Sandy’s Garden ... Wallflowers and poesies

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson
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Traditionally, Mothering Sunday is the day when children who have left home return to visit their mothers, bearing gifts of money, gloves or flowers.

Traditionally, too, the flowers that were presented on Mothering Sunday were in the form of a posy, a small circlet of often-scented flowers set off by an outer decoration of greenery, paper or silver foil. And traditionally wallflowers were often used to make the posy, wallflowers that can usually be relied on to bloom outdoors during March even in central Scotland, joining primroses, forget-me-nots and many varieties of bulbs in reminding us that winter is finally nearing its dreich end and that spring is just around the corner, well, hopefully at least.

Now wallflowers are plants of the genus Erysimum, their Latin name coming from an even older Greek name, Erysimon. To their generic name Erysimum we usually add the description cruciferae, which means shaped like a cross’, referring to the four-petalled shape of the flowerhead. Erysimum cruciferae … wallflower … is an easy plant to grow and is popular with gardeners, though I don’t see as much of it around nowadays as there was when I was a child; and I suspect it’s not as popular in Scotland today as it once was. It is available in a variety of colours from the traditional yellows through oranges and reds to lilac shades. And it is available nowadays in varieties that extend its flowering season from mid-March right through to the middle of June.

I have to say that I very much doubt whether many florists will be too interested if you ask them to make up a small posy of wallflower for you, however traditional this might be. But children … and I am using this word ‘children’ in its widest sense to include offspring of all ages … have another option, for an even older meaning of the word ’posy’ or ’poesy’ to use a still older form, is a short motto or line of verse that used to be inscribed within a ring. And the poesy or motto was often associated with a nosegay, a bunch of sweet scented flowers carried in the hand very much in the style of a bride’s bouquet, though more modest than the displays often made up for contemporary brides. I do think that your friendly local florist will agree to make up a nosegay for you to present to your mother, that word ‘nosegay’ meaning ‘an enrichment for the sense of smell’, not dissimilar to the pomander that was carried in the belief that it would ward off infection. So my suggestion to ‘children’ everywhere is that they reconnect with the past and take a gift of flowers … albeit a larger and showier bunch of flowers than was once the case … adorned with a short motto or verse of their own devising the next time they visit their mothers, instead of relying on a mass-produced, shop-bought card. The thrill that your mother will get from receiving a gift that comes from the heart rather than merely from a shop shall be your reward.

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society