The Botanical Room part 16- Where your heart belongs
Updated: Oct 15, 2022
Where your heart belongs
Not everyone knows where their heart belongs
Mine rests in May and June
Where the grass turns pink in the evening sun
Waving softly in fluttering tune.
Butterflies dance in and out at play
Capturing the essence of all I could say
And the still of the trees in the evening song
are simply lifting my breath away
I will lead you to where my heart lives,
Come, let me take your hand
To the time, the moment and the light,
To where I belong in this land.
I am often asked by friends and colleagues if I have any ambitions or plans, or boxes to tick or places to go, and I always wonder why I don't. I am not unambitious, or lacking drive, I just don't have a "must travel" bug or a must do or see this before I die list. I think it comes down to the fact that I love being where I live and I love doing what I do and that life is so busy and I have enough stuff already to get on with.
I do however admire those with a lust to see, and I may well have had such a lust were it not for the movies and media, who show me it all without the hassle. I may well have mentioned before that I do not like flying, and have a very high alarm response, making me a nervous traveller but I thought I would have grown out of it. I have travelled to more places than I ever thought I would, but have travelled much like one would imagine a hamster would travel in a pocket, trembling and fearful of each leg of the journey, looking like I needed a stiff, sniff of whisky and a little dark room full of cotton wool in which to recover. I hide it well, mostly, and as I said, I always hoped one day that I would emerge from my cocoon and fly the world.
I suppose if I was pushed for a destination of desire, it would be New Zealand, as it has such amazing wildlife and plants, I just wish that it was nearer.
So this weeks blog is about belonging. I think I really do belong here in England I have the pale wishy-washy complexion and family history dating back many generations and I love tea but more importantly, much more importantly, I just love the land, the plants, the seasons and the villages. Literally anyone could feel the same about the English countryside, it's beauty inspires in me and in many others, to a feeling of love. Just by looking at the countryside I really do feel like I am 'in love' with it.
I guess that is why I am less likely to embrace the need to go elsewhere.
However, I know so little about this land that I love and feel I need to catch up on my nature knowledge. Most things I take for granted as always being there, we all do, the trees, the fields, the insects, the seasons, they have all just been there doing their thing in the background, while we are busy going about our lives. Yet they are so integral to our existence and important to our future, so they are not just the stage on which we play out our lives, they are our life and a life that needs defending.
I use an amazing app on my phone to discover the names of the plants I stumble across, then run home and look up the plants and their history in the landscape. I can't say I always recall the names but I do remember the stories about them. I'm a story kind of girl.
I recently discovered Hedge Bedstraw -
Galium album which lays abundant in the hedgerows around where I live. It is a herbaceous annual plant of the family Rubiaceae. The name itself is evocative, so my interest was peaked. Lifted straight from the internet, I discovered that 'the leaves, stems, and flowers are used to make medicine. Lady's bedstraw is used for treating cancer, epilepsy, hysteria, spasms, tumors, loss of appetite, and chest and lung ailments. It is also used as a diuretic for relieving water retention.' But the name refers to the fact that it was long ago used for stuffing mattresses, apparently because of the clinging characteristic of the plant which minimizes matting and compaction, making it perfect as a mattress filling.
I am not sure it would be that perfect in modern homes but should you ever need a mattress in the wild, well, there you go.
Common agrimony (not commonly spoken of, so I was keen to find out more) -Agrimonia eupatoria, is dark green with numerous soft hairs. The soft hairs aid in the plant's seed pods sticking to any animal or person coming in contact with the plant. The flower spikes have a spicy odor similar to apricots.
It has beautiful tall spikes of yellow flowers, the Victorians, and possibly further back in history, folks blessed the plant as symbolizing thankfulness or gratitude. I liked another description of agrimony, it was known as Stickwort, Sticklewort (due to its sticky nature) or church steeples, most likely due to its tall spire-like flowers. Agrimony has been used medicinally since ancient times to heal eyes, but its many other uses include stopping bleeding and the healing of wounds. In folklore witches often used agrimony in their strange spells perhaps to ward off hexes and curses bringing protection against goblins and evil spirits. Agrimony has long been thought of as magical, an early common name was ‘fairy’s wand’. It was mentioned in an 18th-century Scottish witch trial, agrimony was witch’s cure for people who were ‘elf-shot,’ or suffering unexplained illness. Speaking of which, ha ha, my dear friend Katya and I were photographing flowers and commented on how just as we are about to shoot the picture, the wind would whip up and the photo ruined, and I told Katya that this is a sign of the witches' displeasure of modern technology, I was making that up of course but it made her giggle. Here is a sweet one, Grass-like starwort, -Stellaria graminea is a species of flowering plant in the family Caryophyllaceae known by the common names common starwort, grass-leaved stitchwort, and lesser stitchwort.
I love the name starwort, the flowers are so tiny and do look like iddy-biddy stars, 'Plantlife.com' describe it as loose clusters of white flowers. The flowers have five petals which are divided length-ways more than halfway with sepals behind that are the same length, (they look to me like five sets of white rabbit ears). The leaves, which grow in pairs, are bright green, narrow and stalk-less. It has many names, one of which is stitchwort, nothing to do with needlework but from the fact that it was used as a cure for running stitch. There is a stitchwort fairy in Cicely Mary Barker illustrated Flower fairies.
Here is Mary's poem :)
I am brittle-stemmed and slender, But the grass is my defender.
On the banks where grass is long, I can stand erect and strong.
All my mass of starry faces Looking up from wayside places,
From the thick and tangled grass, Gives you greeting as you pass.
Yellow goat's beard - Trapogon pratensis, also known as Meadow goat's beard or showy Goats beard. Mistaken for dandelion, this plant has the most amazing seed structure, parts of this plant have been used in salads and can be used to make bubblegum!
The wonderful structure is a simple joy to behold.
Nothing to do with the plant, but I remember reciting the tale of The Three Billy Goats Gruff to my family when I was a child, that, and a poem about foxes and boxes, 'The Three Foxes' by A A Milne the last part I recall was-
'That's all that I know of the three little foxes
Who kept their handkerchiefs in cardboard boxes.
They lived in the forest in three little houses,
But they didn't wear coats and they didn't wear trousies,
And they didn't wear stockings and they didn't wear sockses.'
Do look it up it's a super poem, it is a strong contender for why I love rhyme and such!
Foxgloves are a funny one, the name is so commonly used and known but the origin of the name is too cute. This comes from the internet - In Roman times, foxglove was a flower sacred to the goddess Flora, who touched Hera on her chest and belly with foxglove in order to impregnate her with the god Mars. The plant has been particularly associated with midwifery and women's magic ever since.
In my mind the flowers could easily be worn as little gloves on the paws of foxes.
Aha, I see from the website Norfolktalesmyths.com the foxglove has many other names and meanings and I am not too far from the stories of the past -'Fairy Caps, Fairy Gloves, Fairy Thimbles, Fairy Herb, Fairy Bells, Fairy-fingers, Goblin Gloves, Fairy Petticoats, Fairy Weed, Flopdock, Floppydock, Flop-a-Dock, Flapdock, Popdock, Flop-poppy, Flop-top, Cowflop, Gooseflops, Rabbit’s Flowers or Bunny Rabbits and ‘Dead Man’s Bells’ to serve as a warning of the plant’s poisonous disposition. Probably, the prefix ‘fox‘ derived from the “folks”, who to our 14th century ancestors were the fairies, a mischievous woodland folk.'
How wonderful to have all those names. The same site tells us that 'the plant is known as “fox fingers,” its blossoms used as gloves by the foxes to keep dew off their paws. There again, the word “glove” may have come from the Anglo-Saxon word foxes-gleow, or ‘gliew’, being a ring of bells or the name for a musical instrument consisting of many small bells. This is connected to Norse legends in which foxes wear the bell-shaped foxglove blossoms around their necks; their sound being a spell of protection against hunters and hounds. Putting the two words together gives us “Fairy Bells”.'
Keeping the foxes feet free from dew, how marvellous.
All of the above plants simply launch my imagination and I think that is what I love about the long wiggly history of the place where I live. I think if I were new to this place it would be where I would start to find my way to belong, to bury my nose deep into researching the history of the plants that surround me. It would be a way of knowing how to imbed my roots to a place and feel a connection and understanding. Even in cities the native wild "weeds" will emerge in cracks in the walls and pathways, little signposts to the earth's secret recipes held in the soil.
I still manage to nurture some weeds in my garden until full bloom and then realise they have 'snuck' into the border seeking recognition and appreciation. In the upcoming months I am starting to film tutorials on wild flowers. It will be a wonderful way to find out about them and give them more notice and appreciation.
Here is some Ragwort I have brought along nicely with my roses, Tuh!
I will sign off here with a question- have you ever wet the bed after picking Dandelions?
My mum and Nan always warned of this and I have never knowingly put it to the test.
While walking my whippety Whippet I thought of this rhyme. I sing it to him while we walk. He likes my singing but after you read this you will see he likes odd things.
Walking the dog
to do what they do,
I smell the flowers,
while you smell for poo
you don't mind me
and I don't mind you
we are too busy
doing what we do.