On Easter Monday I spent an hour or so with two of my favourite people in  the gardens of Clare College, Cambridge.  If I could re-run my career and specialise as a gardener, I think my  ambition would have been to be in charge of this garden, or at least on the team.

The soil is wonderful from many generations of care, and the position is sheltered.  The River Cam runs along one side, providing a beautiful boundary, with the buildings of Clare and Trinity Hall Colleges, and King’s College Chapel on the far side.There are superb specimen trees, a sunken garden with a symmetrical pool, herbaceous borders that are truly magnificent in summer and perfect lawns.  Truly a paradise English garden and if you are ever in Cambridge it is well worth the modest entrance fee,especially if you are there between May and September.

This Spring Monday everything is late. The leaden sky and cool breeze keeps growth in check.

There are a host of golden daffodils, muscari, anemone blanda in blue and white, chionodoxa and a few rogue red tulips alongside the path to the gardens, but the spring plantings themselves are  holding their breath. True, there are also hellebores in flower, attracting the early solitary and bumble bees. It was cool, but the bees were very active, dashing from flower to flower with full pollen baskets. I have noticed in my own garden how popular they are with these early flying insects.

But the current highlight has to be the wonderful amethyst coloured hyacinths. My scholarly daughter reminded me of the legend of Hyacinth.  Hyakinthos, a beautiful youth, was killed by a  discus thrown by Zephyrus, God of the West Wind. Zephyrus was jealous that Hyakinthos preferred Apollo, God of the Sun. As Hyakinthos lay dying, Apollo created the hyacinth flower from his spilled blood, and Apollo’s  tears stained the newly formed flower’s petals with the mark “ai, ai ” , the sign of his grief.

It’s a lovely, if melancholy legend, and set me wondering. Many flowers are named as a result of  the activities of Ancient Greeks of legend-, for instance, Iris-the goddess Iris, who personified the rainbow (the Greek word for iris), acted as the link between heaven and earth., Narcissus-blooming at the place where the vain youth Narcissus died; Anemone-said to have sprung from Aphrodite’s tears as she mourned the death of Adonis.

As I live in times that  have escaped the notice of the Greek Gods, and some hideous fate at their hands, I think I would like to be associated with daisies, for their cheerful simplicity.What flower would you like to be linked with?


6 thoughts on “hyacinth

  1. Great post! I think I would have to choose Indian Paintbrush (Casilleja: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castilleja), a varied and diverse wildflower (well genus technically) in the Americas that displays beautiful flowers despite challenging conditions. It was used by various Native American tribes for painting, but also as an herbal remedy. “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush” is also one of my favorite children’s books.
    It is too bad there is a decided lack of myths surrounding our flowers in our modern cultures.

    1. Well that’s a fascinating choice Laura and thank you for commenting. Perhaps we should start writing new myths for the new cultivars-it is a bit predictable that so many are named after “celebrities”.

  2. Hm, interesting thought that actually…perhaps celebrities and their stories (whether TV, movies or tabloid gossip) fulfill some sort of mythological function for the modern subconscious. Some people certainly revere them as gods.

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