News and Events
Since the 1980s the Oxfordshire village of Ducklington has held a Fritillary Sunday late in April to raise funds for its parish church. In 2017 the event took place on Sunday 23 April. A meadow a short walk from the village centre is open to the public and people are invited to enjoy the the fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) which grow there. Although there are other sites which are better known and where fritillaries grow in greater abundance, it is said that it is only at Ducklington that people are not confined to set paths, but are free to wander amongst the flowers. Each year the event attracts about 1,000 people.
The field is open from 11.30 a.m. until 5.00 p.m., and additional attractions include a plant stall, ploughman’s lunches and cream teas, displays by the local morris side, tours of the church tower, and handbell ringing – a typical English village event.
Arrangement of lilies (Lilium cv.) at entrance to All Saints Parish Church, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, 19 April (four days after Easter Sunday) 2017.
Near the font there was another list of people in whose memory lilies had been donated, it appears that these lilies were incorporated in flower arrangements, which also included yellow chrysanthemums and carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus), placed around the church.
Following the death of Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield, in 1881 the Primrose League was established in 1883 to commemorate his work and promote his political ideas. On the anniversary of his death, 19 April, supporters wore primroses (Primula vulgaris) and primroses were placed on memorials to him.
On 19 April 2017 Hughenden Manor, Disraeli’s home in Buckinghamshire, was visited to find out to what extent Primrose Day lingers on. Although there are pictures on the internet of Disraeli’s grave in St Michael and All Angels churchyard planted with primroses, at present it is planted with a rather ordinary selection of common garden plants. A few, apparently wild, primroses grow on another grave in the churchyard. The Disraeli memorial inside the church was undecorated.
In the Manor house, now owned by the National Trust a basket of primrose plants was placed near a statuette of Disraeli, and in a poorly-lit cabinet in the same room there was what appeared to be the bunch of primroses which Queen Victoria sent to Disraeli’s funeral.
Later in the day Parliament Square, in Westminster, was visited; the Disraeli statue there was undecorated.
White lilies (Lilium cv.) bought in memory of the dead, St Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral, Dublin, Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017, where they were the only flowers in the church.
Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, Dublin, had large arrangements of white flowers – chrysanthemums, carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) and lilies -placed by the pillars of the nave.
Roy Vickery will be leading a Plant Walk in Brompton Cemetery, Earls Court, London, on Saturday 22 April, starting at the Chapel in the middle of the cemetery, at 2.30 p.m.
For further details see the Events page on this website.
Report: Seven people turned up to enjoy a sunny hour looking at, and discussing, some of the cemetery’s plants. Amongst these were thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), which having a short life-cycle is used in genetic research, and green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens), native to southwest Europe, introduced to the British Isles as a dye-plant, and now rapidly spreading. Despite its name it produces a red dye; the ‘green’ in the English name being a contraction of its earlier name, evergreen alkanet. Several participants contributed memories to P-LA. Thank you.
Field horsetail (Equisetum arvense), photographed in the cemetery, April 2017.
It seems that the idea of asking people to donate money in memory of dead friends and relatives to buy lilies to decorate churches at Easter started soon after the end of the Second World War. Initially altar (also known as arum) lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) were bought, but more recently they appear to have been replaced by Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum).
Photograph taken at All Saints church, Notting Hill, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, 9 April 2017.
In 2017 Palm Sunday for Christians in both the Eastern Orthodox and the western traditions fell on the same day, 9 April. It was planned to visit the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Notting Hill, and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Divine Wisdom, in Bayswater. However, on the way a young woman was spotted at Oxford Street tube station carrying a Palm Sunday decoration composed on dyed grass flowerheads and dried Helichrysum flowers. She explained that this was a Ukrainian tradition.
On arriving at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral at about 10 a.m. there was little evidence of ‘palms’, but two containers near the front of the church contained freshly-leaved willow (Salix) twigs, and some of these, evidently brought by members of the congregation, were scattered at random around the church.
About an hour later, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, ‘palm’ was even less in evidence, but a few elderly women had brought along small twigs of olive (Olea europaea). The major icons on the iconostasis were decorated with dried palm fronds.
Finally a visit was paid to St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, in Kensington. Here, at about 1 p.m., the congregation were leaving the church, and ornaments made from palm fronds were abundant. It seemed as if people were provided with palm and then encouraged to weave, plait, or twist, it to make whatever ornament pleased them. Some of the older men wore simple palm crosses, similar to those used in western churches, but many other people had produced fan-like ornaments, finger rings, and more elaborate crosses.
The First World War Battle of Vimy Ridge, was fought between the Canadian Corps and the German Sixth Army, between the 9 and 12 April 1917. To mark the centenary of this wreaths were placed on the Canada Memorial, unveiled by the Queen in 1994 to commemorate the estimated one million Canadian personnel who served in the two World Wars, in Green Park, London.
The wreaths, made entirely from artificial materials, featured poppies (Papaver), maple (Acer) leaves, and palm fronds.
Photograph taken 6 April 2017.
Elsewhere on the website we have noted the growing tendency to place poppy wreaths on memorials which have nothing to do with the First World War and subsequent military engagements. As an example we mentioned the placing of a wreath on a drinking-fountain on Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth, commemorating Joseph James Jones, who promoted organised games for boys. The fountain was erected in 1938, so even if Jones wasn’t a participant in the first World War he presumably lived through it.
More bizarre is the placing of two poppy wreaths at the base of the bust of Joseph Paxton, in Crystal Palace Park, London Borough of Bromley. Today Paxton is best remembered for as a designer of glasshouses, including the Crystal Palace which he designed for the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851, and moved to south London, where it stood from 1854 until its destruction by fire in 1936. As Paxton died in 1865 the placing of poppy wreaths on his memorial seems anachronistic and inappropriate. One of the wreaths has a label attached which might explain things, but unfortunately this is no longer legible.
Although no collecting was organised useful information was received, mainly via the website. The Archive now contains 7387 items of information from 1992 contributors.
8,158 searches of the website were made during the month (up from 6,062 in March 2016).
Some progress was made with the writing of the Folk Flora, and a St David’s Day visit was paid to Cardiff.
Fridge magnet, made in China, depicting woman in Welsh national dress, and surrounded by daffodils (Narcissus) the Welsh national flower; purchased Cardiff, March 2017.