Monday, March 02, 2009

Associations between gardening and prayer are pretty obvious, - both done fervently and with a degree of discipline, joy and frustration. And on one's knees!

Jane Mossendew's series "Gardening with God" illustrates the link between the church year and the cycles of nature. I first became aware of these books in 2006, and in Lent of that year I read "Thorn, Fire and Lily" which begins on Ash Wednesday.

This year, with spring so late here in the Similkameen and Easter middling so, it seems like a hopeful occupation to re-read the Lenten meditations and all the lovely plant information with their Lenten themes.

When I started reading on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday I was delighted to discover that Borage, the Star flower was the plant of the day.

Borage and I have a long time relationship, - sometimes loving, sometimes despairing when the plant becomes too bold and decides to carry on with other garden flowers. It turns up in the most unexpected places, and although it never fails to enhance the scene, sometimes it's just a bit too much.

With its hairy leaves it is not hard to associate it with the "hair shirt" of lenten discipline. Jane Mossendew likes to think that Borage comes from the old Celtic borrach, meaning courage, "and that if this is true it could have been brought to Gaul and thence to Britain in early Christian times".

"Whatever the truth, it has long been known as the 'herb of courage' and ladies would embroider its bright blue flowers on the jerkins of knights about to depart for the Crusades".

What a versatile herb it is. It has a euphoric effect, and has been used to treat depression, - and in that vein it was once the herb of Plimms, before it was replaced by mint.

If it is used in salads it is expected to exhilarate and make the mind glad, - the opinion of Gerard in The Herbalist (1597). And he continues to tells us that Borage is also used for the "comfort of the heart, to drive away sorrow and increase the joy of the minde" A truly excellent plant, despite its wandering ways - the most appealing of blues.

Early summer mornings in the garden, when the flowers of the flax open their lovely blue eyes, and the borage winds amongst the roses and the lilies, it is true blue delight.

Yesterday, the first Sunday in Lent, stachys, or Lamb's Ear was the plant Jane Mossendew chose to remind us of the words of the Prayer of General Confession "we have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep". Alas, in our Ecumenical church we no longer repeat this old familiar prayer.

Lamb's Ear is another of those nomads of the garden, - I even find it down along the lane, and it ventures further and further out past the confines of the garden.

I remember almost sixty years ago, when we were so young and in the church, singing All in an April Evening - I saw the sheep with their lambs and I thought on the Lamb of God. Sometimes, in the spring, I play it as an organ prelude.

Today I brought in some 'sticks' from the forsythia, and a few small branches from the flowering almond. The almond is the plant for tomorrow, and as I turn the page I see a note to myself 'plant a flowering almond this spring - will it have ten years to grow?' Well, it has had three, and is doing famously. We rescued it from the Lost Garden that we moved from, - it had been run over by a tractor. Charles and I found a great spot for it, planted it tenderly, and now in the spring it is covered with small pink blooms.

My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
Song of Solomon 6:2

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