Rainbows are currently our way to show our support for the NHS and all key workers who have kept this country going whilst we try and stay safe. The notion of staying safe for many people who have to go out to work every day and those who are now edging back out into the workplace and sending their children to school is stressful. We know that flowers and growing things in general is a great way of helping our mental health and indeed people have turned in droves to tending their gardens: growing veg and flowers on balconies and windowsills and whatever space they may have. One plant on a windowsill can bring great joy, a bunch of flowers shoved in a jam jar can raise a smile.
Every year in November we embrace the red Papaver rhoeas as we remember those who have fallen in combat for our country. Flowers are an important symbol used to commemorate and celebrate points along our lives. As I write the lockdown is easing and shifting, we are moving into a different phase and yet the pandemic is still as much of a threat as ever.
I have written previously that many plants in my garden I have planted specficially to remind me of family and friends and places. This set me to thinking: which flower should we use to signify these terrible days? I am not suggesting a 'when this is all over' time as I am not sure when we will or can know that. We will be living with this virus for a long time to come. Maybe like the rainbow there should be a flower, one that we can look at and symbolise these awful times: the many who have died and those who have had to cope with the huge challenges and difficulties these last months have thrown at us.
What to choose though, that is the question? The more I thought about this the more difficult the choice became.
Should I choose something that has been flowering over the recent weeks? I found that I was focusing on what is flowering now as opposed to what is flowering when the lockdown started. My mind then strolled towards the meaning of flowers. Flowers have always symbolised different things and the Victorians in particular liked to think about the symbolism of flowers. I wandered over to the internet* to see what I could find.
All of the following commence with the word - allegedly....
red carnations = my heart aches - this is true yet I wanted something more uplifting
pink carnations = I'll never forget you - very true for all those who have died
gladiolus = remembrance - a contender
rosemary = remembrance - a strong contender
The one that leapt out at me was Chamomile - which means patience in adversity. That to me sums up the thing I have needed during the lockdown days. It is adversity and I have needed patience. It is a small, simple, fragile flower yet a chamomile lawn is quite strong and will release scent as you walk across it. Plus, chamomile tea is apparently good for many things including helping you sleep. If, like me, you have found sleeping quite difficult at times in recent weeks then maybe this above all else is why this should be the flower.
I was content I had found the flower I should choose. I realised though that for me the chamomile cannot be 'my' plant of the pandemic as I do not grow it. I think I should and I have tried a couple of times, but at this moment I do not have any. When I am in the garden there is one plant that has been on the journey with me since March. The plant I bought at one of the last events I went to before the lockdown was announced. This plant is the Passiflora caerulea.
I kept it in the greenhouse for the first few weeks until the frosts were over. This is meant to be a hardy plant but I wanted to give it the best chance to settle in. I planted it to grow up the Whitby Arch. As the months have passed, this plant has been through the very dry Spring and I made sure I kept it watered. It has got through the scorchingly hot days and I have made sure it has been tied in well to protect it against the strong winds we have had at times. Each month I have had to be keeping a bit of an eye on it and I realised that this made it a constant through this period of time. I also realised that it started to flower as the strict lockdown began to be eased. The plant is now bigger and stronger and brings me great happiness, so for me, this is my plant of the pandemic. This is the one I will look at for years to come and think back to how it was when I first bought it. It is not that I could forget what has happened, I do not need a flower for that, but it is about what I will think of when I look at it.
Stay safe all
*Flower meanings from Almanac.com