Meaning: Warmth (modern: don’t be such a prick)
This painting was inspired by an image by awe inspiring illustrator Katie Scott, in Botanicum, Welcome to the Museum series, Big Picture Press, 2016
Day 20 100 days project #100daysnz
Meaning: Ardour – passion or great enthusiasm
Not one of your subtler meanings really – the the big pointy yellow spathe is an upwards trending indicator of the ‘enthusiasm’ of the gift giver. Cheers for that!
In a curious clash of cultural implications, the Arum frequently features as a funeral flower. Call me old fashioned but I think ardour should be contained at funerals. The arum is often considered unlucky or by many older people, many of whom will not bring it inside or even plant it in their gardens. Hospital staff in the UK have been known to superstitiously refuse them.
Perhaps one reason for its unpopularity is that it is toxic to people and animals. The Arum tops the list of plant related poison calls to Otago University’s National Poisons Centre. Largely due to its enticing spike of bright orange berries, or perhaps its superficial similarity to Taro? Eating the smallest fragment will cause a burning sensation through the alimentary tract. That would be enough to dampen anyone’s ardour.
The Arum is also known as the Easter lily, associated with republicans killed or executed in the 1916 Easter Rising, featured on mural commemorating the 1981 Hunger Strikers in the Maze Prison, County Down, on wall in Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin.
Like many plants, such as Agapanthus, which are treasured beauties in Europe and the UK, the Arum is something of an invasive scourge here in our temperate climate. It features on our noxious weed list and is a nightmare to get rid off as any small piece of root or rhizome left behind will reanimate like the walking dead. Some tips for eradication here though.
Day 17 #100daysnz
Name Pansy – Viola Tricolor
The flower I have painted is probably really a viola, depending on your definition. Pansy, violet and viola are of the same family and these names are used interchangeably. Commonly we refer to “pansy” as the engaging large velvet faced, multi-coloured flowers, while the term “viola” is usually reserved for the smaller, charming and energetic self seeders which I have also heard called Johnny Jump Ups or Heartsease.
The name “pansy” is derived from the French word pensée, “thought”, and was imported into Late Middle English as a name for the Viola in the mid-15th century, as the flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. Humanists, and secularists have adopted the pansy as their emblem.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare uses the”juice of the heartsease” as an ingredient of the love potion which causes Titania to madly dote upon Bottom.
In Hamlet, Ophelia’s descent into madness is told through the names and meanings of flowers “Look at my flowers. There’s rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And there are pansies, they’re for thoughts.”
Day 14 #100daysnz
Note: This image was inspired by a painting in Michael Lakin’s A-Z of botanical flowers in watercolour
Meaning – Faithfulness
Oberon mentions violets at his most poetic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There he refers to the shy, downward facing nature of the flower rather than its sweet scent:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night”
In direct contrast, the Greeks saw the strong scent of the violet as sexy and so the violet, symbol of Athens, also became emblematic of Aphrodite and her son Priapus, the deity of fertility, livestock, fruit plants, and male genitalia. Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent ‘Priapic’ erection. Not so shy now, violet.
Violets are delicious and easy to crystallise for historically accurate cake decorations. All you need is some violet flowers, egg white, table sugar and a small paintbrush. Here’s how to do it. If you are unsure of your flower identification then it’s a bad idea to eat them as many flowers which look quite innocent are toxic. Garden flowers may be subject to sprays and animal pee. You can buy edible flower selections now which removes the need for guesswork.
Name – Iris Japonica also known as ‘fringed iris’, ‘shaga’ or ‘butterfly flower’.
Meaning – The meaning of iris is generally is ‘message’, although I can’t find a specific meaning for this iris in particular.
The name Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow. Japonica refers to its origin in Japan and China.
Fascinatingly, in Japan, this iris was encouraged or planted on the tops of hills, within castles, as the slippery fans of the iris leaves helped slow marauding invaders and defend the castle.
This Iris is super easy to grow and very rewarding. Rather than the one-shot of the larger showier flag irises and German Irises, it flowers continuously over a long period and makes a good filler with its fringed flowers in delicate blue and mauve shades.
Meaning – Long Life
Sage was very big player in the middle ages. Officinalis, refers to the plant’s importance in medicinal use—the officina was the traditional herb and medicine storeroom of a monastery.
Sge was sometimes also called S. salvatrix (sage the saviour). It has some of the best ancient testimonials, many referring to its miraculous healing properties. An Anglo-Saxon manuscript read “Why should man die when he has sage?”
John Gerard‘s Herball (1597) states that sage “is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickeneth the senses and memory, strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members.” After all, who wants a trembly member?
OK they’re tall (3 metres+) but I’m not buying the haughty thing. How about cheerfulness, vitality and practicality? They’ve been sustaining the human race with seed oil and general house brightening gorgeousness for over 5000 years. That’s hardy the behaviour of a prideful plant.
The one thing everybody seems to know about sunflowers is that their big heads follow the sun, leading to common names such as Girasol in Spanish and Tournesol in French. Except, plot twist, they don’t. The mature flower heads face in just one direction. Soz!
Who knew? Four frankly astonishing sunflower trivia gobstoppers: