Common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is known by many names: quickthorn, whitethorn, one-seed hawthorn, thornapple, hawberry, May-tree and Mayflower. In the Highlands there is a saying, “Cast ne’er a cloot til the May be oot”, which means, “Don’t put your winter clothes away until the hawthorn is in flower”.
Hawthorn holds deep pagan roots as a symbol of fertility and carries ancient ties to the celebration of May Day. It stands as the precursor to the Maypole, while its leaves and flowers served as the inspiration for May Day garlands. It was considered, however, bad form to bring the flowers indoors because they don’t smell very nice. In medieval times, they reminded villagers of the smell of the plague!
The Hawthorn tree can live up to 400 years. It was a favourite of farmers back in the day because its prickly, fast-growing thorns could contain even the most adventurous livestock!
Once pollinated by various insects, the Hawthorn's flowers give way to the development of deep-red fruits known as 'haws.' These fruits add a touch of vibrant colour to the tree and often serve as a vital food source for wildlife during the autumn months.
Native to Western Europe, bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are abundant in the UK and often an indicator of old woodland, especially coppiced woodland. They are easily identified by their purple bell-shaped flowers, and as a perennial herb, spend most of their lifespan underground as bulbs. They bloom in groups starting in April. Owing to their early flowering, bluebells are an important source of nectar for various insects such as woodland butterflies, bees and hoverflies.
Bluebells are associated with numerous folktales, often centered around dark fairy magic. The bluebell woods were thought to be enchanted by fairies, who used them to ensnare people. According to superstition, hearing a bluebell ring may foretell a visit from a malicious fairy and imminent death! Today, researchers are learning more about bluebells’ highly effective animal and insect repellent properties. There’s even evidence that certain bluebell extracts can be used to treat cancer!
In the language of flowers, a gift of a Bluebell means “Visit” as in when guests visit, the bell will make a clear sound.
Rhododendrons are a beautiful and popular species of flowering shrub. They come in a variety of colours, from deep purple to bright pink, and are widely cultivated for their showy flowers and attractive foliage. The flowers are often fragrant and can attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
However, in the UK, rhododendrons have become an invasive species, spreading rapidly and outcompeting native plants. Here at Solsgirth Home Farm, we have a collection of vintage rhododendrons that were purposefully planted for their rare colours back in the late-19th century. Because of their historical significance to the site, we have decided to intensively manage our rhododendron collection, keeping the rarer colours while inhibiting their spread. We also aim to promote the growth of native species, to ensure that they are not outcompeted by the rhododendrons.
In the language of flowers, a gift of a Rhododendron can say different things to people all over the world. In Japan it symbolizes hard work and success, while in Nepal it is a symbol of appreciation to a spouse.