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    More Than Pumpkins

    “I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers.”  L.M. Montgomery

    “I love Halloween, and I love the feeling the cold air, the spooky dangers lurking around the corner.”  Evan Peters

    I could not decide on which quote, so I included them both for one of my favorite months.  It is good to see the signs of Hallows Eve in my neighborhood. The night when the veil is lowered between realms and wisdom comes forth. During this time of year, the unseen realms are honored. Hallowmas is the Feast of the Holy Ones where saints are remembered in Christianity. The Celtic festival of Samhain marks when summer ends and fall begins. It is the start of the New Year for the Celts and Fall in Japan.

    October is when many cultures remember their ancestors and those who have passed. Buddhists plant red spider lilies on graves to honor their ancestors and as a tribute to the dead. Japanese folklore tells us they bloom when you meet someone you will not meet again. October 31st begins the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico.

    Marigolds are a Halloween flower. Plant them near your front door to make you smile and uplift the energy of your home. They will protect you from negativity and welcome beneficent spirits from the other side. Your light shines to the ethers harmonizing spirits. In India and South America, marigolds help souls to transition from this realm to the next.

    From Christianity practices, we are told soul cakes were a way of honoring wandering souls. Children and the poor, in return for food, would go from house to house collecting soul cakes’ to honor the dead. The custom of the living going a’ soulin became part of Halloween. The spirit world crossing over to the human side led to Mischief Night, where masks and costumes led to pranks from door to door and begging goodies. A soulin and Mischief Night led to trick or treating.

     

    Traditional plants

    Pumpkins: turnips, potatoes, mangold, and beets were the original vegetables carved. Pumpkins came in with the Irish legend of Stingy Jack. The short version is that this character Jack played a couple of games with the devil.  Upon his death, Jack tried to get into hell and then heaven. Because of his shenanigans, he was not welcomed in either realm. Jack was left with his turnip lantern and forced to wander forever. The story traveled to the United States, where pumpkins became the traditional Jack-o-Lanterns.

    Bobbing for apples or suspending them on strings and catching them is another favorite activity at this time of the year. Marriages were predicted by peeling the skin of an apple. One long piece was tossed over the left shoulder and the initial it formed was the future spouse. In the Celtic practices, the hazelnuts and chestnuts were collected and thrown on the fires to speak of true romance. Nutcracker Night foretold true romance.

    Falling Leaves

    On Halloween night, catch a falling leaf before it lands, and you will have good fortune throughout the year.

    Devil

     

     

    Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) was believed to be the favorite plant of the devil in the Middle Ages. In the Reformation, witches and sorcerers were added to the list of associations with the devil. Belladonna is the Italian word for a beautiful or pretty woman and was used to dilate the eyes, once considered a beauty trait. Women with their white skins and dark eyes looked ghost-like, leading to many a tale of nightly visions. Nightshade is a plant with many roles: medicine, cosmetics, and poison.

     

     

     

     

    Ghosts

    The cool, white, and pipe-shaped of ghost plants, (Monotropa uniflora), are found in established wooded areas. Known as ghost pipes with their white stalks and touch of black specks, they grow in the dark. They are sometimes thought of as thieves for their parasitic nature. This plant makes ghosts jealous as they are edible.

    Werewolves

    Wolfsbanes (Aconitum napellus) keeps werewolves at bay. The Queen of All Poisons is highly toxic, slowing the heart. It is an intriguing flower that looks like a Devil’s Helmet. Wolfsbanes contains neurotoxins that are poisonous to humans and animals. Wearing gloves while handling any parts of this plant is recommended.

    Skeletons

    Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) produce skeletons. From its bright orange covering emerges a skeleton form looking like a web that traps its berry in the center.

     

    Witches

    Witch hazel (Hamamelis) produces flowers that appear stringy, reflecting images of the Greek Medusa. The witch in witch hazel comes from Middle English wiche meaning pliant or bendable. Diving rods were made from the branches of witch hazel to detect water and salt. At one time called water witching. Galls can form on the branches in the fall. Children thought they looked like witches’ hats. Both traits influenced the witch part of the name.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Witches Thimbles

    Several plants are called Witches Thimbles. The folklore is that centuries ago, they were planted by a gardener who was later called a witch. These days they are associated with Halloween. Examples include Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), and Devil’s Nettle (Achillea millefolium) .

     

    Dark and Stormy

    If this blog has sparked an interest in Halloween plants, start planning next year’s garden. Pick plants with Halloween or gothic names or that just sound weird and creepy – Bat Face, Voodoo Lily, or the dark elephant ear, Puckered Up. Incorporate evening blooming plants (primroses, nicotiana, moonflowers, or jasmine) or those plants that open and dusk and close as dawn breaks, repeatedly breaking the magic of Halloween night–moonflowers or the phlox, Midnight Candy. For low containers, add the black aeonium rosettes of Dragon’s Blood Sedum (Sedum spurium) and watch their deep red flower buds emerge as Fall enters. Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) draping out of the edge of containers reminds of spiders coming out of the dirt.

     

    Here are a few sites to help plan your Halloween garden

    Scary Plants For Your Halloween Garden,  Fine Gardening Magazine

    Strange and Spooky Plants for Halloween, Cindy Hayne, Iowa State University Extension Service

    Halloween Plants – 21 Spooky Plants to Set A Scary Mood,  The Gardening Cook

    Halloween Inspired Plants: Learn About Plants With A Halloween Theme, Gardening Know How

     

    References

    Celebrate Halloween, Garden Collage

    Mangelwurzels, Creepiest Jack-o-Lanterns

    Whitehurst, T., The Magic of Flowers

    Halloween Lore, Anglian Gardener

    Witch-hazel, Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine

    Read more on Ghost Pipes and Mycotrophic plants

    Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month

    Mycotrophic Wildflowers, United States Forest Service

     

     

    Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for information only.

  • Recent Posts

    Fall 2020

    Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.  Luther Burbank

     

    As Fall of 2020 approaches and my seasonal job ended, it presents an opportunity to reflect. My photography skills have improved greatly through constant practice and reviewing hundreds of photos with a good friend and Emma Davies beginning photo classes. I have been attending to my writing skills through Stephen Wilber’s online courses and blogs. All are combining to help me complete my next book.

    Reviewing some of my photos and the purpose to this blog, I looked to the enticing perennials of late summer. All three show-stoppers are ruled by the astrological sign Leo, which in turn is ruled by the planetary object the Sun. This makes them Fire plants which fit with this time of year of late heat, harvests, and cooling down of the soil. They invite pollinators through their scents, landing pads and variety of colors. All are natives of the Americas and make you stop and observe them through their location, color, or structure.

     

    Black Cohosh  – Cimicifuga racemose

    I first met Bugbane, Snakeroot, and Candles of the Fairies while visiting a friend’s garden. The exotic look of this native shade plant was a seller.

    The Algonquin tribes of the Northeast name for cohosh means pointed, co-os means pine tree.  Its blooming racemes reflect tall pines with its white blooms lighting up the shade. The seeds sound like a rattlesnake’s tail when the wind blows.

    Cohosh flowers rubbed on the skin act as an insect repellent. This plant was a cornerstone for medicinal uses; rheumatism, pneumonia, or asthma. The roots created a tonic and the general plant parts are for treating snakebites. The Europeans acknowledged its properties, and it first appeared in Charles Millspaugh’s American Medicinal Plants in 1892. It remained in pharmacology books until the mid-20th centuries.

    In the language of flowers, Black Cohosh leaves offer protection and destruction of negativity. Its white blooms offer peace, purity, and truth.

     

    Sunflowers – Helianthus

    This bright and multi-size plant is a native of Peru and the American Southwest. In cultivation for over 10,000 years sunflowers have provided food and oil. Its star- shape flower represents the Virgins of the Sun celebration where participates wear golden crowns, representing the sunflower.

    Helianthus brighten one’s mood with its vibrant green leaves and yellow or orange blossoms. Its botanical name comes from the Greek Helia for sun and Anthus for flower. In the language of flowers, with the large seed producing heads the receiver is adored and splendid.  The sender is loyal and sends best wishes. Generally, any sunflower in a bouquet means truth, fame, recognition or the granting of a wish.  The Victorians put a touch of gloom to the sunflowers in that they felt it was a sign of false riches, pride or only meant for one person.  Luckily, those meanings have passed.

     

     

     

    Joe Pye Weed  – Eutrochium

    The Queen of the Prairie or the Queen of the Meadow, Sisters of Healing, and Gravel Root are just some of the names for this outstanding ornamental. I feel this plant creeps up on its spectacular presentation. It starts as a green plant, then at some point, only it knows, it erupts to its height and show-stopping clusters of pink to purple and vanilla scents. The seeds provide winter foraging for birds. Crushing the leaves and burning them makes a fly repellent. The flowers and seeds make a pink dye.

    There are five native varieties and dwarf hybrids to embrace that fill your garden space as summer wains.  Joe Pye Weed is name after a native American healer, Joseph Shauquethqueat, a Mohican chief living in Massachusetts and New York in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The botanical name Eupatorium is named after the Greek King Mithridates Eupator. The ruler of Pontus and Armenia (northern Turkey) who used it in the first century BCE for medicinal purposes.

    In the language of flowers, Joe Pye Weed means delay, respect, and love.

     

    Disclaimer

    This blog is intended for information only. Always check with your health care practitioner before working with plants for medicinal purposes.

    References

    Earth Powers, Techniques of Natural Magic.  Scott Cunningham

    Flowers & Their Meanings

    Language of Flowers, edited by Miss Ildrewe

    New Book of Herbs, Jekka McKivar

    The Secret of Wildflowers, A delightful feast of little-known facts, folklore, and history. Jack Sanders

  • Recent Posts

    Rhododendron Rose

    The Rose Tree

    Rhododendron, the genus, is a group of blossoms of infinite variety and beauty along with their fabulous leaves, forms, and growth habits. A group of plants with a rich and long history around the world; found in the Himalayas to the Carolinas, the jungles of Borneo, Japan and Hawaii. It was Westerners that created swashbuckling adventurist tales around plant collectors and visionary gardeners. Collectors have diced with death to bring back new varieties. Victorian breeders pushed the boundaries of plant genetics. Rhododendrons are used as medicines, insecticides, and intoxicants for centuries. A weapon of war. Chinese folktales speak of doomed love.

    Jane Brown tells us of the rhododendron’s origins fifty million years ago. It was in the 1600s that rhododendrons (rhodies) began their journey into the West. Charles L’Ecluse, a Flemish botanist, participated in a limited trade in the 16th century. Botanists, Peter Collinson and John Bartram exported Rhododendron nudiflorum, viscosum, maximum, and canescens in 1736 to England. A sudden favorite of European gardens with its fibrous and shallow roots made for easy travelling. Soon to followed by being labelled invasive. Reinhard Witt, a German biologist and advocate of nature gardens, published an article entitled Tear the Rhododendrons out. Which may explain their disappearance until the Second World War. John Bartram continue exporting rhodies and in the 1760s sent species varieties to American and then to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum in the 1870s.

     

    Blossoms compared to roses in Greek, the words rodon means rose and dendron means tree. In Nepal, the tree rhododendron, Rhododendron arboreum, lali gurans, a red bloom, is the national flower. The Rhododendron maximum is the state flower of West Virginia and Washington state is the pink blossoms of Rhododendron macrophyllum, Pacific/Coast Rhododendron.

    The Latin translation of rhododendron and azaleas means dry. Both are part of the family Ericaceae. The Greeks love growing rhododendrons, especially for their flowers and their preference for light and quick draining soil.

    Rhododendron’s blossoms are fill with rich meanings. One of the oldest is to be beware and for any reason. Rhodies reminds us to think about ourselves and our beloved ones.

    • Use a blossom to send the message of elegance and wealth. When you want to wish someone success, go to nice places, and enjoying material goods. Add them to your own sacred spot to help build your abundance.
    • Give a blossom when you want to catch someone’s attention or as a passionate indicator.
    • A blossom or a bouquet will send strength and compassion to someone who needs care.
    • Show temperance. One of the best blossoms that show your appreciation of someone and their life. The Victorians believed one was more modest and sober when carrying a rhodie blossom with you.
    • It represents calmness, patient, and cautious people who don’t need to be boisterous or flamboyant.
    • Bouquets were sent by the Chinese and Japanese when they were feeling nostalgic about home and away from their families. The blossoms represent their love and regret. It tells their loved ones; I can’t wait to see you again and I miss you.
    • Used as a sign of a death threat or the dark side of someone’s nature in past centuries.
    • Shouts out a big thank you to someone who has made a huge impact on your life.
    • Supports someone who is about to make a big and important decision.
    • A strong plant supporting its magnificent blossoms, the blossom can break off at the gentles of touches. An indication of a fragile love when the blossom fails.

    Match the meaning with colors to send your thoughts.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • Orange for joy, vibrancy and glad to see you.
    • Purple, a symbol of nobility and royalty. This will express your excellent taste. It is a way of saying, thank you.
    • The pink shades are about romance, passion, love, and tenderness. Dark pink leaves a strong impression. Generally pink shades are a way of expressing appreciation or/and that you want to build a long relationship with the receiver.
    • Red for Valentine’s Day. Expressions of passion or romantic feelings. Use red as a message of strong connection to someone that you are not romantic with and care for.
    • Yellow sends positive energy, happiness, friendship, optimism, and blessings of good chances in life.
    • White is a symbol of faith, innocent, civility, and purity.

     

    Rhododendron Fun Facts

    • The British named rhododendrons the Alpine Rose, after seeing them in the Alps for the first time in the 17th century.
    • Rhododendron ponticum produces Mad Honey, a biochemical hallucinatory discovered by the Greek commander Xenophon (430—354 B.C.E.) He used it to fight the Persians.
    • Leaves of Rhododendron might cause stomach irritation, coma, abnormal heart rate. Know your dosage and intended use.

     

    References

    Go Visit

    Meerkerk Gardens

    Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden

    Venture Out Nursery

     

    Read

    History of Rhododendron Discovery & Culture. Henning. American Rhododendron Society

    My Flower Meaning

    Rhododendron. Richard Milne.

    Tear the Rhododendrons out. Reinhard Witt. 1986.

    The Myth of Plant-Invaded Gardens and Landscapes. Gert Gröning et Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn.

    Ridiculous History: Ancient Armies Waged War With Hallucinogenic Honey. Laura Dove. February  2017.

    Simple Words & Beautiful Pictures, Guy Deakins, (n.d.)

    Tales of the Rose Tree: Ravishing Rhododendrons and Their Travels Around the World. Jane Brown. 2006.

    Join

    The American Rhododendron Society

     

  • Recent Posts

    Lilacs – Queen of the Shrubs

    Lilacs balance the spirit and the intellect; contact with the spirit is imminent

    Ted Andrews, Nature Speak

     

     

    The Queen of Shrubs, lilacs in bloom, really signify spring. Before the current western calendaring, May 1st was the beginning of Spring, as celebrated in May Day and Beltane festivals. Lilacs enchanting fragrance can be used in meditation to call your spirit guides and raise the vibrations of nature spirits. The wood awakens mental clarity.

    Fairies live in lilacs; they are one of the plants that grant access to the Faerie Realm.  The fairies and elves fill the blossoms that aid in calling protective spirits. Each flower often has a fairy associated with it. The lilac fairy communicates musically. They help to harmonize your life and activate greater clairvoyance.

    Lilacs start blooming at the time of the Celtic Beltane. This is the halfway point between the Spring equinox and Summer solistic.  It may be why they regarded this bundle of intoxicating fragrances as magical.

     

    Meanings

    Lilacs have many meanings with an emphasis on expressing love or affection:

    During Victorian times one belief was that lilacs brought into a home where a sick person was recovering, they might relapse.  This myth is that, at the time, lilacs were rare and valuable.  The owners did not want employees cutting branches for themselves.

    Another is the strong scent of lilacs would overpower those who were dying associating them with death.

    In WWI mothers received news of sons by messengers carrying lilacs.

    Blooms were given to widows in remembrance of love lost.

    And yet, young ladies wearing a lilac blossom was destined to be single forever. Lilacs bouquets were sent when one wished to break an engagement. A past love would send lilacs to remind the recipient of a first love.

    Lilacs are a symbol of self-esteem and confidence, making them a good gift for anyone who accomplish a project. The giver is expressing confidence for the recipient.

    Lilacs are the state flower of New Hampshire, representing the spirit of its people. One of the first places where lilacs were planted in the US. The oldest ones are believed to be planted in 1750 by the Royal Governor Benning Wentworth in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

    George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs. They are one of the first plants grown in American botanical gardens.

    In Russia, newborns gain wisdom by holding lilac blooms above them.

    King Uroš I, Nemanjić of Serbian, welcomed his future queen, Helen of Anjou, by planting purple lilacs found from her home in Provence.

     

    Colors

    Lilacs come in an array of colors you can plan for early, mid or late season bloom times.  In general, they represent different types of love and emotions. Lilacs are associated with first love or the first time one feels love for someone.

    Blue represent tranquility. Pastel shades for baby boys. Soft blue is happiness.

    Mauve or blue are a request of marriage.

    Magenta symbolizes passion and deep love.

    Pink is associated with love and strong friendships.

    Purple aligns and balances the chakras. It is a symbol of the emotions that come with the first time one is in love. With the association with death, purple was an alternative to black for mourning or for remembering somber anniversaries.

    Dark reds are love and the passion of being alive, especially after surviving a harrowing experience.

    Violet is spirituality.

     

    White, when offered by a young man, symbolizes the purity of his intentions. A great bloom for those who are innocence and youthful.

    Yellow for freshness and spring.

     

     

     

    The Science

    Lilacs are in the genus Syringa within the of olive family (Oleaceae) originating from the temperate area of Europe and Asia. Technically a tree, it grows more like a shrub.  Lilacs have been cultivated for over 700 years. Caterpillars of butterflies and moths use lilacs to begin their annual transformation. The nectar of the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is desired by bees and butterflies. Lilac blooms are used in cosmetics, perfumes, and aromatherapy.

    What is in a word?

    The etymology of Syringa is Greek from syrinx meaning a hollow tube or pipe. Syrinx is a Naiad-nymph of the river Ladon in Arcadia in southern Greece. In her attempts to escape from Pan, God of the Wild, she asked to be turned into reeds. Pan created his first set of pipes from the reeds.

    Lilac wood is dense and porous, making it a favorite for musical instruments. The taxonomical name comes from the French and Spanish word lilac.  It is an evolution of the Arabic and Persian word, lilak.   

    All references to lilac in Sanskirt come from the word nilah which is a reference to the color, dark blueNil refers to indigo, a plant where the pith of the reed allows them to be easily hollowed out to create the earliest flutes.

     

    References

    Burns Family Lilac Collection, New York Botanical Gardens

     Enchantment of the Faerie Realm, Ted Andrews

    Folklore of My Yard: Lilac, The Sleeping Giant, 2012

    History, Culture and Uses of the Lilac: Syringa vulgaris, Melody Rose, 2017, Dave’s Garden

    International Lilac Society

    The Lilac Flower: Its Meanings and Symbolism, Flower Meaning

    The Valley of lilacs: A proof of love, Serbia Tourist Natural Wonders

    Wentworth-Coolidge Lilac Restoration project

     

  • Recent Posts

    Spring Blossoms and the Goddesses

    The goddess (Flora) comes, crowned with garlands of a thousand flowers.   Ovid

     

    Spring approaches in the northern hemisphere with bulbs popping up, hellebores bursting forth and trees beginning their annual bloom cycle. How does mythology view the spirited entities contributed to this time of the year?  Spring is the sign of the Goddess and celebrated in many cultures that embrace the awakening of the earth. They encourage flowers to bloom, representing rejuvenation and rebirth of nature. The 5-petaled flowers represent the Goddess. Flowers like columbines, Gaura, buttercups, native geraniums, potentillas, wild roses, and wild strawberries.

     

     

    The Roman Flower Goddess Flora seems to be the most famous and best documented of the blooming goddesses. She originated out of the area occupied by modern day Rome. Her roots are in the ancient tribes of the Sabines, Samnites, and Oscans where she was called Flusia

    She protects early blooming flowers watching over vegetation, keeping them healthy and free from disease until the autumn harvest. Flora is the Goddess of Love, Youthful Pleasure, and Spring. Her ancient title of Goddess of the Flowering Crops for Grains or Fruit-trees meant plant life.

    In later times Flora became the goddess of all flowering plants, including ornamental varieties. Her name in Latin floris, means flower. The Romans honored her with the festival Floralia or Florales Ludi, held from late April too early May coinciding with spring blossoms. The festival began around the year 258 BCE and lasted for six days.  During this time homes, temples, and animals were decked with flowers.  Participants wore floral wreaths in their hair and carried small bouquets. They changed their daily clothing of white to bright colors, imitating the burst of color appearing.

    It was the Sabines who named April for Flora.  A months named that has survived through multiple calendar changes in history. Flora is represented as a beautiful maiden and wears a garland of flowers in her hair. She was honored with her image imprinted on Roman coins. Roman occupation carried Floralia festivities throughout Europe in what became the Celtic Beltane and May Day celebrations. The Maypole became another symbol of celebrating Flora, flowers and spring. The word flora is used in modern horticultural or botany to describe the plants of a region. (example – Flora of Pacific Northwest, Flora of Australia, Flora of Highlands, Scotland)

     

    Chloris was the Greek Goddess of Flowers and Queen of Spring. She is a beautiful and serene flower nymph. Ovid identifies her with the spring colors of yellow or pale green.

    Antheia, a nymph of Goddess of Gardens and Blossoms and Flowery Wreaths. She is a minor goddess of the Charites or Graces. They were goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility.

    Hegemone, Goddess of Plants, makes them bloom and bear fruit. Her name means mastery.

     

    The Japanese Shinto goddess, Konohanasakuya-hime whose name is translated to princess who blossoms the flowers of the tree. Her nickname, Sakuya, is in sync with cherry tree blossoms where their beauty, rapid blooming cycle reflect life and death. She is a symbol of the delicacy of earthly life.

     

     

     

    The Aztecan goddess Xochiquetzal means flower standing upright. She carries a bouquet and wears a floral wreath. She is the goddess of beauty, sexuality, and fertility. Surviving fragments of poetry show that the Aztecs recognized the double symbolism of flowers as representing both life and death.

    Xochiquetzal’s name contains two major themes. Xochitl means flower and quetzalli means feather. Feathery blossoms are a symbol of her presence in associated with vegetation and flowers. An alluring and youthful woman, richly attired and followed by a retinue of birds and butterflies. Ichpōchtli is another name for her meaning maiden. Xochiquetzal was celebrated every eight years at harvest time in the festival of Atamalqualiztli. Participants worn masks covered with images of animals and flowers. In this form she is the Goddess of Crafts, Dance, Music, Weaving, Magic and Love Spells. Marigold flowers are sacred to her.

    The Celtic goddess Artio, Goddess of Nature and the Bear Goddess, comes from the Gaul area of Central Europe. She awakens in the spring.  Statues shown her carrying a bowl in one hand and flowers and fruits in the other sitting under a tree next to a bear. As the Romans moved through Europe, she was absorbed into the Roman goddess Diana and the Greek goddess Artemis. Both who oversaw nature and bears.

    Nanna, whose name means daring is the Norse and northern Celtic languages, is the Goddess of flowers and plants. The goddess of romance, joy, and devotional love. She is married to the God Baldr, of Light and Joy. She oversees those flowers that follow the sun in a process known as Heliotropism. Sunflower are a favorite.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    References

    Key Nature Goddesses From Around the World. J.J. Lewis, February 2020

    The Obscure Goddess Online Directory – Flora, Thalia Took, 2013

    The Greek Goddesses, paleothea, 2011

    Articles with content from Wikipedia, Aztec goddesses

    Goddess of the Month: Xochiquetzal (‘Quetzal Flower’), Aztecs at Mexicolore

    Xochiquetzal,  Tenochtitlan , Fordham University Art History Department, Jamie Shaud, 2013