There are a number of plants in my garden associated with remembrance. Rosemary is an obvious one. Apparently the ancient Egyptians adorned coffins and tombs with sprigs of rosemary and the plant has historically been associated with memories of loved ones who are no longer with us.
A plant that always evokes fond memories of my parents is the forget-me-not. Their garden was full of them – I pinched some before their house was sold and popped them into mine. They have of course reseeded with great gusto every year.
Legend has it that a knight toppled into a river and drowned while picking forget-me-nots for his lover. Unfortunately the weight of his armour didn’t help the situation but before he disappeared under the water, he managed to call out “forget-me-not” as he threw the flowers to his lover who was standing helpless on the bank. I suspect their name is more to do with the fact that once in your garden you would be hard pushed to get rid of them – but then why would you want to? If they pop up in the wrong place you can move them or dispatch them if you really must.
Remembrance Day has come and gone again – we must never forget the many who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us and those who live on, bearing life-changing battle scars. This year I partly watched and partly listened to the remembrance ceremony while gardening – well to be honest while assembling my new plastic greenhouse. While observing 2 minutes silence I started thinking about the tradition for wearing poppies and how that had begun. It seems that the red corn poppies grow best in earth that has been disturbed – battlefields have sadly provided perfect conditions for them. Poppies were said to be one of the only plants growing in the battlefields of Flanders in 1914 and they became a symbol of those who had sacrificed their lives in wars since WW1. John McCrae captured their significance in his poem In Flanders Fields and the poppy subsequently became the symbol adopted by the Royal British Legion charity. I will let you know how their poppy seeds fair when I plant them next spring – I imagine they’ll do well as I’m not very diligent at digging and improving my soil! In 2014 ceramic poppies filled the moat at the Tower of London – 888,246 of them – representing every British and Commonwealth soldier who died during WW1. When the artwork was dismantled all of the poppies were sold to raise money for service charities. I bought one for Grumbling Rose – it lives in our garden in warmer weather but comes inside before Jack Frost starts to visit.
I discovered last week, while researching for my family tree, that one of my great uncles – Horace – was killed in Flanders in 1917. His joining up papers in 1914 state “apparent age 18 years and 6 months” but he was in fact only 16. I couldn’t help feeling heartened to learn from his service record that he clearly had spirit – before leaving these shores he had several spells in the guardhouse for being absent from barracks without permission, using obscene language and being insolent to his superiors!
Horace was 19 when he lost his life – a brave boy – I will always be proud of him.
You discuss so many different types of remembrance in your blog, Belinda: From the wider history of folklore and legend to the more personal and extremely moving aspects of your own family history. And the sharing of Horace’s story, who lost his life at such a young age in a war that took the lives of millions, is incredibly moving .
Just catching up on your blog Belinda. This is all so thoughtful and has reminded me of visiting the pottery poppies too. I have one in the attic, it deserves to be out of its box and displayed somewhere. Yours looks fantastic with the black grass.
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