also reported flowers in May and June 1782 at Monticello. In 1807, he planted Sweet William in one of the newly-made Oval Beds, but that November, his grandaughter, Ann Cary Randolph, informs him that "the pinks Carnation's Sweet Williams Yellow horned Poppy Ixia Jeffersonia everlasting Pea Lavatera Columian Lilly Lobelia Lychnis double blossomed Poppy & Physalis failed, indeed none of the seeds which you got from Mr. McMahon came up".
Sweet William is a biennial or short-lived perennial and is very easy to grow from seed, flowering the second year after planting. It self-sows readily, but has never become a nuisance in my garden.
For some reason I have always associated it with herbs. Maybe it's just because it combines nicely with many herbs in the garden. I think read somewhere that it may have some medicinal qualities as well, but don't quote me on that! It is considered an edible flower.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little history as much as I enjoyed putting it together! There will be many more to come...the only difficulty is in making up my mind which flower I want to research next!
My family doesn't celebrate Christmas until January 7th (Old Calendar) but I wanted to wish all of my readers who will be celebrating on the 25th a very Merry Christmas!
In the days leading up to Christmas, I always look forward to reading/watching Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". This year, a dear friend gave me a beautiful volume with all five of Dickens' Christmas stories! With the extreme cold weather we are expecting next week, it will be such a comfort to sit by the fire and lose myself in the world of Dickens!
And speaking of Dickens, here is a video from a Christmas concert my sister and I gave with some friends this week. This is called "Fiddle Like the Dickens!"...it's a medley of fiddle tunes and traditional carols from Dickens' time. I hope you enjoy it! Merry Christmas!
"More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always."
When I say that I love flowers, it is no exaggeration. I cannot imagine a world without them! Our winters are far too harsh for any flowers outdoors, but I am so thankful to have these Paperwhites blooming cheerfully on the kitchen windowsill! (They are actually not in a vase...I was going to cut them if they got too "leggy", but so far they have been fine). Sometimes when I'm working in the kitchen, I'll suddenly get a whiff of their perfume. They are wonderful!
I like how the sun shines through the petals...
You can see what others have found to brighten their winter day at Rambling in the Garden.
Winter has finally arrived in earnest here! The first storm was a surprise, since it wasn't even forecast until it had already started snowing Saturday evening! We got 6 or 7 inches from that. Yesterday it started snowing again by late morning and it's still snowing now! The temperature rose from -8F to 35, (and the snow changed to rain overnight) and is now dropping again, with a low of 3 forecast for tonight, and single digit highs for the rest of the week! Believe it or not, this crazy weather is pretty normal here! I'm glad we finally have a good layer of snow protecting the gardens.
These pictures were all taken Sunday morning...
The greenhouse before I cleaned it off...usually the snow slides off on its own and I just have to shovel to keep the sides cleared, but it depends on the type of snow and temperature.
Vegetable garden, with the leaning pumpkin trellis! :D
It prbably won't be long before everything is completely buried, but for now I'm still enjoying some of the taller flower stalks and herbs.
I love how snow looks on tree branches, and in the honeysuckle and lilac bushes!
I will wait til Monday to show you what blooms on the kitchen windowsill right now! :)
Several years ago, not long after I started gardening, some friends sent us two comfrey root cuttings. I planted them in my vegetable garden (then much smaller) and waited to see what would happen. I had never even heard of comfrey before (imagine that!) and had no idea what it would look like. Well, I didn't have to wait very long to find out! Those plants grew and grew, and by the next spring I had decided to move them out of the vegetable garden and into their own plot. I remember being surprised at how long the roots were...it was impossible to get the whole thing up. So when I had moved them and they started wilting, I assumed that I had killed them. Not so! It wasn't long before they started sending up new leaves, and then, to my surprise, there were new plants popping up in the vegetable garden also! I have learned since that these plants are vitually indestructable!
Over the years, I haven't really paid much attention to these plants, except for hoeing out the new plants that still come up all over my vegetable garden. I came to regard it almost as a pest, although I still appreciate any plant with a history, the bees love them, and I just have a soft spot for any plant that can survive our harsh winters. Of course I also knew by now I could never possibly get rid of it even if I wanted to!
Last year, I wanted something to fill in the back of the flower garden by the house. I wanted something really tough since it is a windy spot and dries out quickly. Most of the flowers I've tried there either die or grow up rather stunted. So, I decided to plant comfrey, although with some fear that I would regret it later. Of course, they grew there just as they have everywhere else, and by late summer had grown so large, they topple over and covered all the flowers growing in front of them. I have been debating with myself about planting more along the rest of that side of the house (I only planted a few there to start with, just to see what they would do).
So after all that, you will be surprised to hear that I have suddenly decided to grow LOTS more comfrey! I think I've mentioned a few times already that I have really fallen in love with herbs this year. I've been reading a lot of books and articles about herbs and their many uses, and am so excited about what I learned about comfrey! I already knew about its medicinal uses (it can be used to heal minor wounds, and I believe it has been used for stomach ulcers as well, although I've read that there are now some doubts about using it internally). What I didn't know is that is valuable for the garden as well! The roots go down as deep as 6 ft. (no wonder I couldn't dig the wole thing up!), bringing up soil nutrients, and the leaves and stems are high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, and calcium. These can be used as an activator for compost, as a mulch, or made into a tea for liquid fertilizer. And putting a leaf into the hole when transplanting seedlings gives them an extra boost!
With my gardens expanding every year, having enough compost/manure is becoming a real problem. I am so thankful for this amazing plant, and am looking forward to experimenting with it next summer!
Most of our snow has melted, so it doesn't really seem like December! But the seed catalogs are beginning to arrive in the mailbox, and now comes all the joyful planning for the gardening season to come. I am already bursting with ideas and plans, and new plants I want to grow, but I will save that for another post in the near future. For now, even though this is a garden blog, I promised to show you some pictures of my four beloved Goldens!
One of my favorite gardeners, Tasha Tudor, was partial to corgis, and named her home Corgi Cottage. Golden retrievers have been my favorite breed since I was 6 years old (but I didn't get Captain and Nellie til I was 18). They are such happy dogs, with TONS of energy, and always friendly...and they are beautiful! So maybe one day I'll have Golden Retriever Cottage! :D
I wish I could find a better picture of all four of my dogs together, but its almost impossible because they are always on the move!
Captain and Nellie
Captain (After reading about Dickon's pet fox in "The Secret Garden" many years ago, I decided that if ever I had a male dog, I would name hime Captain).
Captain stole my glove!
Nellie with her ball...
Captain on my running trail...
Nellie and a dandelion!
Captain just posing...:)
And in June of last year, I added these two to my golden family! I named them Carina and Zorra (Zorra is the one with the stripe on her face).
Zorra chewing my shoe laces...
Carina playing with a pine cone. It looks like she is winking in this picture!
Carina yelling in my ear (actually I think she was just yawning!)
Cuddling with Zorra...
All of my dogs enjoy chewing on any stick they can find!
A couple more comical pictures of Zorra...she is by far the most mischievous of the bunch :)
Carina and Zorra's first time playing with Captain and Nellie...
Nellie loves to sit beside me and sometimes even tries to be a lap dog!
Carina all grown up, with their "Chuck-it!", which has since been chewed up (looks like it was already pretty worn out in this picture!)
Captain enjoying an evening run...
Captain and Nellie in the snow...
Carina and Zorra playing tug-of-war with a bone...
Captain and Nellie resting in the shade on a hot day...
Nellie jumping off the A-frame on their agility course...
Carina giving me what we call the "concerned golden retriever look"!
Captain and Nellie sharing a stick after we went skijoring...
I hope these pictures made you smile! I'll be back with something about gardening again next time. :)
I am a passionate gardener and seed-saver, who also enjoys playing the violin and accordion, running, spending time with my 4 golden retrievers, keeping chickens, photography, and reading. I also blog for Heirloom Gardener.