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Flower Tales
My Larkspur

I was eleven when I read Jack in the Pulpit by John Greenleaf Whittier. The metaphors and message of the poem appealed to my spirituality. By age eleven, I already felt more connected to God in a natural setting than I did in a church. The beautiful illustrations and captivating flower names piqued my innate botanical curiosity.

Were Jack in the Pulpits, Anemones and Wild-Wood Geraniums real flowers? If so, I wanted to see them. I thought Anemones only lived in the sea.  

Decades later I nearly fell in the boggy end of Blueberry Pond while touring The Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. I was crossing the stepping stones when I was distracted by a miracle—Jack in the Pulpits flourishing in nature as opposed to on paper. 

My botanical education and interests have broadened as a Master Gardener but I’m still intrigued by a plant’s history and back story. How did the plant get its name and is it attached to a myth? Is the plant edible, ornamental, medicinal, poisonous or a combination of the four?       

Carolyn Keene sparked my love of Delphinium ajacis when I saw the stunning, spiky flowers on the cover of The Password to Larkspur Lane. I didn’t see the flowers growing outside a botanical garden until I moved to Southwest Missouri. I planted seeds and jumped up and down as if forty years hadn’t passed when the first Larkspur buds opened in my own garden.

Larkspur has existed for thousands of years and remains one of my favorite flowers. In ancient times they were used for treating wounds and killing parasites. Tradition holds that Larkspur wards off scorpions and poisonous snakes. (Tall Tale Alert: Two summers ago I was stung by a scorpion two feet from my Larkspur patch.)

I found three Greek myths attached to Larkspur. Since they couldn't make up their minds, I picked the one I liked best.

When Achilles was killed, his armor was supposed to be given to the most heroic Greek still living. The most eligible candidates were Odysseus and Ajax. Minerva swayed the vote to Odysseus because she believed heroes should mix intelligence with bravery. (Ajax wasn’t the brightest.)

Ajax went mad when he lost and killed a herd of sheep—he thought they were rivals—before he did the honorable, hero thing and impaled himself on his sword. Larkspur grew where his blood touched the soil. This explains why Larkspur is also commonly known as 'the knight's spur.' And it explains why the Greek letters AI, the Greek cry of mourning, can be found on larkspur petals.

Whoa there. I don't see the letters AI on my Larkspur petals. If petals like these exist, I want to see them. Photos will suffice for now but if this myth is true, I expect to run across initialed Larkspur petals when I least expect it. 

 

 

Comments
6 Comment count
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Jules, What lovely flowers! I

Jules,

What lovely flowers! I don't believe I've ever seen them, other than in an illustration.

I wish those kinds of flowers grew in the deep South. 

Annette

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Southern Flora

Annette,

I would try throwing some seeds in the ground in January when it's still cool. (I like to experiment!) Try a partly sunny area near a tree so they are somewhat protected when the leaves come out. Mine start to come up in March (this year February) and they flower in April and May. They fizzle out in June when it gets hot.

You can grow many plants as perennials in the South that are only annuals in Southern Missouri. There are benefits to both climates.

Take care,

Jules

 

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Enjoyed!

Thanks for sharing your delight and your knowledge about flowers. I look forward to more of these flower garden tales.  What can you tell me about moon flowers?

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Moon Flowers

Sue,

I'll do my best to keep you entertained with garden tales. I scared the armadillo away but the chipmunks are driving me nuts! (Perhaps a chippy tale is in the near future.)

Moon flowers (Ipomoea alba) are fascinating. They are white or pink and vining. The flowers are quite fragrant and bloom in the evening. They're often used in a white or night garden. (Placed in the back of the garden on a trellis near a patio or deck so the scent is enjoyed.)

I don't have one a moonflower because I don't have a trellis or Pergola by my deck. (Yet.) I have four-o-clocks next to our chairs on the front patio. They also open in the evening and smell heavenly.

Hope this helps.

Jules

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Great post Jules. Your love

Great post Jules. Your love of the garden is palpable. I adore delphinium, in fact all blue flowers-I just planted borage seeds because the flowers look amazing scattered on top of cakes. m

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Borage

Hello, Mary

I started borage from heirloom seeds summer before last. Did you know the young leaves taste like cucumber? I planted them around my tomatoes-they're supposed to be a companion plant-to discourage tomato horn worm. (The catepillar of the hummingbird moth.) You probably have completely different pests and diseases.

Borage flowers are a lovely color of blue. Like you, I love blue flowers, although there are no true blue flowers I'm told.

I do love gardening. And the chipmunks are still driving me nuts. I need to blog about them before my surgery on June 29th!

I appreciate your comments and will talk about gardening until I turn blue.

Jules