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Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

It’s St David’s Day — Wales’s national day — tomorrow, and to celebrate, it’s Welsh week here at the Nook.

For this week’s pick of the week, therefore, I’ve chosen Daffodil.

The daffodil is well-known as the national flower of Wales, and tomorrow will be worn proudly across the country.

We bought a few bunches of proper Welsh daffodils yesterday and they are now looking very bright and sunny on the kitchen table!

As well as the flower’s connection with Wales, the daffodil is celebrated as one of the symbols of spring par excellence.

Swathes of cheerful daffodils bobbing their heads in the spring sunshine are always an evocative and heartwarming sight after the bleakness of winter.

Indeed, they inspired probably one of the most famous  of all poems about flowers  — William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

In the language of flowers, the daffodil symbolizes both respect and unrequited love—but it can also stand for vanity and deceit—perhaps because for all its cheery charm, the daffodil is poisonous.

Neverthless, I’ve always been a bit surprised that Daffodil as a name is so rare. Like other flowers, it was first used in the nineteenth century, but for some inexplicable reason simply didn’t grab the limelight, even when the similar Daphne was enjoying its vogue (in the British Isles, at least) in the second quarter of the twentieth century.

But with flower names once more in fashion, and other rarities like Bluebell seeing more use, maybe Daffodil’s day is not far away.

It does have the fetching pet-form Dilly, as well as sharing Daphne’s nick-names Daff, Daffi, Daffie and Daffy.

The daffodil’s original name was actually Affodill — which has distinct potential too — and an old, rather charming variant is Daffodilly. Affodill arose from the medieval Latin afodillus and derives ultimately from the Greek asphodelosAsphodel.

Also known as king’s spear, the asphodel was grown as a garden flower and medicinal herb from at least the Middle Ages.  In the ancient world, it was believed that asphodels grew in the Elysian Fields and were the food of the dead. We know that their roots were certainly eaten by the living poor of Ancient Greece, and the plant was used as a remedy against snake-bites and as a protection from sorcery.

The daffodil’s Pagan connotations don’t stop there. Among modern Pagans, it has become the quintessential flower of the Spring Equinox, and is now particularly associated with the Goddess Eostre.

Some other great names with daffodil associations include:

  • Narcissus — used generally of a related flower, as well as being the botanical name for the genus. In Greek mythology, this was the name of the narcissistic youth who fell in love with his own reflection, and the name was often used as a given name in the classical period. The feminine form, Narcissa — pet-form “Cissy” —  occurs, of course, in Harry Potter as the name of Draco Malfoy’s mother.
  • Jonquil — the name of an old type of daff.
  • Narciso — the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish form of NARCISSUS.
  • Narcys — the Polish form of NARCISSUS.
  • Nargis — the Persian for daffodil, used as a girl’s name in Iran (derives ultimately from Narcissus).
  • Nergis — the Turkish for daffodil, used as a girl’s name in Turkey (also derives ultimately from Narcissus).

What better way to capture the spring in a name, than with Daffodil and friends?

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As promised, here’s the second part of Welsh Flowers that have great name potential. Pronunciation at the end if you want to sound like you were born and bred in the Land of Song.

  • Gwaedlys — pink persicaria
  • Gwendon — bedstraw
  • Gwenith y gog — figwort
  • Gwenonwy — lily of the valley
  • Gwern — alder
  • Gwlithlys (g-LITH-lis) — sundew
  • Helogan — celery
  • Helygen — willow
  • Helyglys — lesser willowherb
  • Isop— hyssop
  • Lili Mai — lily of the valley
  • Ller — darnel
  • Llin — flax
  • Llwyfen (“LHOO-ee-ven”) – elm
  • Llyriad — broad-leaved plantain
  • Maglys — lucerne
  • Meillion — clover
  • Melenydd — hawkweed
  • Melyn euraidd — golden rod
  • Melyn Mair — marigold
  • Melenllys — greater celandine
  • Merllys — asparagus
  • Merywen — juniper
  • Mesen — acorn
  • Miaren — briar
  • Murlys — wall pellitory
  • Onnen — ash
  • Oren — orange
  • Pabi — poppy
  • Pansi — pansy
  • Pengaled -(pen-GA-led) – knapweed
  • Persli — parsley
  • Pren — tree
  • Pren Ceri — medlar tree
  • Pren Eirin — plum tree
  • Rhedyn — fern
  • Rhos Mair — Rosemary
  • Rhosmari (ros-MA-ree) — Rosemary
  • Rhosyn — rose
  • Saets — sage
  • Safri — savoury
  • Serenyn — squill
  • Siasmin — jasmine
  • Suran — common sorrel
  • Syfi — strawberries
  • Syfien — strawberry
  • Taglys — field bindweed
  • Tansi — tansy
  • Tegeirian (te-GAY-ree-an) — orchid
  • Teim — thyme
  • Tormaen — golden saxifrage
  • Tresi Aur — laburnum
  • Trilliw (TRI-lhee-oo) — pansy
  • Trydon — agrimony
  • Ywen — yew

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” ipronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

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The adoption of “word names” is much more widespread and accepted in Welsh, and are regularly heard within Wales.

Names of flowers and trees are, naturally, a popular choice too.

But there are still many that have been little used so far, names which are accessible to English-speakers too.

So if you have Welsh heritage you want to honor, or simply a love of Celtic lands, here’s a collection of Welsh flowers and trees for you:

(If you want to say ’em like a native, general pronunciation guidance given at end — unless something is particularly tricky)

  • Aethnen — aspen
  • Afal — apple
  • Afallen — apple-tree
  • Afan — raspberries
  • Afanen — raspberry
  • Alaw — water-lily (also means “melody”)
  • Arian Gwion — yellow rattle (literally Gwion’s silver)
  • Banadl — broom
  • Bedwen — birch
  • Blodyn — flower
  • Bronwerth — borage
  • Brwynen — rush
  • Brythlys — scarlet pimpernel
  • Calon Afal — devil’s bit scabious
  • Camri — camomile
  • Cawnen — reed
  • Ceian — carnation
  • Ceilys — pink
  • Ceirios — cherries
  • Celyn — holly
  • Celyn Mair — butcher’s broom
  • Cenawen — catkins
  • Clais yr hydd — dog’s mercury
  • Clais y moch — clary
  • Clefryn — sheep’s bit scabious
  • Collen — hazel
  • Corsen — reed
  • Crinllys — dog violet
  • Crys y brenin — henbane
  • Cyren — currants
  • Dail Arian — silverweed
  • Danadl — blind nettle
  • Delia — dahlia
  • Derwen — oak
  • Draen — briar
  • Draenen ddu — blackthorn
  • Draenen wen — hawthorn
  • Dringol — common sorrel
  • Drysïen (“DRUH-see-en) — briar
  • Dwyfog (“DOO-ee-vog”) — wood betony
  • Eglyn — golden saxifrage
  • Eirin — plums
  • Eirinen — plum
  • Eirlys — snowdrop
  • Eithen — gorse
  • Elinog — bittersweet
  • Erwain — meadowsweet
  • Eurlys — yellow vetch
  • Fandon — woodruff
  • Fioled — violet
  • Ffarwel haf — Michaelmas daisy
  • Ffion — foxgloves
  • Ffwsia — fuchsia
  • Gellygen — pear-tree
  • Glesyn — borage
  • Greulys — groundsel

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” pronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

Part 2 next week!

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Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be doing Snowdrop as a “Pick of the Week,” but in my “Names from Nature” spot, but I do like breaking rules, especially my own!

And as the snowdrop is one of my favourite flowers, and the mild winter we’re having here in the UK mean the snowdrops are are already in flower, Snowdrop is my choice today.

The snowdrop is one of the most beloved of flowers; so delicate — and yet so tough and hardy, often flowering even when blanketed in snow, the simple, pure white flowers, like dainty bells, quivering on their slender stems. Although all around seems cold and dead, still, there she is, a pioneer of the new season of life returning as the Wheel of the Year begins to turn towards the strengthening sun.

Small wonder she stands for so many concepts, from purity, simplicity, and grace to hope and fortitude in the face of adversity. The snowdrop particularly symbolizes hope in the language of flowers.

It has also been suggested that the snowdrop is the real flower behind the mysterious mythical herb moly, used by Odysseus to thwart Circe‘s potion to turn him into a pig.

Among Pagans, snowdrops are now considered the flower of Imbolc — the cross-quarter festival celebrated on or around February 2, but really, the snowdrop is queen of the whole quarter bwtween the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, often at her peak around the start of February, but frequently in full bloom in January and lingering here and there into March.

Snowdrops are now generally regarded as one of the birth month flowers for January, though as some of their other names include “February’s fair maids” and “candlemas bells,” the associations with February too run deep.

But, be warned, it has long been considered unlucky to bring snowdrops into the house, picked or growing. The ones we put on our nature table are always ones we’ve made ourselves!

The plant’s name is pure English, simply a combination of “snow” and “drop”, just as in “dewdrop” and “raindrop,” and it was first recorded in the seventeenth century.

Snowdrop was first used as a given name — along with other “flower names” — in the nineteenth century. Unsurprisingly, many of the little girls called Snowdrop were registered in the first quarter of the year.

No doubt many of them ended up with the delightful fairy-like nicknames of Snowy or Snowie, as well as plain Snow, which, with that fashionable “-o” gives a little Snowdrop plenty of choice as she grows up, not to mention, somewhat amusingly, Poppy, as a rhyming nickname from the “-drop” bit.

It has always been very rare, never featuring in the American published name data, or featuring in the British equivalent in the last fifteen years.

But if Snowdrop itself is too much of a “word-name” for your taste, there’s still many a lovely option in other languages:

Eirlys, for instance, the Welsh for “snowdrop,” is an established Welsh girl’s name, while the beautiful Endzela is a girl’s name in the former USSR state of Georgia. 

Some of the words for snowdrop in other languages with name potential are:

  • Bucaneve — Italian
  • Freidolina — Piedmontese
  • Galanthus — meaning “milk-flower” in Greek, Galanthus is the flower’s botanical name; very similar is Galanthis, the name of a nymph in Greek mythology, who was turned into a weasel
  • Galanto — Galician
  • Ghiocel — Romanian
  • Gul Hesret — Persian
  • Hóvirág — Hungarian
  • Kardelen  — Turkish and Azerbaijani
  • Kokiche — Bulgarian
  • Lliri de neu — Catalan
  • Lulebore — Albanian
  • Lumikello — Finnish
  • Perce-neige — French
  • Praleska — Belorusian
  • Sněženka — Czech
  • Snežienka — Slovak
  • Snieguolė — Lithuanian
  • Yarguy — Mongolian
  • Zvonček — Slovenian

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This week’s pick of the week is the enchanting Jessamy.

Jessamy is an obsolete form of Jasmine. It is first found in the English language in 1633, in the variant form Jessamie, and had pretty much vanished by the end of the eighteenth century — but not before the Anglo-Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith had bestowed it upon a certain Miss Horneck in the 1770s, with whom he was supposedly in love.

It is first found as a given name as the eighteenth century closed, but it wasn’t until 1968 that it shows up on the radar of the SSA’s published data, and it has never made the top 1000 given names in America.

Likewise, in Britain, it has only ever been rare.

Use since the 1970s might sometimes have been influenced by the character of Lady Jessamy MacAthan, a character in Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series of fantasy novels (1970-).

Another attractive old form of Jasmine which has also seen a little use is Jessamine. This was often the preferred form of Jasmine in poetry in past centuries, and also came into use as a given name at the end of the nineteenth century.

Other obsolete spellings of Jasmine which would make deliciously unusual names include: Jacamine, Jasamine. Jasimine, Jesemy, Jessema, Jessima, Jezmin and Josma.

Jasmine itself has seen a lot of popularity in recent years, partly perhaps encouraged by the name’s use for the princess in Disney’s Aladdin (1992).

It is generally regarded as one of the “flower names” adopted at the end of the nineteenth century — but it was actually first used as a given name much earlier than that — as far back as the sixteenth century.

Although like Rose and Lily, it was early associated with the flower, its initial use probably came about as a late variant of Ismenia.

This curious name is often derived from the Greek Ismene, from ismê “knowledge.”

However, evidence suggests its true roots are Celtic, although its meaning is obscure. It may possibly be ultimately connected with the Common Celtic *moyni- “treasure,” which became muin in Old Welsh, and mwyn “worth” and “value” in Middle Welsh.

Another late variant of this intriguing name is probably Jesmond, found in Lancashire in the Early Modern period in a number of spellings, such as Jessimond, Jismond, Jesmaine and Gismond.

As for jasmine (or jessamy or jessamine) the evergreen climbing shrub, it is understandably much loved. With its delicate flowers and sweet scent, it is particularly associated with love. Even today, Witches still use it in love spells.

The essential oil has been used since ancient times, as a medicine, ritual ungent and aphrodisiac. It is still valued today for its ability to relieve depression, promote relaxation, not to mention ease childbirth. When used in a carrier for massage, it is also used to heal scarring.

The ultimate derivation of the word “jasmine” is the Arabic yās(a)mīn “jasmine,” itself from the Persian yāsmīn, which probably originally was used of the oil. Yasmin is also a popular girl’s name in the Islamic world, and has also sometimes used by non-Muslims since it was introduced to the West in James Elroy Flecker’s 1922 play Hassan.

A well-known bearer is the model Yasmin le Bon (b.1964), who is half-Iranian.

Jessamy, Jessamine and Jessimond are all perfect if you like Jess as a nickname, but think Jessica is just too tired. All have long histories, rich meaning and symbolism which make for thumping good names.

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O Tiger-lily... I wish you could talk!

I have to say up front, I love the name Tigerlily. It’s bold, quirky and zesty. It has sparkle. It dances in the dewy grass in the bright new light of the Age of Aquarius.

And, unlike many names, it offers plenty of scope to be tailored to suit the bearer.

Thus a child who grows up to be ultra-conservative can quietly drop the Tiger and go by plain Lily.

The cooky one can become a Tiggy.

The cutsey one in pig-tails will be a Tilly.

The feisty spitfire can embrace Tiger.

And the tomboy can plum for gender-neutral Ty.

And the one ready to embrace the world and take all it throws, the one who will laugh in the rain, sleep under the stars, climb mountains, sing by the camp-fire till dawn, kayak down rapids, and find the cure for cancer is Tigerlily!

It’s not a name, however, you will find many people sitting on the fence over. It’s one that people will immediately love — or immediately hate.

In genuine given name use only since the late twentieth century, it is still very rare. In the US, there were only 14 little girls called Tigerlily in 2010, and 5 called Tigerlilly.

In the UK, there were 9 babies called Tigerlily in the UK 2010, and 3 each of Tiger-Lily and Tigerlilly. There were also eight little girls called Tiger — who are probably Tiger Lilies (only first names and hyphenated names appear in the statistics).

As Tiger Lily, it features famously as the name of the Native American princess in J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904).

It has featured in numerous other fictional and cultural settings, from a little girl in the gentle world of Rupert Bear, to Bubbles “Tiger Lily” White in the 1940 film Dance, Girl, Dance — not to mention several songs of the name over the years.

Probably the best known (perhaps infamous) example of it as a real name is that of (Heavenly Hiraani) Tiger Lily, daughter of the tragic Paula Yates and Michael Hutchance, both dead before their daughter was five.

Tiger lily is the popular name of more than one lily with orange blooms marked with black spots, though the classic is Lilium lancifolium, a native of North-East Asia and Japan.

But there are also the American Lilium catesbaei (also known as the leopard lily, Catesby’s lily, the southern red lily and the pine lily), Lilium columbianum (which also goes by the name Columbia lily), and Lilium superbum (Turk’s cap lily, turban lily and swamp lily). There’s also the wild tiger lily Lilium philadelphicum (chalice-cup lily, wood lily etc).

In the language of flowers, the bright, bold tiger lily represents wealth and pride. But it is still a lily, and shares the lily’s strongly feminine associations, which go back to ancient times.

Lilies are associated with more than one Goddess. Principally, it is the flower of Juno — Queen of Heaven — and most symbolic of purity. Brides have been carrying lilies in their wedding bouquets since the days of the Romans.

Tiger lilies have medical uses too; a tincture is used in various problems arising in pregnancy, while the flower essence is used to help control aggression and chanel it more positively. In China, meanwhile, tiger lily buds are eaten — both fresh and dried.

So, you see, there’s a great deal more to Tigerlily than a Disney princess. If you like something different, something daring, perhaps Tigerlily is the name for you.

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I have been blessed this year with a magnificent patch of white betony in my herb garden. Its malachite green leaves and spikes of creamy-white flowers have taken over a whole bed!

Several years ago, I encountered a girl called Betony, and it struck me immediately what a marvelous girl’s name it made.

Her sister had the equally beautiful name of Aster — but that’s another story.

Betony comes from Late Latin betonica, itself from the classical vetonnica. Pliny recorded that this was the name given to the plant by the Gauls, who were said to have named it after the Vettones — a Celtiberian tribe — whom they claimed were the first to discover its properties.

Whatever the truth of the origins of its name, it is known that betony has been one of the most prized of all herbs since ancient times; its reknown was so great that it was believed that even animals knew of its powers, and a stag injured by an arrow — but not killed — would seek out betony, eat it, and be healed.

The Anglo-Saxons, in particular, valued it above all other herbs.

By the Middle Ages, it was regarded as a panacea, and used to treat almost anything, from dog-bites to toothache, jaundice to gout.

An old saying, originating in Sussex, was, ‘sell your coat and buy betony’, testimony to the high esteem in which it was held.

No physic garden was ever without it, and even today, it can still be found growing around the ruins of monasteries.

By the 20th century, it had become neglected, but modern herbalists are using it once more, and incorporating it in treatments for some headaches and neuralgia, as well as anxiety — always among its foremost uses.

A weak betony tea (not all that dissimilar in taste to normal tea) taken three times a day is still reckoned a good treatment for tension-related headaches and to soothe period pain.

It is also still considered useful for treating diarrhoea and indigestion.

Be warned though, fresh leaves are said to cause intoxication, and it is not a herb to be used in pregnancy.

But in the days of yore, betony wasn’t just rated for its medicinal qualities. It was considered to be a powerful herb of magic, offering protection against ‘the dark arts’ and ‘evil spirits’.

As a result, it was often planted in churchyards, and by houses. People would wear it to guard against ‘fearful visions’ and to drive away ‘devils and despair’.

Even today, many witches and druids still use betony to protect the soul and the body against harm.

A further interesting ancient folk belief regarding betony was that snakes would fight and kill each other wherever betony had been planted in a ring.

As a girl’s name, Betony is very rare, and what use it has seen has largely been since the 1970s.

But with poor old Betty now seemingly thoroughly out to pasture, and Betsy only just starting to rise again in the UK, Betony — with all its rich and evocative layers of meaning — could be seen as providing a distinctly contemporary alternative.

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