Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lucky Heather? No, Honeysuckle

Here's a quick Saturday missive. After a, "hell for leather" dash to London this week for reasons various, I am finally back home in Hampshire reporting for duty. I may have been absent from the Blog this week, but I can assure you that haven't been resting on my laurels. 

Taking a trip to, "that furniture store from Sweden", I managed to pick up some chairs for the studio. And quite smart they look too. The back door has a new curtain too. Well, it can get a little draughty round that old door, and with the addition of a thermal lining, it will be a lot cosier. And today also brings the arrival of my plan chest purchase. I really am getting to love Ebay 

Adorned with fossils, bugs, plants and dissections,
this fabric pattern from Ikea is very fitting for a botanical artist methinks.
Are you sitting comfortably?

Elsewhere, I have been working on the sketchbook exchange. Time is rather a pressing matter here as I have two to get finished and I am already a bit behind , what with all the goings on at home that have rather taken precedence of late. Still, I have a theme brewing for the next one, and I rather suspect honeysuckle will play a featuring part.

The elegant, finger-like flowers of honeysuckle

An abundance of fragrant blooms provide much needed nectar and pollen
for bees and moths  
Over 180 varieties are in the Lonicera family

As always, I love to look into the history and folklore of the subjects I paint, and wildflowers very often have various stories surrounding them. Surprisingly there are over 180 different varieties of honeysuckle growing in all kinds of conditions, with a number of different and regional names attributed to it. The honeysuckle is often referred to as lady's fingers, due to the elegant, long, finger-like flowers. Also known as woodbine, fairy trumpets, sweet suckle, goats leaf and trumpet flowers, honeysuckle also has a deep history for poets, writers and artists.

The poet Milton and the writer Chaucer amongst others referred to honeysuckle as Eglantine, a name more commonly attributed to the sweet briar rose by modern herbalists. And in the 1600s, Baroque painter Paul Rubens created a painting called the Honeysuckle Bower, in honour of his marriage to Isabella Brant. In the painting, the pair sit together in a bower surrounded by honeysuckle as a symbol of undying love, (what an old romantic he must have been). Even The Bard himself Shakespeare penned a little something in honour of honeysuckle. In Act II of my favourite play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, (in which I was an outrageous triumph, if I do say so myself, in my school's production as the mischievous sprite Puck. Well all the girls wanted to play Titania), Shakespeare refers to honeysuckle thus;
I know where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.

In both the language of flowers and folklore honeysuckle is said to be a symbol of fidelity and affection and wearing honeysuckle flowers was said to enable the wearer to be able to dream of their true love. I love to bring the sweet scent of honeysuckle from the garden into the house and will often have a bunch on the kitchen table. Although, I would have been frowned on for doing this in Victorian times as girls were prevented from bringing honeysuckle into the home because it was believed to cause dreams that were far too risque for their sensibilities. Spoilsports! 

The last flower of the year 

The berries are already forming

Now, in Britain you can't go too far with a plant before witchcraft gets involved, and it's true also of honeysuckle. Honeysuckle was used as a magical plant to protect against witchcraft. In Scotland, it was said that of honeysuckle grows around the entrance to the house, it would prevent a witch from entering the premises. it is also said to protect you from any evil, and to bring good luck. Well, I could do with some luck just now, so here goes.

A page of sweet honeysuckle

A pinky palette


shevaun said...

What an interesting post!! I love hearing stories about plants, especially ones that are as familiar as honeysuckle. I'm sure you'll do a fantastic job in the sketchbook (great start already). Lets hope the honeysuckle works it's magic on you... may it protect you and your kin from further mischief making, and may it bring you good health. A few naughty dreams wouldn't be too bad either!! xx

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Thanks Shevaun, I love finding out about the little forgotten stories and histories surrounding common plants and flowers. Ha ha, yes a few naughty dreams wouldn't do any harm. xx

Olga Bogoroditskaya said...

You have a very interesting blog! Great watercolor!

Maria la Montagne said...

It's a great pleasure reading your blog. Never come to my mind to explore the flowers and plants nice story's. That's something I only did with interior design and styles.
Thanks for sharing and wishing you a great weekend!

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Hi Olga, and thank for visiting. Glad you enjoyed stopping by.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Hi Maria, glad you enjoy my little musings. I really love finding out about the mythology and folklore surrounding plants and flowers. It's always surprising what you find.