Introducing a new series that I will be writing for my blog; the meanings of flowers and plants particularly those that inspire and interest me. I have had a long fascination with the natural world especially flowers, plants and trees. They capture my imagination, emotions and inspire all forms of my work; at school I often turned to nature as form of inspiration during my art classes producing watercolour studies of leaves and rural landscapes through the seasons.
I have recently been dipping in and out of one of my favourite books Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo, its a gentle read full of detail and exquisite photography. Whilst reading it recently I was struck by how much I wanted to know about the history of flowers and plants, this extract in particular caught my attention.
'Throughout history flowers have commanded admiration and symbolised complex emotions for people of all cultures. The ephemeral nature of flowers whose blooms come fleeting once a year to claim our admiration only adds to their enchantment. Flowers and plants are dulcet emblems of the natural world - messengers from the landscape to herald the seasons. Through the ages, people have brought flowers and foliage into their homes for different reasons: to cheer up a dark corner, to fill a room with fragrance, or simply to enjoy up close the complex architecture of a flower or the intricately varying hues on the autumn leaves.'
'The simple act of cutting flowers to bring into one's home comes naturally to anyone who has ever gathered a bouquet of dandelions as a child'.
I was that child - the one who would happily snip a rose from the garden or gather a few stems of lavender when no one was looking. It is only now that I feel I would like to truly understand the history of each British bloom I am lucky enough to work with and grow. My decision to start with Honeysuckle is an easy one, not only is it at the height of its growing season but it happens to be one of my favourite Summer blooms, trailing tendrils of long green foliage and the sweet heady scent of the delicate trumpet flowers unfurling in the golden Summer sunshine, nestled amongst hedgerows that snake through a variety of green foliage along arable fields and country lanes. I distinctly remember as a child seeing and smelling honeysuckle in the hedgerows on Dartmoor.
The honeysuckle flower contains sweet nectar, but the fruit is poisonous. It is believed that the sturdy stems were used to make rope as far back as the Bronze Age, and in parts of Britain it is still used to this day to make into bridles and harnesses for pack ponies.
Honeysuckle appears to have a strong connection to love and marriage. In Geoffrey Chaucer's work, 'wodebyne' is a symbol of steadfastness in love, and Shakespeare wrote of it in Act IV, Scene i of A Midsummer's Nights Dream:
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms…
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
The vines of the honeysuckle plant symbolically twined together to bind two lovers to ensure fidelity and desire for each other and it is also believed that if honeysuckle was brought into a home will help ensure a good marriage for the people who live there. It is also believed that if you grow honeysuckle near your home it will attract love, luck and wealth and protect your garden from negative influences. It is a nice sentiment to think if you could include honeysuckle into your wedding flowers there is a symbolic connection to love and marriage. It is also considered to have medicinal benefits.
I find it fascinating to think that our appreciation for a plant can change upon learning of its history and meaning. So here's to learning more about plants and flowers.