Chinese Flower Goddesses

While researching for another post I came upon this web site from China that lists gods and goddesses and the flowers that they represent. In my attempt to confirm the names and the story behind each one I was only able to find one other listing. This listing had some duplication of goddess and flower but not all. Perhaps there is more than one list, or perhaps it depends where in China you live. It seems that these goddesses were real people, usually of high society and from what I can tell of ancient times. I was able to confirm a couple of the stories, which were quite lengthy, but not all. My lack of Chinese history and culture, and…

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Magic Carpet Ride : Persian Gardens

Now we turn our thoughts to ancient Iran or Persia. The history of Persia is one of a country invaded many times over. In the 7th century the Arabs invaded and conquered the Persian people. The Moguls with leader Genghiz Khan invaded in the 13th century and again in the 16th century by Tamerlane. Each conqueror brought something to the existing culture and yet the traditions and culture of Persian garden design remained and was absorbed and integrated into the cultures of each occupying force. As Egypt was a leading influence on garden style and design in the Mediterranean region, (in particular the Romans who brought it to the lands they vanquished) Persian gardens became the ideal from Spain to…

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The Garden in a Nunnery, Part 2 Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) Germany Much has been written about this remarkable woman. She has been and continues to be studied by scholars in diverse fields that include spirituality, theology, music, medicine, herbalism, and illumination (illustration). She was also a visionary and prophet. Hildegard had the intellect and the opportunity to address her numerous talents to all these fields. I will attempt to give you some idea of her life with an emphasis on her interest in medicine and herbalism. Hildegard was the 10th child born to a noble family. Traditionally the 10th child is given to the church as tithe, and so at the age of 8 Hildegard was sent to the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenburg in Bingen for…

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Canadian Wild Flowers

Canadian Gardening, eh?

Canadian gardens are in many ways a new idea. Our history is a short one spanning 400 years or so and those who arrived before us certainly did not garden in today’s sense of the word. For those early settlers and the indigenous people already on the land, gardening meant agriculture. It meant survival. Today a Canadian garden is no longer an oxymoron. Canadians have now lived in this beautiful country long enough to have thrown off the cultural ties that bound their gardening style to parts of Europe and instead have integrated these ways into something inherently Canadian.  The indigenous peoples of North America are known for their great medicinal success with the local flora. Lobelia, Gillenia, Sassafras are…

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Jane Colden

Jane Colden, botanist, New York brief story

Yet, by the late 20th century her name and place in American history began to emerge.  Today she is considered the first female American botanist, or as Asa Gray himself said in 1843, the “first botanist of her sex in her country”. Jane may never have become a botanist without the urging of her father, Cadwallader Colden, himself a physician and practicing botanist. Originally from Scotland, Cadwallader married Alice Chryste in 1715. They moved to the USA and had a farm in Newburgh-on-Hudson, New York when Jane was born in 1724. Cadwallader had by then built a successful political career and was the surveyor general of New York. Newburgh-on-Hudson was a remote area in the 1700’s. The American outdoors was…

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Plum Blossoms and dew drops, the ladies of Japan

The reverence of nature in the Japanese garden has not changed since ancient times. Tied to the religious beliefs of Shinto, kami, spirits in rocks, plants, animals and the departed ancestors, played a role in the process of garden design that we have today. Gardens became symbolic and minimalist in their layout due to the confines of the geography of Japan. When considering the garden and women of Japan the most interesting time is the Heian period (794-1185 AD). The Heian period is considered Japan’s Golden Age and for many reasons. It was a time when the Japanese withdrew themselves from contact with the Chinese. China was the big brother to Japan and had always been an enormous influence on…

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Margaret Cavendish portrait

Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland (1715–1785)

Margaret Bentinck became known to me through my readings of Mrs. Mary Delany, the first to make flower mosaics out of cut paper. Here’s a link to my post on Delany. The two were lifelong friends, Margaret having met Mary Delany when she was a child of eight and Mary a young woman of 22 years. Mary Delany was introduced as a friend of Margaret’s mother, Henrietta, and yet as time went by Mary became one of Margaret’s closest friends. Perhaps it was because of Mary’s older age that Margaret sought her out as a sister but the two had other interests in common, namely plants and animals. This shared interest would last their lifetimes, and perhaps from this Margaret…

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Pomona

Pomona, a goddess

Pomona is a Roman goddess of fruiting trees and orchards. She did not care for forests, she loved her cultivated countryside. She wields a pruning knife in her right hand for she is an expert in pruning and grafting. Despite the fact that she preferred to be alone to care and nurture her trees, this amazon-like beauty was besieged by suitors, in particular a god called Vertumnus. Vertumnus had the ability to take different human guises and made numerous attempts to woo Pomona but she turned him away each time. It wasn’t until Vertumnus appeared before her in his proper person (apparently quite a good looking fellow) that Pomona gave in to his charms. Vertumnus is a god of gardens…

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Jeanne Baret

Jeanne Baret (1740-1807)

“Without casting any aspersions on the naturalist for having retained her for such an arduous voyage, I want to give her all the credit for her bravery, a far cry from the gentle pastimes afforded her sex. She dared confront the stress, the dangers, and everything that happened one could realistically expect on such a voyage. Her adventure should, I think, be included in a history of famous women.” How does a young woman of about 24 years of age end up as a botanist’s aide on a French naval ship in 1766? During the voyage Jeanne sees a world that no peasant girl would ever think to imagine filled with wondrous lands,fascinating marine animals and unknown plants that she…

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Josenphine

Josephine and her rose garden

Josephine Bonaparte  (1763-1814) was born Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie. She was born to a wealthy white family that owned a sugar plantation in Martinique.  After hurricanes destroyed their estate the family looked to improve their finances and Josephine was married in 1779 to Alexandre de Beauharnais, himself from a wealthy aristocratic family. They had two children, a son  Eugene and a daughter Hortense.  In 1794 during the Reign of Terror both Alexandre and Josephine were arrested as aristocratic suspects. Alexandre was sentenced to death in July while Josephine remained imprisoned until her release 5 days later. Then in 1796 she met Napoleon Bonaparte who would marry her on March 9, 1796. Their life together was difficult at…

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