Flowers of Field and Hedgerow


Flowers of Field and Hedgerow

There is always gladness in the heart at flowers that are the harbingers of Spring.

Thursday, 17 January 2013
8:00 AM GMT

Although we are still in the heart of Winter, the first faint signs of the coming Spring are already beginning to appear. The Hazel trees that grow in such abundance at Cregg are putting out their little catkins, popularly known as Lambs Tails. The saplings of the Hazel tree are straight and smooth, as kids we used them to make arrows for our crude bows, with the end split to take a feather, they flew straight and true.

There is always gladness in the heart at flowers that are the harbingers of Spring. A harbinger is an old English word, which proclaims the a person or an event is on the way. In a book which I bought a long time ago from Mrs Phelan in her old shop in Fermoy, called Shakespeare’s Flowers, the writer, Jessica Kerr mentions many of the plants that are still familiar to us today. Jessica Kerr was born in Dublin, and she spent many years studying the significance of flowers in the plays of the Bard of Avon.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Anne Ophelia Dowden who is noted for her accuracy to detail, she devoted much of her life to studying the flowers and plants of Shakespeare’s native Warwickshire. She has a wonderful word for the things of nature, she called them wildlings, a word that could have come from Shakespeare himself. Another Spring flower, the Primrose is mentioned thus in A Midsummer Nights Dream; And in the woods where often you and I, Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie. The flower is mentioned also in Macbeth and Hamlet, the word Primrose appropriately means first flower.

The humble Cowslip in the England of the mid 1500s was the children’s favourite flower, each year in the month of April, the children would go out into the fields to pick the blossoms. These little flowers in legend, were known as, the Fairies Cup, and were also used to make an amber-coloured wine and were also used for medicinal purposes. A Herb that is still very popular today is Thyme, mentioned in the Clancy Brothers song, Will Ye Go Lassie, Go. It is described thus in A Midsummer Nights Dream; I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows.

Thyme was seen to be a symbol of sweetness, it was much loved by bees and delicious honey was made from its nectar. Our much-loved wild-flower, the Honeysuckle also attracts bees, it too was very popular in Elizabethan gardens, every year it blossoms in profusion along the wall of Ravenswood at the end of Barnane Walk. Soon the Crocuses planted over sixty years ago by Bill Burke near Garners Island will once again bloom, these beautiful but hardy flowers have survived the ravages of many floods. What greater memorial could a man have then a wild-flower that grows every year to remind us of a man who was so wise in the ways of Nature.

Finally, a flower that we all love, and that so many poems have been written about, the Daffodil, in Shakespeares time they were called daffydown-dillies, when the rough winds of March blow, the Daffodils nod their heads, but they do not bow. In A Winters Tale, they are described; Daffodils, That come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty.

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