I had specific plans about which British flowers I would use for Mothering Sunday, but unfortunately, the local wholesaler had sold out of them at the start of this week (I guess it's a good sign - lots of people wanted to buy local!). The spring flowers I've grown haven't been prolific or tall enough to use in bouquets. So I had to come up with another plan.
My colour scheme was yellow, white, and pink or blue. I bought pink and blue campanulas, although the blue looked lilac. I chose acid-green bupleurum (which has all the zesty brightness of green euphorbia, but without the skin-irritating sap), and white lilacs for their lovely scent and their spring blooms. I also got yellow Guernsey freesias and French mimosa, which both have a sweet scent. There was lots of British foliage - variegated pittosporum, eucalyptus, magnolia, and philadelphus (mock orange blossom).
I used either pink or blue campanulas for each bouquet - most people didn't express any preference for one colour or the other. Known also as Canterbury bells, there is a wonderful entry on them in Anna Trenter's book, The Lore and Language of Flowers:
Canterbury bells “grew in great abundance in oak woods, and carpeted the Kentish countryside around Canterbury, hence its name. It was sacred to St Augustine who began the conversion of English to Christianity in the sixth century and was given the see of Canterbury by the newly converted King Ethelbert of Kent.” Flower Fairies: The Lore and Language of Flowers by Anna Trenter.
Lilac represents the first emotions of love, and white lilac in particular symbolises youthful innocence, which is a lovely image of childhood. Freesias mean lasting friendship and sometimes when children grow up, that is what develops between parents and their children. Mimosa means sensitivity, bupleurum represents esteem, magnolia stands for memory, and the 'positive' meaning of mock orange is also memory.
People seemed to be going all-out this year - there were several orders for big bouquets, but not many for posies! The posies used more British flowers - forget-me-nots, narcissi, hellebores and pink bluebells. Forget-me-nots represent lasting love and, of course, a request not to be forgotten, narcissi have several meanings, including new beginnings and chivalry, hellebores mean wit and "relieve my anxiety", while bluebells symbolise constancy.
I'll finish with a few lines from The Railway Children, which is one of my favourite books about childhood. The author, Edith Nesbit, lived in Grove Park for a time. The book is set in beautiful countryside - I visited the Yorkshire locations of the 1970 film a few years ago. This is the walk up to Three Chimneys.
The children adore their kind mother who has to take them out of their home and into a strange new town, without their father. Flowers play a big part in the children's lives. Lilac, Canterbury bells, roses, wallflowers and blossom all get mentions, and the eldest daughter, Bobbie's birthday is celebrated with a floral crown and table decorations made of forget-me-nots.
This is when the children have presented the train station porter with gifts for his birthday, which they secretly collected from people in the town:
'"Little Clothes for Mrs Perks's children." Mother said, "I'll find some of Phyllis's things that she's grown out of if you're quite sure Mr Perks wouldn't be offended and think it's meant for charity. I'd like to do some little thing for him, because he's so kind to you. I can't do much because we're poor ourselves."'
'That's all right,' said Perks, 'your Ma's a born lady. We'll keep the little frocks, and what-not, Nell.'