Sunday, 9 January 2011

Primula (09 JAN 2011)

This is my ragged, long-suffering Polyanthus or Primula which has survived, and continues to flower, despite being dug up (by a fox?), nibbled by slugs and covered in snow. I prefer the name Primula because it means : first to flower in spring. According to wikipedia, these plants are self-fertilising, producing both male and female flowers. The males have styles protuding, like the ones in these photos, while the females have prominent stamens. The crinkled appearance of the leaves and their stiffness suggest that they could also be propogated by taking cuttings of leaf sections like people do with begonia rex. Mine seems to be producing baby plants by itself.
The flowers look violet when the sun shines on them, and deep blue when it doesn't. I've had a fixation with flowers this colour since reading a haunting poem called "Bavarian Gentians" by D.H. Lawrence many years ago. It's a story from Ancient Greek mythology : Persephone Goddess of Spring Growth was abducted by Pluto God of Death. After he made her his Queen, she was committed to spend autumn and winter with him in the underworld. During her time there she uses a gentian to light the way because even though this flower is deep blue in the daylight, it's a torch compared to the darkness of the underworld : "Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark darkening the daytime, torch-like, with the smoking blueness of Pluto's gloom"
When I first read this poem, I looked for a picture of a gentian in my local library and was disappointed because it was not as striking or as dark as the one in my imagination. As time passed, the idea of the underworld having a blackness with a hint of colour stayed with me and was a comfort to someone who can only envisage a darkness after death. I tried to find the poem again later but couldn't because I had forgotten the author. Of course, today it's easy to find poems on the internet (http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.com/1999/04/bavarian-gentians-d-h-lawrence.html), also many captivating pictures of gentians, even ones that look like torches (http://www.wildflowerhikes.com/images/Explorer's%20Gentian.jpg).
Unfortunately, I don't believe in heaven, hell or reincarnation. I write "unfortunately", because I know people of various faiths and I recognise the strength gained by looking forward to an after-life. However, since becoming a gardener, my perception of death has changed…..When I learnt about perennials, biennials and annuals at the beginning of my gardening adventures, I wondered why anyone would bother planting the latter because they die after just a year. Now I understand completely that change and new life is necessary for the grand scheme of the garden to thrive. This year I have seen plants being born, being beautiful, then dying, making room for something new. Also, I have a new fascination with soil, not just what comes out of it but what goes into it, which one day will be me. The thought of resting in the soil after life doesn't worry me now (as long as I don't focus on the worms).

4 comments:

Alistair said...

I guess most of us in the UK have lost our way spiritually, not so sure if its for the good. My understanding as to the difference between Polyanthus and Primula is. Polyanthus flowers are held on stems two or three inches long (which is the case)and Primula flowers just hug the foliage without stems as such. This is also correct, and I believe Polyanthus if planted out in Autumn stands more chance of surviving the Winter than does the Primula.

b-a-g said...

Alistair - Thanks for the explanation. To be honest with you, I was calling it African Violet up till a week ago.

fer said...

Very interesting post. It is always great to see how nature has those cycles of life and death. I think much can be learn from them. Lucky us gardeners, we have a front row seat every season.

Growing Vegetables said...

Being in the garden and watching the cycles of plants and the seasons, is physically, mentaly and spiritually rewarding and uplifting. And can bring some form of self acceptance in this hectic world of ours.

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