The graceful long-stemmed species pelargoniums can look just as stunning as any hybrid or cultivar with their long elegant flowers stalks which holds the beautiful delicate flowers and the dainty long leaf stalks that display their aromatic or decorative leaves.
P. capillare is a lovely pelargonium species with very thin petioles which are about 2-6 cm in length. The name Capillare means like thread, most likely because of its very thin leaf stems. The flowers are reddish-pink with raised patches of dark red on the upper petals also with markings of red on both the lower & upper petals, the underside is also darker in colour. This plant shows some similarities to P. tricolor but its leaves are more deeply divided and the flowers differ slightly. It is native to the South Western Cape of South Africa where it grows on mountainsides.
Pelargonium tenuicaule has long spreading rambling stems with five shallow toothed circular leaves. The flowers are cream when they first open but change to white with a dark purple smudge on every petal, The two upper petals are rounded and cupped. This plant can over time look rather bedraggled in appearance, it is native to Namibia and Namaqualand where it grows in rocky places.
Pelargonium spinosum has an unusual spine like petioles, believed to be hard debris from the continuous petioles which give it the appearance of thorns. The leaves are heart-shaped with coarse teeth and are somewhat pungent scented, they also vary in size depending on where they grow on the plant. The smaller leaves are visible on the shorter stems, while the larger are visible on the continuous petioles. The flowers are long ovate large light pink to white in colour with purple veins. It is native to the North-Western Cape and Namibia.
Pelargonium echinatum is another exquisite species, with woody spiny stems and long petioles. The leaves are grey-green ovate with 3-5 shallow lobes. The flowers are usually white but in their native habitat, pink and purple types also exist, followed by a deep red smudge on the upper petals. It is native to Northern Western areas of the Cape in dry conditions and sheltered by rocks or other shrubs, there are a few hybrid forms of this plant such as P. ‘miss Stapleton’.
Pelargonium plurisectum is a low growing shrub with thin branching stems which create a zigzag effect. The leaves are rounded and are divided into five toothed leaflets. The flowers are large orangy red or scarlet in colour with darker markings, to which the lower petals are slightly smaller than the upper petals. It has been discovered growing in Ethiopia and remains dormant for many months, it can also withstand cold conditions more than any other pelargonium.
Others include P. longicaule-has long elegant flower stems with pale pink flowers and dark green deeply divided leaves known as the butterfly bush. P. australe- long branching stems with ovate leaves and up to 12 white flowers native to Australia P. grossulariodes- long reddish stems with fruit scented kidney shaped leaves and small reddish purple flowers. P. Capitatum- long spreading branches with rose scented leaves.
P. betulinum is an attractive sprawling plant with woody branches that can spread over quite a large area. The leaves are small ovate & camphor scented and resemble that of a birch leaf which is why it also goes by the name ‘Birch leaved pelargonium’. The large flowers are strikingly appealing, pink or purple colour with darker markings on the upper petals, which flowers in Spring and Summer. This plant is native to the Western coast of South Africa in sandy areas from Yzerfontein to Knysna.
P. glutinosum is an upright branching pelargonium with greenish soft stems which becomes more woodier as it matures, the stems then turn more brownish in colour. The triangular sticky leaves have a balm/balsam scent, mid-green to dark green colour and are palmately lobed. The beautiful flowers are of a delicate shade of pastel pink with darker markings on the upper petals. This plant is native to the Western Cape in various habitats, where three different forms exist. Usually growing near moving water with moist conditions and on mountainsides.
Pelargonium vitifolium is another pelargonium that becomes woodier as it matures, when young it has soft green stems covered in hairs that turns brown over time. It is an upright branching shrub with heart-shaped coarsely toothed leaves that resembles a vine leaf in shape and has a lemony pungent scent. The flowers are a delicate shade of pink with darker markings on the upper petals, which can also vary in colour from white to pale purple. It is native to South Africa in the Western Cape, in areas of the South & South West where it grows in valleys close to streams.
Pelargonium greytonense also has woody stems when mature, it also has very tiny greenish hairs as well as some occurring longer hairs which later turn brown. The aromatic sweet-scented 3 lobed shallow leaves are palm-like in shape, the flowers can vary from light pink to white with darker markings on the upper petals. This plant is native to a small area of the Western Cape, mainly in the South West where it grows on mountain slopes and in narrow gorges. It was first discovered in the small town of Greyton in the Western Cape.
P. graveolens is a charming pelargonium with strong rosy-mint scented triangular deeply incised leaves which have a soft velvety texture. This plant is an upright branching shrub with soft green stems which become woody as it matures. The flowers range from delicate shades of pale pink to pale purple and with darker markings on the upper petals. This Pelargonium has been well known since the 17th century when its leaves were used in food & beverages, tea, potpourri and perfume. It is native to South Africa in areas of the Limpopo Province and also in parts of the Western Cape to the South East where it grows on mountainsides.
P. inquinans can vary in flower colour from very bright red scarlet, salmon, light pink or white flowers, to which the upper petals are a little smaller in size to the lower three. It is a woody shrub to which the branches become harder & woody as it matures. The leaves are circular or rounded with scalloped edges and have a velvety texture with red glandular hairs. It is native to areas of the Eastern Cape and grows at the edge of succulent scrub land in shale soil.
P. Longicaule is a low growing slightly woody shrub-let with long stems and dark green deeply divided leaves with a reddish tint, which grows woodier as it matures. It has beautiful white to pale pink flowers on long peduncles that resemble a butterfly in shape and is also known as the butterfly bush. It is native to South Africa in the South West Cape where it grows in sand dunes, sandstone and coastal areas.
Other woody species include Woody at base P. Incarnatum P. ovale P. tricolor P. grandiflorum P. laevigatum P. patulium- trailing P. divisifolium P. trifidum P. patulum
Woody branches P. magenteum P. xerophyon P. hirtum P. plurisectum- twiggy like with thin woody stems. P. multicaule P. suburbanum
Woody with age P. dichondrifolium P. abrotanifolium P. karrooicum Woody, Peeling bark and scales P. crithifolium P. laxum P. schizopetalum P. stipulaceum- thickened root stock P. cotyledonis Other -P. ionidiflorum- small woody shrub
Pelargonium bowkeri has a somewhat strange yet impressive flowers, white to yellowy pink or purplish veins with feather like lower petals which forms an inflorescence of up to twelve flowers which blooms in Summer during the rainy period and is scented at night. It also has a tuberous root which stores water that grows to about 3 cm across. The leaves are feathery which is why it is also known as the carrot leaved pelargonium and is native to the Eastern cape, Kwazula-Natal where it grows in grassland or in rocky areas.
Pelargonium auritum has unusual & attractive flowers, which differ in colour depending on the variation. P. auritum var. auritum has dark purple black petals with red anthers and orange pollen and P. auritum var. carneum has white to light pink petals, which form an inflorescence of up to 6 flowers. It has a caudex tuber which grows to about 3 and a half cm across and is dormant in Summer, flowering from September until January The leaves are ellipse or lance-like in shape and is native to the Western and Eastern Cape.
P. antidysentericum has white, purple or pale purple flowers with deep purple streaks on the two upper petals which are larger than the lower and has orange pollen. This plant has a caudex tuber which grows to a thickness of 14 cm and is a turnip-like in shape, becoming woodier with age, the stems range from dark to light brown and the leaves grow on clusters of short branch-lets which are kidney-shaped with rounded lobes, some have a zone. It is native to the Northern Cape where it grows on mountainsides, shrubland, ravines and close to water. It was given the name antidysentericum because it was used as a cure against dysentery.
Pelargonium praemorsum is also known as the five-fingered pelargonium which has rather unique flowers, they are white to cream in colour with the upper petals being considerably larger than the lower petals with reddish or reddish-brown streaks, forming an inflorescence of 1-2 flowers. This plant is a weedy shrub let that is dormant in Summer, it also has a trunk that grows larger as it ages with narrow semi-succulent stems. The leaves are deeply divided, kidney-shaped or rounded and have a spicy sweet-scent.
P. klinghardtense is a somewhat strange but curious pelargonium with chunky succulent knotted stems. This plant doesn’t require much water and grows in rocky deserts in full sun, the flowers are white and contain five yellowy-green sepals on long branching stems. During the summer P. klinghardtense is dormant and loses its leaves which are large and glaucous. It is native to the Northern Cape and southern Namibia, to which it was given the name “Klinghardtense” because of the location where it was first discovered on the Klinghardt mountains.
Pelargonium punctatum also has extraordinary flowers, light yellow to light beige with elongated upper petals and dark reddish dots or markings, the three smaller lower petals also have red dots which flower in winter (October to the beginning of November). It has a caudex tuber which can grow to about 8cm and simple ovate leaves. This plant is native to Southern parts of Namaqualand and the Western Karoo where it grows in shrubland, hilltops and mountain ranges. The name “punctatum” refers to the red dots on the flower petals.
Pelargonium blandfordianum is a lovely pelargonium with deeply incised grayish leaves which are fragrant with a scent of rose and white flowers with reddish blotches on the under petals. It is believed to be a hybrid between P. radula and P. quinquevulnereum. There are a few variations of this plant, ‘album’ refers to the white flowered form and ‘roseum’ to the rose pink flowered form which has a distinct rosy wormwood fragrance on the leaves.
This hybrid was developed during the early 1800s, introduced by George Spencer Churchill the Marquis of Blandford to which this plant derives its name. George Spencer was a keen and accomplished botanist while he resided at White knights park estate, a medieval manor which is now part of the university of Reading (white knights campus). Here he became widely known for has large collection of rare and exotic plants from around the globe. Various species were also transported there from the royal gardens by order of the king. George took out a loan to expand and enhance his new estate, creating many new features, such as the ‘Chantilly garden’ which contained several conservatories possibly for tropical plants, a vineyard, bridges, a wide variety of trees, a botanical garden with a wide selection of unique plants, many from America, a wilderness and many seats, fountains, grotto’s and pavilions. Later the gardens fell into decline after George Spencer became bankrupt and his creditors set fire to his house in rage, the rest of the estate was sold off. But remains of the gardens was again found after the world wars.
Pelargonium radula is a parent of the hybrid Pelargonium blandfordianum, it has decorative deeply incised leaves with a lemony rose fragrance and small pale pink flowers with dark purple markings on the upper petals. It has similar characteristics to P. graveolens which is closely related and possibly an equivalent to P. radens or a clone and also has a few forms with varied flower colours. The other parent is Pelargonium quinquevulnereum
which was also believed to have been a hybrid, grown by Mr Armstrong who lived in Hampshire, that shares some similarities to Pelargonium graveolens.
Pelargonium radens is a tall upright shrub with delicate grey green finely divided leaves and light purple flowers with darker markings on the upper petals. The fragrance of the leaves are rose lemon scented and grows well in medium to large pots often growing beside other Plants. Pelargonium graveolens has soft velvety triangular deeply incised leaves which have a somewhat rosy mint scent, a well known pelargonium since the 17th century in food and beverages, tea, potpourri and perfume. Other hybrids related to Pelargonium radens or Pelargonium graveolens is P. ‘citrosum’ which has strong citronella lemon fragrance with pale pink flowers also known as the mosquito plant which is popular in the United States & Canada and is a cultivar of P. graveolens, also said to help deter mosquitoes.
P. ‘lady plymouth’ is a hybrid from the species P. ‘graveolens’ with silver & cream leaves which are variegated with a minty scent and light purple flowers, there is also a similar cultivar known as P ‘grey lady plymouth‘ with has grey green leaves. P. ‘Cinnamon rose’ has spicy cinnamon scented leaves, and an upright growth with short branches and pale purple flowers. P. ‘Secret love’ is a eucalyptus scented leaf pelargonium with light pink flowers showing some characteristics to P. capitaum. P. x melissinum is a cross between P. crispum and P. graveolens which has large lemon balm scented deeply cut leaves and pink flowers.
P. ‘rosemint’ has mint rose scented leaves which are variegated and is used in perfumes, showing some similarities to P. lady plymouth. P. ‘westerlund’ rose lemon scented leaf close resembling that of P. graveolens.
Pelargonium graveolens L’Her Rose geranium A beautiful pelargonium which is believed to be a cross between graveolens x radens and is often used for rose oil in perfume, soap and also toothpaste. It has pale pink flowers with thin purple lines on the upper petals & each flowering stalk has about 1-7 flowers. P. Graveolens L’ Her is an up right shrub with a spreading growth often trailing along the ground and up walls to reach towards the light and prefers slightly sandy soil conditions in semi shade. It is ideal for fragrant gardens, rock gardens,or pots.
Pelargonium ranunculophyllum Horse shoe zoned pelargonium A lovely graceful pelargonium which has attractive rounded palmately lobed leaves with a reddish to deep purple zone (horse shoe mark) in the centre. The flowers are narrow and white to pink sometimes with reddish markings on the upper petals and pale orange to yellow pollen, they are arranged on long upright flowering stalks which contains about 2-3 flowers. P. ranunculophyllum is a low growing plant with long delicate stems and is smaller in size than P. alchemilloides which has similar characteristics and with thinner stems. It is native to the Eastern Cape where it grows in rocky sandstone or on mountainsides over 1000 m, best grown in part shade in pots or planted in the garden and also combined with other plants.
Pelargonium littorale Pelargonium littorale Huegel A graceful pelargonium with delicate pinkish stems and pale pink flowers with dark purple markings on the upper petals & each flowering stalk contains 2-7 flowers. P. littorale is an upright low growing shrub which grows to about 10 – 50 cm in height and has heart shaped leaves. It is native to South West Australia where it grows in coastal areas from the South Eastern corner to Geraldton in the North. The name Littorale is derived from the Latin word ‘Littorlis” meaning shore (or grows close to the shore or littoral waters. Best planted in a small to medium sized pot or planted in the garden which is partly shaded by taller plants or rock garden.
New fresh seeds of Pelargonium mollicomum, pineapple scented leaf. An attractive & graceful pelargonium with a slightly exotic appearance, it has creamy white flowers with thin purple lines on the upper petals & each flowering stalk has about 1-5 flowers. The light green rounded leaves are pineapple scented with a dark zone in the centre. P. Mollicomum is a low growing shrub which reaches to about 50 cm/20 inches in height and prefers slightly sandy soil conditions. The name “mollicomum” is derived from the Latin word meaning soft hairs. It is ideal for fragrant gardens, window boxes,hanging baskets or pots.
New fresh seeds Pelargonium scabrum A pretty pelargonium with strong lemon scented rhomboidal shaped leaves and white flowers.
This creamy chocolate and minty dessert with pelargonium tomentosum leaves, hazelnuts ,Greek sheep yogurt and fruit makes a mouth watering delicious sweet dish to enjoy after your main meal in spring and summer.
Ingredients 1 packet of chocolate pudding power (7 servings) I pot of Greek sheep yogurt or plain Greek style yogurt 4-5 leaves of pelargonium tomentosum, finely chopped 25 grams of chopped hazelnuts 3 to 4 small pears cut into small cubes A sprinkle of cinnamon A large drizzle of honey for each dish Other fruits of your choice like peach, nectarine, strawberries, blueberries, prunes, watermelon or kiwifruit.
To prepare First follow the instructions on the chocolate pudding packet, usually 48 grams of pudding power with 4-5 tablespoons of sugar and 660 ml of fresh or evaporated milk. When you have prepared the mixture ready to add to the dessert dishes, add the chopped hazelnuts and pelargonium tomentosum leaves and mix well, then pour equally into each dish and leave to cool. You can also choose to prepare only a few desserts and keep some back for later placing them in the fridge. Spoon the yogurt on top of each pudding individually, then add the chopped pear along with other fruits of your choice. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of each dessert, a few chopped hazelnuts and a large drizzle of honey .
Pelargonium littorale (left) is a low growing upright and delicate shrub which is similar to that of Pelargonium capitatum rose scented leaf and pelargonium grossularioides fruit scented leaf.. The flowers are pale pink with darker markers and each flowering stalk contains 2- 7 flowers with long and ovate sepals, the leaves can range from oval, heart shaped, or orbicular. P. littorale grows from about 10 to 50 cm’s in height and is covered with glandular hairs, green to pinkish stems, classified under the section Peristera, as a subspecies (pelargonium littorale- Huegel subsp. Littorale)
This plant is native to South West Australia mostly in coastal areas from the South Eastern corner to the Geraldton sand plains in the north.. Which is why it was named Littorale from the Latin word ‘littoralis’ meaning shore (or grows close to the shore or littoral waters) It can also occur in Victoria and areas of South Australia. South Western Australia is a eco zone with a Mediterranean like climate which has dry and hot summers and wet winters know as the botanical province which consists of a wide range of plant and animal life as well as woodlands, forests and eco areas of scrub land. This region also has honey possums which forage on flowering shrubs for nectar and pollen. Western bush wallabies and short tailed scrub wallabies.
Pelargonium helmsii (carolin) also known as the Alpine storks bill is native to bio-regions of victoria and New South Wales in mountainous areas including – Northern fall (highlands), Victorian alps and the snowy mountains, it has dark pink flowers with darker markings and oblong sepals with each flowering stalk containing up to 5-12 flowers. It is listed as vulnerable. Pelargonium renifolium Swinbourne is also native to South Australia and has very small light pink flowers and a greater sprawling growth.
Pelargonium rodneyanum (below) also called the Magenta storks bill is native to specific areas of Australia including New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Where is grows on rocky hillsides, sclerophyll forests, woodlands and shrub land. It has striking dark pink flowers with darker pink markings of the upper petals, on a long delicate flower stalk which contains up to seven flowers. The leaves are soft, light to dark green with shallow lobes and oval to narrow ovate in shape, it grows to about 45 cm’s in height with short stems and also produces brown tuberous roots.
This plant was named after Admiral George Rodney 1718-1792, a British Naval officer, who travelled along with Captain James Cook as head scientist exploring New Zealand and Australia collecting plant specimens for the gardens of Kew. Pelargonium rodneyanum is also grown as a garden plant in pots, flower beds or rock gardens because of its colourful flowers. It grows well in slightly acidic soil which has good drainage and is also a popular plant for ground cover.
Pelargonium alchemilloides (below) also known as the lady’s mantle-leaved pelargonium or Wildemaliva is native to a wide area of South Africa apart from the Northern Cape and grows in moist lowland regions usually in clay and loam soil conditions. It has also been naturalised in temperate coastal areas of South-Western, Western Australia where it grows in shrublands, grasslands and woodlands. This plant has a rambling growth and is low growing, it adapts well to hot and dry environments with much rainfall during the winter period and has an underground tuber.
The flowers can range in colour from dark pink, yellow or white with darker markings and each flowering stalk contains about 3 to 6 flowers. The leaves are rounded or oval in shape with a purplish brown horseshoe zone in the centre, lobed with hairs which gives the impression of a silky texture. The name alchemilloides refers to the plant Alchemilla (lady’s mantle) which bears some resemblance to this pelargonium, it is a perennial with green to yellow flowers and fan shaped leaves under the Rosaceae family to which the tea is used for medicinal purposes.
Pelargonium australe (below) is endemic to the whole of Australia apart from the Northern territory as well as eastern Tasmania and New Zealand, where it is also known by the name of the native storks bill.. It has white to light pink flowers and darker markings on the upper petals, arranged on long flower stalks which contains up to 12 flowers.
The leaves are slightly scented, hairy & rounded/ or oval with shallow lobes and the plant as a whole grows to about 30 cm’s in height, in its native habitat it grows in rocky areas, on cliffs by the coast, or in sand dunes. The name australe means Southern possibly meaning the southern hemisphere. The stems of this plant are not so succulent like than that of P.drummondii, while the leaves, also show some similarities to P. capitatum but do not have rose scented leaves.
Pelargonium drummondii (below) shares some similarities to Pelargonium australe, but the stems are more branching with smaller flowers and thinner stems and also P. capitatum which grows all over the South West of Australia was original brought over by early colonists from Britain.
It is an upright shrub which grows to about 10 to 40 cm’s in height with succulent like leaves which are dark green & heart shaped. The flowers are white or pale pink usually with darker markings and each flowing stalk contains about 4 to 7 flowers. It is native to coastal areas of South West Australia and also amongst granitic rocks on sloping ground, hills or small mountains. This plant was given the name drummondii after James Drummond a Scottish gardener and botanist who became an early setter and collector of newly discovered plants in Australia.
Pelargonium inodorum (below) which also goes by the name of the wild pelargonium or storks bill is an annual which is native to over a large area of New South Wales where it grows in forests, woodlands, or grassy and rocky areas and also in Victoria, Tasmania and New Zealand.
The flowers are white or pink with darker markings of dark pink or purple and each flowering stalk contains about 3-14 flowers with oval or heart shaped leaves that are covered in short hairs. The flowers are small and are just a little larger in size than the sepals. The name inodorum means unscented possibly referring to the flowers as it is believed to have slightly aromatic leaves.
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.
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.
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 (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 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)
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.
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.
InAustralia 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.
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.
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.
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.