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Pelargonium Species


panda flower 2

The Pelargonium species comprises of about 200 or more perennials, succulents and shrubs.

The Pelargonium species are equally as appealing as their cultivated varieties, zonals, regals and ivy leafed and can be captivating and intriguing plants. They are reasonably easy to grow and rarely have any problems with pests and diseases.

They have become more admired over the centuries because of their delightful perfumed flowers and aromatic scented leaves.They have also gained popularity in the production of aromatic oils and also medicinal properties.

Pelargoniums are generally known as Geraniums but were later classed as two individual groups in 1789 by Charles L Heritier. The word pelargonium is derived from t
he Greek word “pelargospineapple p flower water mark websmall” meaning stork because the seed head resembles that of a stork.

The first known pelargoniums to be cultivated in Europe was the P.triste, a tuberous rooted plant which could withstand long voyages by ship.

Thousands of cultivated varieties of pelargoniums selected for their desirable characteristics, were originally from a few native species which may still exist in South Africa to this day.

Pelargonium Species World is a Mother and Daughter family business which specializes in Species Pelargoniums situated in a mountainous area of Crete, Greece with the natural beauty of the fauna and Flora.

We are working together with nature and wildlife, all our plants are grown naturally in a natural environment with no chemicals, pesticides or fungicides.

All our seeds are fresh and are carefully picked by hand.  Please visit my website at www.pelargoniumspeciesworld.com

 

Pelargonium graveolens, marjoram, bacon & tomato potato scones

These savoury potato scones are simply delicious to eat while using up your left over mash potato for breakfast, tea or with eggs.  The woody citrus floral taste of marjoram, delicate rose/mint pelargonium graveolens scented leaves and the bacon & tomato creates a tasty nourishing snack.

Ingredients
100g (4 oz) plain flour
Half a kilo (17 oz) of mashed potatoes
Half a tomato, skin removed and finely chopped
1 sprig of marjoram, leaves taken off the stalk
3-4 leaves of pelargonium graveolens, cut into small pieces
2 strips of bacon, lightly grilled or fried then roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
A large Mixing bowl, Rolling pin and circular cutter.

 To prepare
First peel the potatoes, wash them removing any traces of skin or green  and cut them into quarters, boil until softened. Then remove the water and start to mash up the potatoes using a fork, crushing any lumps. Add a little milk, a pinch of salt & pepper and whisk well with a fork or wooden spoon until it becomes creamy in consistency.
Place the mashed potato into a large mixing bowl and add in the chopped tomato, lightly cooked bacon, herbs and pelargonium graveolens leaves and mix well together.
Next slowly add the sifted flour to the potato mixture kneading gently into a light dough and adding a little extra flour if needed.
Gather the dough into a ball and roll it out lightly to about 2 cm thick or press down using your hand, Cut out using a circular cutter.
You can then fry them in a pan with oil until browned each side or place them in the oven 500 F, gas mark 9, 240 C for 10 minutes ( turning over after 5 minutes).

Pelargonium tomentosum and its lovely hybrids

This peppermint scented leaf pelargonium can be added to cakes and beverages. It has delicate white flowers with purple markings on the upper petals and each branching flower stalks contains up to four to fifteen flowers which blooms during the beginning of Spring to Summer. The leaves are large and heart shaped with soft hairs which creates a velvety texture and is peppermint scented. P. tomentosum is native to the Western Cape where it grows in shady and moist areas mostly in narrow gorge forests fairly close to a river with rainfall during the winter months. This plant grows to about 50 centimetres in height and spreads over a large area, making it a lovely plant which grows well in  a medium to large sized pot.

The name tomentosum refers to the hairy leaves of this plant which is also used in essential oils, believed to have been brought to the gardens of Kew by Francis Masson a Scottish plant collector during the late 16th century from South Africa and has also grown naturally in Sicily for several years.

A hybrid of this species pelargonium includes P. tomentosum x P. quercifolium or possibly “Giant oak’ (a cultivar of P. quercifolium) known as chocolate peppermint which was created during the late 1900’s and gets its name from the chocolate zone in the centre of the velvety peppermint scented leaves that varies in colour from dark to light green. The flowers are light pink with purple markings on the upper petals and is Summer flowering, growing well in large containers.
It is crossed with Pelargonium quercifolium (pictured below) which has pinky purple to light pink flowers with darker purple markings on the upper petals, that are arranged on long flower stalks each containing up to six flowers, The leaves are balsam scented and resembles that of an oak leaf.
P. quercifolium is a upright branching plant which reaches a height of  about  175 cm’s and is native to parts of the Eastern and Western cape where it grows in rocky or cracked soil areas usually among sandstone, shale or limestone.  Its name quercifolium is derived from the Latin word “quercus” meaning having the leaves of a an oak leaf.

Pelargonium ‘giant oak’ like the pelargonium quercifolium has balsam scented leaves, dark green or dark brownish red with streaks. The flowers are light pinkish purple with darker veins on the upper petals.( Pictured below)

Another hybrid is crossed with Pelargonium tomentosum x P. tricolor called ‘Islington peppermint’ (below) which has attractive flowers with deep red upper petals and three white lowers petals. It is like a dwarf version of pelargonium tomentosum which grows to a height of 20 cm’s, the leaves are mint scented with soft hairs and a velvet texture.

P. Tricolor (pictured below) has quite a few flower colour variations similar to a wild pansy which ranges from deep red, white and pink upper petals with three white lower petals, the leaves are grey green narrow to oval with light hairs. This plant grows to about 30 cm’s in height and is native to the Eastern and Western Cape where it grows in dry areas in clay or sandy soil. The name tricolor refers to the three colours on the flowers, it was discovered by Francis Masson, the Scottish gardener and botanist during the late 1700’s, which was brought to the UK where it flowered and was then mentioned in the Botanical magazine in 1974.

Pelargonium ‘splendide’ is a hybrid of Pelaronium ovale and pelargonium tricolor, it has colourful pansy like flowers with deep purplish red upper petals and light pink lower petals which flowers during the Summer months. The leaves are grey green and narrow or oval with a velvety texture, It is an upright shrub-like pelargonium that grows well in pots, rock gardens and borders.

Pelargonium capitatum lavender & chocolate cup cakes

These tempting & delicious cupcakes are just heavenly to snack on during your coffee or tea break. The natural flavours of chocolate, rose leaf pelargonium and lavender create a delicate rose, minty floral taste along with the sweetened  lemon icing.

Ingredients
75g (3 oz) self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder)
100g(4 oz) caster sugar
100g margarine
2 eggs, beaten
3-4 sprigs of lavender flowers, flowers taken off stalk
3-4 leaves of pelargonium capitatum, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (mixed in with the eggs)
A pinch of cinnamon
Topping (optional) lemon icing or another favour of your choice
One lemon,  100g icing sugar

To prepare
First place 18 paper cases onto a prepared  cupcake baking tray, then add the margarine and  the sugar into a warmed mixing bowl, cream the two ingredients  together using a wooden spoon until it is lighter in colour with a fluffy consistency, also mixing in any of the mixture left at the sides of the bowl.
Mix the  cocoa with a small amount of water in a small bowl  so that it turns into a paste and then add it to the beaten eggs, blending it well together with a fork. Then Add the egg/cocoa mixture a little at a time to the margarine and sugar mix, beating well together.
Next slowly fold in the flour making it as light as possible, adding the pinch of cinnamon, chopped rose scented pelargonium leaves and lavender flowers, Mix together and then spoon the mixture into the paper cases  and place them in the oven for 20 minutes at a temperature of 190 c (375 F mark 5)
lightly press the top of the cup cake with your finger to tell if they are ready and if it bounces back then they can be taken out of the oven and allow to cool.
After baking you can choose to add a layer of icing sugar with a sprinkle of lavender flowers and  then serve with a refreshment such as tea or coffee.
Icing sugar (optional)
Prepare a bowl and add 100g of icing sugar, then pour in one tablespoon of  lemon juice and mix together using the back of a spoon until it is the right consistency, adding another tablespoon or icing sugar  if needed.. Make sure the cakes are on a level surface then gently pour a small amount on top of each cake and spread it over with a knife, or if you prefer you can use a piping bag. Sprinkle with lavender flowers and or decorate with pelargonium flowers.

Pelargonium oblongatum & its amazing hybrids

This charming pelargonium with its soft delicate shades of  yellow or cream coloured flowers are simple and elegant on long branching scapes, the larger upper petals have reddish purple veins and stamens that curve upwards making it easier for insects to pollinate it. The leaves are oval or rounded & toothed  as well as having a tuberous root which is partly above ground with layers of thin brown bark.
P. Oblongatum is native to the Northern cape where it grows in hot and dry areas of shrub land in the succulent Karoo, The leaves usually appear during the winter months after a rainy period at ground level while protecting the smaller succulents below, the flowers begin to bloom in October to November, but remains dormant during the Summer. The name oblong refers to long tuber of this plant which grows to a thickness of 15 cm’s, to which the whole shrub reaches a  height of about 30 cm’s, listed under the Hoarea section. This plant was first discovered by William John Burchell during his travels to South Africa, an explorer who collected thousands of specimens for the gardens of Kew.

A hybrid of this species pelargonium includes P. oblongatum x P. Fulgidum ( pictured right) which has striking pinkish red flowers with dark red veins, arranged on long flower stalks, the upper petals are much larger and rounded than the three lower petals, which are long and thin. The leaves are also smaller than that of  P. Oblongatum which have rounded teeth.

Another colour variation of Pelargonium oblongatum x fulgidum  has very pale pink flowers with dark pinkish red veins and light green sepals that are arranged on  long brownish red flower stalks ( pictured below)

It is crossed with Pelargonium fulgidum (pictured below) which has brightly coloured scarlet or pinky red flowers arranged on long flower stalks each having four to nine flowers. The leaves are oblong to cordate with very small greyish hairs that have a soft texture and three to six lobes that curve backwards. P. Fulgidum is a low growing plant which reaches a height of  about  40 to 100 cm’s and is native to the Western cape where it grows in sandy areas and hillsides usually among granite ,appearing in winter during the rainy season.  Its name fulgidum is derived from the Latin word “Fulgidus” meaning having brightly coloured flowers, to which many hybrids are descended from this plant.

Another hybrid is P. oblongatum x hystrix ( pictured below) which  has white flowers and dark reddish veins on the upper petals which fold backwards, the centre of the flower and sepals are light green with long stamens.

The hybrid is crossed with Pelargonium hystrix (below) which has white or light cream coloured flowers, with dark reddish veins on its narrow and rectangular petals. It is a low growing succulent like shrub with thick stems and continuous spikes or stipules, which is why this plant goes by the name hystrix  as it is derived from the word “hystrichos” meaning porcupine, the leaves are oval and pinnately divided.  
P. hystrix is native to the South Western cape and western parts of the Karoo. usually  growing  under larger plants or in dry areas when it is dormant during the Summer months. This plant was discovered by Francis Masson, the Scottish gardener and botanist during the 1700’s, which was brought to the gardens of Kew.

Other hybrids of Pelargonium oblongatum include:
P. oblongatum x radicatum- has about 15 or more small white flowers arranged on a long flowering stem, with reddish pink markings on the upper petals.
P. seifcifolium x oblongatum- has attractive bright purplely pink flowers with dark purple veins, the upper petals are much larger than the lower.
P. oblongatum x cucullatum- it has similar flowers to that of P. Cucullatum but they are much lighter in colour.

References-
Book -Pelargoniums Diana miller
https://www.geraniaceae-group.org/gallery/pelargonium-species-hybrids-g-z/

These Scrumptious and flavoursome scones are delicious drizzled with honey and walnuts or simply a spreading of jam, The herbs rosemary and thyme create a piney and minty flavour along with the balsam and lemony taste of the Pelargonium citronellum leaves, a lovely addition to your coffee or tea break.

Ingredients

225g (8oz) self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder)
5ml (1tsp) baking powder
50g margarine or butter cut into small pieces
1 egg
A little milk
A pinch of salt or 1-2 tablespoons of sugar (depending on taste)
2-3 sprigs of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves taken off stalk
1-2 leaves of pelargonium citronellum
A Peel of half a lemon finely chopped or grated
Topping honey and or walnuts or jam

To prepare
Sift the self raising flour with the added baking powder into a mixing bowl, add the margarine and  rub in lightly with your fingers & thumbs above the bowl until the texture is similar to that of  fine breadcrumbs.
If you have a sweet tooth add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar  or just a pinch of salt as the drizzle of honey will act as a natural sweetener. You can also add a little olive oil if you like.
Add the finely chopped rosemary leaves and thyme as well as the finally chopped lemon peel and pelargonium citronellum leaves. Mix together in the flour mixture then make a well in the centre and add a beaten egg, stir the contents together adding a little milk until you reach the right consistency to form a soft dough.
Knead lightly to take out any visible cracks, then a light dusting of  flour to your work area and rolling pin, roll out the dough with a thickness of approximately 2 cm’s.
When the dough is rolled out carefully cutout the pieces using a 2 cm cutter or cut into triangles, add them to the baking tray lined with a baking sheet and place them in the oven for 8-10  at a temperature of 230 c (450 F mark 8)
you can also replace the egg with soya or almond milk.
After baking, cut the scone in half and add a layer of honey and or walnuts, or jam served with a refreshment such as tea or coffee.

The lovely delicate pink violet flowers of P. anethifolium & its beautiful hybrids

Pelargonium anethifolium has been greatly admired over recent years for its lovely delicate flowers which range in colour from yellow, green to pink violet with dark reddish markings that are scented at night. The leaves are feathery  with traces of red, as well as a tint visible on the petioles, also consisting of an underground tuberous root.
This plant has some similarities to pelargonium triste which may have been collected and taken to Europe during the times of exploration in the Cape possibly believing that it was the same species,  P. anethifolium was not identified as a separate species until 1835.  
The name anethifolium refers to the leaves of the dill plant Anethum gravelens, a herb and spice which is very similar to the leaves of this plant. Pelargonium  anethifolim is native to South Western areas of the Cape and grows to about 50 cm’s in height.

A hybrid of this pelargonium includes P. gibbosum x P. anethitfolium which  has various forms of flower types:
The pale pink form (right) has beautiful delicate flowers of pastel pink with a slight flush of darker pink on the petals, arranged on an long, elegant flower stalk, containing up to eleven flowers, but they carry no scent.
It is crossed with Pelargonium gibbosum known as the gouty pelargonium because of its swollen nodes on long scrambling branches. The flowers vary from a slight orangey yellow to a brownish yellow with 6-14 flowers on each flower stalk. The leaves are succulent like with a leathery texture and has sharp and irregular leaf margins or lobed.  P. gibbosum becomes more woody as it ages and grows to about  40 to 60 cm’s in height, native to the Western cape where it grows in sandy and stony areas not far from the coast.

The peachy pink flower type (left) appears to be smaller in size than the light pink, but the mixture of orange and pink colours with a dash of yellow in the centre makes this flower simply unique.  The flowers are arranged on a long flower stalk which contains up to  eleven flowers, the sepals are also fairly long compared to the flower size and the leaves are also very decorative.

Another hybrid is P. anethifolium x fulgidum which also has various flower forms:
The deep red type (right) has striking pale pink or white flowers with splashes of deep red on the petals, this form looks more like a hybrid but is a very attractive plant and the leaves are still rather similar to that of P. Anethifolium.
The white form (below) with splashes of pale pink are simple but charming with just that added  flush of bright pink upon the white delicate flowers.

This hybrid is crossed with pelargonium fulgidum which has bright scarlet or deep purplish red flowers on long flower stalks. It is a low growing shrub with scrambling foliage & succulent like stems with leaves that are either rectangular or heart shaped with finely toothed leaf margins. P. Fulgidum is native to  Western coastal areas of South Africa usually on sandy hillsides or growing within rock formations of granite.

References- pelargonium gibbosum x anethifolium https://pelargonium.janedgar.net/p-gibbosum-x-p-anethifolium/
https://www.geraniaceae-group.org/gallery/pelargonium-species-hybrids-g-z/
pelargonium anethifolium x fulgidum   https://pelargonium.janedgar.net/p-anethifolium-x-p-fulgidum/
https://www.geraniaceae-group.org/gallery/pelargonium-species-hybrids-a-f/

DESTINATION-CHATEAU DE CHENONCEAU GARDENS

Image byBrinna Tracy-unsplash.com

The chateau de Chenonceau & gardens, extends across the river Cher, within the Indre et Loire region of France. It is situated close to the Loire valley, having both medieval and Renaissance style buildings and exquisite elegant grounds containing delicate shades of pinks, purples and whites within the lush greenery, lawns, circular boxwood and formal pathways & statues. Roses are grown as standards with beautiful pink flowers that hang downwards and purple lavender growing below in a row of borders. The Chateau was first constructed during the 13th century and was occupied by the Marques family until it was set alight during as an act of revenge. But was again reconstructed with a water mill before it was purchased by Thomas Bower, the senior royal official to King Charles V 111 in 1530 to which he completely built the chateau again from scratch, demolishing most of the original. After Thomas Bower’s death, the chateau was confiscated by the king (Francis 1st) because of money owed to the state. Diane de Poitiers was later given the property by Henry the 2nd during an liaison with him, she loved the chateau so much that she consigned the architect Philibert de L Orme to construct a bridge so that the chateau could have easier access to the other side of the river. She also had magnificent large scale gardens created alongside the river in formal designs with pathways that meet at right angles of 90 degrees & two straight lines joining opposite corners that form triangles containing lawn and aromatic Santolina plants with yellow or white flowers, roses also grow over the elevated terrace that shields the gardens from the overflow of water from the river, other flower borders include Enonymus europaeus spindle hedge plant with bright pink flowers, Viburnum tinus, (Laurustinus)an evergreen hedge plant with leaves very much like a bay tree with white flowers, followed by hibiscus which blooms during the summer months, a fountain is also located in the centre of the garden.
But it wasn’t until after the kings death that his wife Catherine de Medici violently requested that the chateau be returned to her, in exchange for the chateau Chaumont in Chaumot sur Loire. After Catherine gained ownership she resided at the estate regarding it as her most cherished home. She added many costly additional features to the chateau including a grand gallery along the bridge. The overall design of gardens contains a large circular water pool surrounded by five rectangular lawn panels with a line of flower beds and rounded boxwood. Flowering Roses are grown as standards with lavender underneath. & in another part of the garden roses climb over the trellis near to a pathway by the moat. A maze was also created in Italian style using up to 2,000 yew trees, with classical urns planted with ivy and boxwood and a gazebo in the centre made using wicker.
Others who owned the Chateau de Chemonceau at some point in history include Louise de Lorraine (wife of Henry 3rd), Cesar de Bourbon ( son of Henry 4th and François de Lorraine his mistress), Louise Dupin the daughter of Samuel Bernard (financier) and also Marguerite Pelouze during the 1800’s who renovated some parts of the Chateau adding statues of ancient Greek heroes, gods and goddesses.

Image byDorian Mongel-unsplash.com

It is believed that the countess of Villeneuve had the chateau in her possession in 1825, assigning lord Seymour to create the green garden which is situated to the north of Catherine’s garden, it contains many old trees that surround  the grounds  providing shade and elegance with oak trees, redwood, walnut, chestnut, fir trees, cedar and catalpa trees. By the mid 1900’s Gaston Menier and relatives assigned the architect Bernard Voision to renovate parts of the chateau that was badly damaged during the 2nd world war.
In the flower garden a wide range of flowering and fragrant plants are grown to provide cut flowers for the chateau’s floral workshop for displaying a beautiful array of flowers for the living room, office, kitchen or gallery, the layout is arranged in squares and adjoined with apple trees. There is said to be approximately 400 different types of  roses, 100 flowering plants and various vegetables. There is also events & entertainment such as for private rental, groups and school parties and a restaurant known as the Orangeries that is situated within the green garden.
Reference:https://www.chenonceau.com/en/gardens/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Château_de_Chenonceau

PELARGONIUM OF THE MONTH-PELARGONIUM CORONIFOLIUM

Pelargonium coronifolium has delicate pink, purple or white flowers consisting of two larger upper petals that bend upwards with darker botches and  three smaller petals below. The  leaves are long, narrow and oval in shape with irregular teeth along the leaf margins, grey green in colour. This plant is an upright small shrub species that is native to the Western Cape, South Africa where it grows in dry areas on sloping sandstone or on the lower mountains of the South Western Cape, it is of the Campylia section and was first mentioned by the Dutch scientist Nikolaus Joseph Van Jacquin in his third book Icones Plantarum Rariorm 1794. P coronifolium can also produce identical plants because of its underground branching, some types have narrower leaves which some believe to be a subspecies. The word coronifolium refers to the plant Cornopus (swine-cress) which is similar in appearance to this pelargonium.

A Shakespearean inspired garden

William Shakespeare was a playwright, actor and poet during the renaissance period of 1585-1613, who wrote up to 39 plays of comedies, tragedies and romances including Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.  He was born in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, in the west midlands, England where he a grew up and later was said to have attended the Kings new grammar school of King Edward 6th where he studied Latin and classical authors. By  the age of 18 William married Anne Hathaway 26 and they had three children together, later Shakespeare purchased a house known as New place, originally built in 1433 by Sir Hugh Clopton and constructed using both brick & timber with impressive gable roofs, ten fire places, two gardens, orchards and  barns.
The gardens at New place was believed to be beautifully presented with intriguing and precise formal features filled with trees, herbs and flowers, It is not certain if Shakespeare grew plants in his garden or if he had any influence in the design, but he certainly had a great understanding of plants as well as their significance & symbolism possibly from studying folklore and classical studies.  The popularity of Shakespearian style gardens have increased greatly over the years and is now recreated all over the world, brimming with flowers and plants which have been interpreted and defined in the works of William Shakespeare such as roses, tulips, poppies, crocuses, daisies,daffodils, fritillaries and violets, lilies,anemones, hellebores and many more, the layout is usually geometric and based on Elizabethan architecture and garden designs of the period such as boxwood dividers, pathways and seating.
Shakespeare often used plants to represent special meanings in his plays, using up to 175 herbs and flowers depicted throughout his works such as in the comedy ‘A midsummer nights dream’  as follows :
“ I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips & nodding violet grows, quite over canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk roses and eglantine, there sleeps Titania sometime in the night, lull’d in these flowers with dances & delight.”
also Nick bottom a humorous character with a head of an ass is approached by the fairy queen Titania and four fairy attendants, their names symbolize the healing power of plants that are used in herbal remedies and its connection to the mysterious magical illusion of the moonlight which caused many superstitions during the 1500-1600’s.

Mustard flowers Image by Vincent Keiman-unsplash.com

The names of the fairy servants and their connection to traditional medicine include pease-blossom (pea) a low growing or trailing plant and pod shaped vegetable used to make pease porridge or pea soup during medieval period, the seeds are dried or made into a powder and was applied to the skin to help with skin conditions like acne, it is also cooked as a vegetable or added to salads, bread (powder form) and as a coffee substitute.  Mustard seed – mustard plants are commonly used as a spice and to make mustard when mixed with vinegar or other ingredients, it is also used to ease arthritis & muscle pain and to help against the common cold. The two other names include moth also at the time used as a remedy in the home and the other cobweb.
Also in the play Shakespeare uses the phase “Love in idleness” which is the folk name for the wild pansy and its ingredients is believed to make up a love potion mainly for the purpose of Titania to fall deeply in love with the first person she sees, Nick bottom.

wild pansy Image by Coralie Rentz-unsplash.com

Wild pansy (botantical name Viola tricolor) is a low growing creeping plant that grows  amongst the wild grasses and countryside of Europe, the flower petals vary in colour from purple, blue, white or yellow usually in two or three toned colours. This plant is also used medicinally to treat epilepsy, problems with the lungs such as bronchitis and the common cold & skin conditions. Wild pansy symbolizes ‘love in Idleness’ because according to Roman mythology Cupid intentionally shoots an arrow towards a virginal priestess of Vesta but missed, instead hitting a pale flower to which the love spell changed the petals to three colours.
In the romantic play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare uses the interpretation of plants to symbolise certain aspects of the story, the rose for instance represents Juliet’s love for Romeo such as “ what’s in a name ? , that which we call a rose by any another name would smell as sweet”   her love is restrained when she discovers that Romeo is a Montague and has a long standing feud with her family.

roses mage by Peggy Zinn -unsplash.com

Roses are not only known for their beauty but also grown for their fragrance in perfumes, skin care and as cut flowers. Rose petals and rose hips have medicinal properties and are often used to treat wounds, bruises and rashes when applied to the skin, the tea also helps to soothe a sore throat and ulcers. Their wide range of  varieties also make them attractive in the garden, such as the old classical roses, shrub roses, climbing and modern roses, to which there is believed to be up to 300 species and possibly many thousands of  cultivated varieties.
In King Lear William Shakespeare refers to a plant by the name of a cuckoo flower, an alternative name for a Ladies smock flower which was used in describing the scene when the daughter of King Lear announces his return from France. “ Crowed with rank fumitor and furrow weeds with burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flowers, darnel and all the idle weeds that grow in our sustaining corn.”  (fumitor-fumeria officinalis)

cuckoo bird Image by David Clobe-unsplash.com


Ladies smock, Cardamine pratensis grows wild all over Europe and in parts of Asia usually in meadows and close to streams, the flowers are light purple, similar to the colour of lavender on long spikes. Ladies smock is also used to decorate garlands on the 1st of May when celebrating the coming of Spring. The leaves are used medicinally as a remedy for indigestion, to increase hunger and is also good for those with asthma or skin conditions. It was given the name Cuckoo flower because it is believed that this flowers blooms at almost the same time as when the Cuckoo bird appears in Spring.
Rosemary is also used to symbolize love and remembrance in the play Hamlet, Ophelia the daughter of Polonius a chief counsellor is driven to madness after her Fathers death.
Ophelia describes the meaning of plants through her grieving – “there is rosemary that’s for remembrance, pray you, love, remember and there is pansies that’s for thoughts, (Laertes  her brother- “a document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted”.) there’s fennel for you & columbine, there’s rue for you and there’s some for me, we may call it a “herb of Grace” O’ Sundays, Oh you must wear your rue with a difference.”

Rue, Ruta graveolens symbolizes regret and can be grown as a herb or as a garden plant or hedge, The leaves are bluish green with a strong musk like scent which can be used as a flavouring in cooking and placed within small flower bouquets, it is also believed that cats dislike the smell. Rue has been gathered & grown since ancient times for its medicinal properties such as to reduce flatulence, improve eyesight, menstrual issues and when added to the skin to aid arthritis, sprains, bone injures and swollen areas.
Other plants, flowers and trees mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays include: Flowers- cornflower, camomile, carnation, crow flower, fritillaria imperialis, honeysuckle, violet, iris, marigold, peony, narcissus, daisy, daffodil, cowslip, primrose, buttercup, daisy, lavender, lily, orchid, musk rose. Herbs and plants- aloe, balm, blackberries, burdock, bilberry, caraway, fennel, bay, flax,mint, marjoram,clove,gooseberry, nettle, parsley,hemp, ginger, dog berry, hyssop, leek, grape, camomile, ivy, mustard, radish, rhubarb. Trees- almond, apple,apricot, ash, birch,box, cork, date, cedar, hawthorn, holy, lime,mulberry, myrtle, olive, pine, plum, pomegranate, quince, walnut, willow, wormwood, yew.

The Christmas season

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Christmas is the time for celebration, merriment, snow covered mountains and also spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts while marking the birth of Jesus by hanging wealth’s, carol singing and decorating the tree for many countries around the globe.
The first Christmas trees took form in Germany in the 8th century by St Boniface to convert pagans to change their beliefs to Christianity by dedicating the fir tree to the birth of baby Jesus, an alternative to the great oak tree sacred to Odin in Norse mythology.  The Christmas tree in medieval Germany at Christians was to honour and remember Adam and Eve, the first humans created on Earth and the ancestors of our civilization, plays were also performed on the run up to Christmas with a fir tree which would be covered with apples and other decorations to portray the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Later in the mid sixteenth century Christmas trees were decorated with small boxes, fruits and sweets that hung from the fir branches, Tannenbaum ballads would be played around the trees, with songs such as ‘oh Christmas tree’.
St Nicholas, the patron of children is believed to have been a bishop of Myra (now modern day Turkey) who lived during the 4th century and he was known for his compassion & kindness helping those in poverty. The saint is based on the legend Sinterklass which is Dutch for St. Nicholas with a feast day on the 6th December.

It is believed that Dutch Colonists brought the Sinterklaas tradition with them to New York in the 1600’s then known as New Amsterdam the capital town of a Dutch colony on the southern edge of manhattan Island, the word Sinterklaas was later  changed to St. Claus and then formed into an English equivalent Santa Claus which over time had became increasingly popular around the United States.
In modern times these ancient customs are now taking place around the world, interpreted differently in many cultures.

In Australia the home is usually decorated with  native Christmas bushes or small trees, the New South Wales Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) is hung around the home and has lovely cream coloured blooms that turns reddish pink in late December with small green leaves. Another is the woolly bush (Adenanthos sericeus) which has brush like, deeply divided leaves, silvery on the ends that  resembles snow and small  red flowers, it is often used as a decorative tree during the festive season.
In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.

In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.

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On the fifth of December the day before St Nicholas’s day in Croatia, children would leave their well polished boots by the window and while they were a sleep St Nicholas would put a present inside their boot, but if they misbehaved a Krampus (a giant horned beast) would instead only put twigs of gold inside.

China is one of the leading producers of plastic Christmas trees & decorations which has become increasing popular in recent times especially in shopping centres around China as well as paper lights and ornaments. It is also a tradition to give out apples on the day before Christmas to represent harmony and peace interpreted from silent night Christmas carol.
Santa  is said to reside at Lapland known as Korvatunturi, in the Northern regions of Finland, which includes an entertainment park, children’s letters from countries around the globe are sent  there to prepare their wishes for gifts on Christmas day. In Lapland Santa is also characterized as an xmas goat called Joulupukki who would lay presents under the Christmas tree or for mischievous households a sack of coal.

It is the custom in France at Christmas to place a crib in the home which symbolizes the birth of Christ, then it is filled with characters in clay that represents various occupations in an urban or town setting such as a priest, baker, policeman etc. A Cherry wood log would also be brought inside on the night before Christmas and spattered with red wine then it is added to the fire or stove giving a lovely aroma though out the home.
In Georgia  the outer covering of a Christmas tree would be traditionally cut downwards to create long curling pieces forming an imaginative tree, possibly to represent the beard of St Basil, which is usually made of walnut or hazelnut known as the Chichilaki.
At Christmas eve in Hungry the tree would be decorated in the evening by family members in secret, then when they have finished, the children would then be overjoyed to see the beautiful embellished tree that brightens up the room. Christmas presents are said to be brought by Christ who leaves them underneath the tree, children would then remain patiently in the next room and when on hearing a bell would immediately rush over to the presents and open them.

In Greece the first Christmas tree arrived in 1833 by king Otto and now every year a magnificent tree decorated with illuminated lights is erected at Aristotelous square, Thessaloniki usually along side a ship that is also lit up by vibrant lights a custom that represents seafarers who had come back home from a long voyage. Traditionally Children would call on each house in the town or village and sing carols along with triangles or drums on Christmas eve.

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Popular plants grown for their elegant display during the Christmas celebrations include: Christmas rose which has large white elegant rose like flowers with a tint of pink that can add colour to dull surroundings in winter, it is a member of the buttercup family known as Ranunculaceae,  there is also a number of cultivars with larger flowers and double blooms as well as pink varieties and cut flowers can also be purchased for the home. It is believed that this plant was given the common name Christmas rose because of a fable, when a little female child did not have a present to give to Jesus in the stable after his birth and so she wept, her tears fell on to the snow covered ground and up sprung a Christmas rose. Poinsettia is a well known favourite especially at Christmas because of its striking bright red flower/leaf bracts, although there are many other colours which can range from orange, pink, cream and also marbled. This plant occurs naturally in Mexico known as the Christmas eve flower where it was first grown by the Aztecs & also in Central America, in the 1820’s the diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett grew them in his greenhouse and has now became extremely popular all over the United States.

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The Christmas cactus Sehlumbergara is an attractive cacti with small fleshy leaves that join together to form long stems, the flower areoles, contains long cylinder shaped purple pink petals that hang downwards and grows at the joints and stem tips. It is native to South Eastern Brazil where it grows on mountains usually by the coast. Others include Snowdrops, holly, ivy and mistletoe.
Unfortunately the main computer broke down during lock down so I don’t have so much time as I would like to write the newsletter this month & partly last month, but I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas at this difficult time and that you will soon be reunited with Family and friends.

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