Lurking among the many books around my home is a little booklet called A Calendar of Flowers and Their Saints, subtitled“A Flower for Every Day. A Saint for Every Flower.” It has no publication date, but is stamped Writers Service Bureau, London W.C. 1. Its pages are brown at the edges, there’s a teacup stain on its front cover, and it came from my aunt’s house. She had been a newspaper reporter in South Wales from the end of WWII to the 1980s. That is all I know of the booklet.
Anyway, when I came upon it again, I wondered what (1) Richard’s flower would be, and to which saint it was dedicated. As you know, his birthday was 2nd October, and according to the booklet his designated flower is the friar’s minor soapwort (saponaria dyginia). See above. This flower’s patron saints are the Guardian Angels. I tried in vain to identify this particular soapwort, and so the illustration is of the Saponaria officinalis. As to the Guardian Angels, they weren’t awake at Bosworth!
Next I decided to see what (2) Anne Neville’s flower would be. She was born on 11th June, for which the little book says it’s the ox-eye daisy (chrysanthemum leucanthemum). This flower is dedicated to St Barnabas.
I don’t know the birthday of their tragic son, Edward of Middleham.
From here I went on, and the following is a brief list of other birthdays and associated flowers/plants/saints. There is even a mushroom in there! Please remember that sometimes the saints are connected to the plant, not to the birth date or actual saint’s day. And if you query the absence of, say, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, it’s because his birthday isn’t known,
(1) Edward IV, 28th April, cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum), St Didimus/Didymus. Um, given Edward’s track record, I have to say that this plant seems rather appropriate!
(2) Elizabeth Wydeville, 3rd February, great water moss (fontinalis antepyretica), St Blaise. Might be fitting for the daughter of the “Lady of the Rivers”?
(3) Elizabeth of York Her birthday was today, 11th February, red primrose (primula verna rubra), St Theodora.
(4) Edward of Westminster (Edward V), 2nd November, winter cherry (physalis), St Marcian. This plant is known to me as Chinese lanterns.
(5) Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, 17th August, toadflax (linaria vulgaris), St Manus (St Magnus the Martyr?)
(6) George, Duke of Clarence, 21st October, hairy silphium (silphium asteriscum), St Ursula – George’s birthday and the saint’s day are the same. I’m not sure which plant is being referred to here, especially as a lot of the genus seem to be from the southern states of the US, where it is commonly known as cup plant. Suffice it that they are almost all yellow, with daisy-like flowers.
(7) Isabel Neville, 5th September, mushroom (agaricus campestris), St Laurence Justinian (who wasn’t a saint at the time of Isabel’s life).
(8) Edward, 17th Earl of Warwick, 25th February, peach (amygdalus persica), St Walberg.
(9) Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, 14th August, zinnia (zinnia elegans), St Eusebius. Unfortunately, the zinnia hails from America, and so would not have been known to Margaret. And St Eusebius’s feast day does not match her birthday.
(10) Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, 3rd May, poetic narcissus (narcissus poeticus). Saint – Invention of the Cross – indeed associated with Cecily’s birthday.
(11) Richard, 3rd Duke of York, 21st September, Cilcated Passion Flower (passiflora ciliata) St Matthew. The duke’s birthday and the saint’s day are the same.
(12) Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, 22nd November, trumpet-flowered wood sorrel (oxalis uniflora), St Cecilia. I’m afraid I do not know which sorrel is referred to here, and so the image is of the common wood sorrel, as found in British woodlands. In the Kingmaker’s case, his birthdate and the saint’s day are the same.
Oh, and we must not forget dear Henry VII, lucky number (13). His birthday was 28th January, double daisy (bellis perennis plenus) and the saint is St Margaret of Hungary (born 27th January, died and feast day 18th January). It’s rather hard to imagine him as any daisy, let alone a double one.
I’m pretty sure there were a few cuckoo’s left by Edward 😂
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Re Henry VII: Maybe the double daisy was fitting, in that his mother, Margaret (“Daisy”) was the power behind the throne, or at least responsible for his attaining it.
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One of the few reliable herbs in my garden (no green thumb here) is my Soapwort, which I grew after seeing it on a seed packet. Well, it’s tenacious, spreads by roots, hardy, can live through anything (including my atrocious lack of care), it should be put in the back of a garden as they will burst upwards 2-4′ high and get scraggly and rather unattractive … but … it has the most luscious raspberry scent en masse in late spring early summer when in bloom. The scent hangs in the air (especially where I live, very sultry summers), the pink flowers are nothing to go crazy over, on their own, but again, massed together, with that scent, and you will soon not care where they wander, creep into what bed, let them ramble. They’ve drifted into all my raised beds, taken over everything, trampled the Salad Burnet, I rip their stalks out by the handfuls every fall … and back they come. Now that I know they have Guardian Angels I’m not surprised, and for Richard’s sake, oh why not, let them take over the whole yard! The raspberry scented air is worth it for a few weeks every summer.
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Wonderful description. I can almost smell that scent myself!
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Soapwort is way too easy to grow, just keep it behind other plants! It is determined to live! And en masse it is delightful, I wanted it because, way back when I was nuts, well, less nuts than now, I had the idea of using it to make homemade soap – as the early colonists did – apparently they brought the seeds with them from England! Yea, another idea that never materialized, not sure what I was thinking, but I do have an immense plot of soapwort for the effort – put it alongside artemisia, another plant one can ignore, it’s shorter and the contrast is curious as its silvery leaves look awesome during a full moon!