FAR FETCHED BOTANICALS PLANTS THAT HAVE INSPIRED FAIRY TALES
‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ ROALD DAHL
F A R F E T C H E D B O T A N I C A L S: Plants that have inspired Fairy Tales AN EXHIBITION Botanical Paintings by Mariella Baldwin THE GALLERY @ GREEN & STONE 251-253 F u l h a m R o a d LONDON SW3 6HY Tel: 0207 - 352 - 0837 www. greenandstone.com ***** 1-7 APRIL 2019 ****
INTRODUCTION â€˜What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit world of childhood.â€™ BEATRIX POTTER Stories; fairy tales, folklore and legends have been passed down through the generations and across continents for time immemorial. Once upon a time the heritage of these stories was in the oral tradition, at a time when possibly the nights seemed longer and darker, the journeys slower and longer, and the idea of magic abounded. With the advent of the Gutenberg Printing Press, during the 15th century, stories and herbals became committed to print, predominantly in Latin at first, only slowly moving to the vernacular. In the 18th century as the Age of Enlightenment progressed, spreading out from Central Europe across the globe, greater attention was given to the printed word and images. Natural Philosophy developed as a discipline with people finding greater leisure time with which to consider, document and examine the natural world. Writers and poets were becoming aware of the need to preserve the tales from the oral tradition for posterity and at the same time philosophers, artists and scientists were beginning to explore the science and art of colour. Botanists, gardeners and horticulturalists were becoming aware of plants from other continents and seeking the novel and the new. Artists were charged with documenting the collections. Once about discovery; now about conservation. Wars, persecutions, and famines have always lead to the movement of populations and with them their stories and seeds. Seeds harvested and stored, together with familiar stories, travelled with people making new homes in new provinces, countries and continents - both giving comfort in familiarity.
Adventurers also travelled the Silk Road and the oceans, exchanging crops, seeds and stories, amongst other treasures along the way. Plants also have their own mechanisms for transporting themselves across lands and waters in their own quest for survival. This collection of paintings brings together a selection of fairy tales and the plants that inspired the story; delving into the history of the origin of the plant and how it came to influence and shape the tale. Inspiration for the paintings has come from historical herbals which brought plant knowledge to a wider audience during the 16th century and beyond. The traditional style of the paintings has been deliberately chosen as an illustrative narrative of the plant to compliment the fairy tale. Each spring as plants begin to wake up from their dormancy a magical miracle occurs - the life bursting from Pumpkin is excellent illustration of this magic. The shoot from a relatively small flat seed rapidly grows and grows . . . and grows, to the glory of the harvest of a lustrous autumnal globe often of gargantuan proportions. This miracle can be stored and used over the winter months - but of equal wonder - the dust-like, microscopic seed of Rampion blossoming into a delicate dancing of bells, or pea seeds bursting into life so swiftly and easily providing an abundance of progeny to nourish us. Often these plants which sustain us, and the insect world upon which we depend to pollinate our plants, can be overlooked by the distracting and perceived glitz and glamour of our modern lives. This exhibition of work aims to tempt people to look at these plants just a little more intently and hopefully share in the magic. As mentioned, in the past plant descriptions were written, and more specifically, in Greek or Latin! Whilst impenetrable to the majority of the population there was a brevity afforded by the Latin language keeping descriptions relatively simple. Botanical Latin is a specific international language combining both Latin and Greek, used to describe the living world. Botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) devised a binomial system of recording and describing plants. The first name donates its family (genus) and the second its diagnostic feature that makes it different from another plant in the same
family, (species). I believe it was, and is, a work of genius. No matter where you are in the world, and no matter what language you speak, there is a commonality in understanding the plant kingdom. Brevity however can present problems particularly in descriptive scientific writing, which incidentally can be also applied to the literary narrative. Essential components, often the subtle - and possibly the boring ones - can be omitted. However, when it comes to drawing and painting, I am in accord with Cambridge botanist, Agnes Arber (1879-1960) ‘Artistic expression offers a mode of translation of sense data into thought, without subjecting them to the narrowing influence of an inadequate verbal framework; the verb, ‘to illustrate’, retains, in this sense, something of its ancient meaning - ‘to illuminate’.
F A R F E T C H E D B O T A N I C A L S: PLANTS THAT HAVE INSPIRED FAIRY TALES ‘Colour is the ultimate in art. It is still and will always remain a mystery to us, we can only apprehend it intuitively in flowers.’ Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1820)
THE PLANTS AND THEIR STORIES I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X
Viola Rampion Barley Blackberry Rose Tulip Pea Runner Bean Pumpkin Lily
Midsummer Night’s Dream Rapunzel Rumpelstiltskin Sleeping Beauty Beauty and the Beast Thumbelina Princess and the Pea Jack and the Beanstalk Cinderella Peter Pan
‘In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected. Our English red tape is too magnificently red ever to employed in the tying up of such trifles, but every one who has considered the subject knows full well that a nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will, hold a great place under the sun.’
CHARLES DICKENS The ‘germ’ of an idea, takes root, grows and blossoms, finally bearing fruit in the form of a marvellous story. Once upon a fictitious time . . . not this time nor any time that’s possible to pin down, but a time possibly in the imaginations of those who lived when the nights seemed darker and longer. During long dark nights of winter the imagination can easily be fuelled by the distorted shadows cast by the fading sunlight, a warming fire or candle light. The mind has the extraordinary ability to muster all sorts of shapes and forms and with this the ability to see images, or imagine abstract forms creating ghosts and ghouls, pixies and elves, and even armies by the shadows cast, in the phenomena known as pareidolia. At a time when families gathered round the fire for warmth, stories too were gathered and exchanged orally passing on through the generations, almost in a continuum of time. Modern fairy tales are more commonly committed to print or digital format, and even originating or translated into a film and/or theatre production. Charles Perrault and the Brother’s Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, are famed for collecting oral stories and saving them for posterity - but they weren’t alone. The Arabian Nights come to us in a collection of stories gathered from the oral tradition and Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen made contributions too, as well as creating his own tales. Author Italo Cavalo, Italian collector and teller of fairy tales, remarks on the fluidity of tales and that every teller brings a different emphasis to their tale although, they follow the same train. Philip Pullman’s critique of the fairy tale describes the framework so eloquently. How the details are pared back to the minimum. Little or no description of features or characteristics. The pace, energetic; the
ending, secure. In between, the story, of wickedness, injustice, stupidity, trickery, vanity, naivety, and with a counterbalance of purity, goodness, kindness, justice, selflessness, fairness . . . and much comeuppance. Within each tale there is almost always a moral - the key apparently is to find it. â€œIn ancient times a story could end only in two ways: having passed all the tests, the hero and the heroine married, or else they died. The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.â€? Italo Calvino Plants seem to be relatively neutral participants in the tales. Skullduggery and trickery have been attached to some human exchange and cultivation of plants, but please forgive me if I ignore this and just get stuck into the plant world and try to find out how each particular plant captured a spirit of wonder, and with it our imagination. These stories, just as the fabulous plants, have travelled the globe. The stories and plants have often moved with populations forced to move for any number of reasons. Equally the stories as well as the plants have been collected and brought home by adventurers and explorers. I have selected some of the more notable tales from the vast collection available, and within the timeframe from William Shakespeare to the 20th century. My viewpoint is from Britain, as that has formed my perspective. My ancestry like so many of us is varied; English, Scottish, Russian, French Huguenot, and through serendipity I fetched up in Britain. My approach has been inspired by the fairy tale tradition and I openly admit I have let my imagination flourish with the information
I have gleaned in my research. For those of a more exacting nature, I apologise. ‘What you have not drawn, you haven’t seen’. Julius Von Sachs The quote from Julius Von Sachs (1730-1860) taken from Cambridge botanist Agnes Arber’s book ‘The Mind and the Eye’, published in 1953. A bold claim! Certainly worth exploring - we have more information at our fingertips than ever before including photographic images. However the photographic image and the internet can also present problems. The photographic image can distort the accurate identification of colour and scale of a plant and also the moisture content within the plant when translated into a photographic image can obscure the detail. Nevertheless, I hope I will demonstrate with my painting of the selected plants, that a transcribed drawing can be an invaluable resource for plant identification. Some of the first botanical illustrations appeared in herbals, and following the invention of the Gutenberg Press, the distribution and reach of plant information was able to broaden enormously. As many have pointed out this invention was as innovative as the internet is to us in the 20th/21st century. It allowed the reproduction of images of plants using woodcuts rather than relying on a written description of a plant. Frequently copies were made from previous artists’ work which often bore little resemblance to the original observed from nature. To make a modern day comparison the Co-Op supermarket ran an advert for cotton Fair Trade bags (during 2017). It would appear that the photograph was found on the internet, and then cut and pasted from a stock photo; it was a good photograph of clematis seed heads - but not cotton!
The first printed impressions of plants were made on woodcuts and they tended to give a single overall illustration of the plant. Charles de l’Écluse, (1526-1609) known as Clusius, included fruiting as well as flowering stages in his depiction of plants, therefore increasing the botanical value of his descriptions. His work has influenced my interpretation and presentation of plants for this project. Following the declaration of Von Sachs I firmly believe in his maxim, the more one draws - truly - the more one sees. Nevertheless judicious editing is sometimes required often due to the constraints of the size of paper and omissions can arise due to the vagaries of nature, or plant availability. The paintings are unapologetically old fashioned and traditional. Rather than focusing on a ‘wow’ factor of a plant; extracting a specific feature from the whole, or enlarging it, my paintings have attempted to chart the life cycle of the plant as far as possible. The idea is to hold a mirror to the tales with a beginning, a middle and an end and as such I wish to present a plant narrative. As I have tried to find the origin of the tale, so I have attempted to find the origin of the plant. Geography and topography have the ability to shape tales. Vast desert planes of Arabia and Northern India, the mountains of China or the Steppes of Russia and beyond with searing summer heat and bitter cold winters, will provide a different backdrop to the limited horizon of a deep, dark Bavarian forest - and the shadows that lurk there. The geography and topography also shapes the vegetation. The Arabian Nights seem to pay very little attention, if any, to plant life. The stories tend to centre around the cities, or the vast tracks of land and seas, with Djins and Ogres appearing from pots, jars and oceans.
Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov worked extensively, travelling the world, to establish centres of origin of plants - his work followed on from the French botanist De Candolle. According to Vavilov, to determine the native lands of cultivated plants, De Candolle sought to determine the lands of cultivated plants by distinguishing between a naturalised plant and the primitive wild state of a species. Separating the original discovery in the wild state from a later naturalisation of a species which has settled in an area away from its place of origin. Following a massive famine in the USSR Vavilov’s remit as a botanist was to try to find disease and drought resistant strains of food plants focusing predominately on economic grasses, such as Barley, Wheat and Oats for breeding purposes and thus searched for the centres of origin. His attempt was to find solutions to prevent natural disasters leading to famine. Ironically he fell out of favour with the Stalin and was ultimately imprisoned in Siberia where he starved to death. Critiques of fairy tale have been made; politically, culturally, socially, psychologically, symbolically, ethically, religiously, topographically, morally, but little botanically. From my research it would appear that insufficient attention seems to have been given to the plant life which features in many of the stories, the plants seem to form an incidental part of the story almost as if we are separated from, rather than part of, nature. The influence of these fairy tales travel as far and as wide as the plants themselves. During the Christmas period in Britain the Pantomime season begins and almost to a performance, they are all fairytales. Astrophysics refer to the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ - an atmosphere that is neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life; one that is ‘just right’. In physics porridge has been used to test the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Philosopher Alain de Botton, comparing the differences in sensitivity between Marcel Proust and his brother
Robert, takes the analogy of the pea; whilst Marcel would toss and turn under the presence of the smallest of peas under his mattress, his brother Robert would barely notice the presence of “five tins of peas”. We are familiar with Snow White’s rosy but poisonous apple, Jack’s giant beans, Cinderella’s fairy tale coach, Sleeping Beauty’s castle hidden by a forest of thorns . . . As these tales have been passed down through generations so too have the plant seeds and cuttings, and with them wisdom, knowledge and folklore. It is thus that I come to speculate on how these plants were introduced into the fairy tale and from whence they came. So, leap in with me into a botanising adventure exploring the life and histories of the plants that have appeared in some of the most loved fairy tales and which form the backbone to the stories. Swiftness is a great virtue in the fairy tale. All we need is the word “Once . . .” and we’re off’. Philip Pullman
I A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM William Shakespeare (1564-1616) 1605 Viola tricolor Heart’s-ease. Violaceae. Source: Chiltern Seeds, Wallingford
‘A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.’ ROALD DAHL
A M I D S U M M E R N I G H T ’ S D R E A M: V i o l a In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Oberon king of the fairies squeezes the juice of ‘love in idleness’ - Viola tricolor - into Titania’s eye so she would fall in love with the the ass-headed Bottom on waking. Act II:i:168 Oberon. Yet mark’d I where the bolt of Cupid fell: It fell upon a little western flower, Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound, And maidens call it “love-in-idleness”. The Viola has endured as a symbol of love, no doubt helped along by Shakespeare. Whilst a Midsummer Night’s Dream is not a fairy tale in the strict sense of a narrated story passed down through generations, it is among the first to be written and performed as a play . . . and it entertains still. The wild pansy or Hearts-Ease flowers abundantly in Britain and it is now considered to be a native. ‘The pansy, although only a herbal simple, has gained the name of Hearts-Ease, because it tranquilizes and puts the Heart at Ease’. Hilda Leyel 1948. The term ‘simple’ with reference to plants has fallen out of language. In the 16th and 17th century herbs were described as simples, i.e. the simple constituents of compound medicines. Mrs. Hilda Leyel had an extensive knowledge of herbal medicine and natural healing. She was a follower of the 17th century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper. Culpeper, had a strong belief in astrological botany and a deep concern for the sick and poor. Herb gathers up until 17th century aimed at creating a monopoly by protecting their craft with all types of superstitions handed down by word of mouth, most of which had for their moral that
herb collecting was too complicated and dangerous a pursuit for the humble citizen. Culpepper published an unauthorised translation of the Pharmacopoea Londonensis of 1618 from Latin into English making the knowledge of herbal remedies available to all. Plants still form the basis for many modern medicines and through the skill of chemists who have synthesised the elements from various plants to make medicines available to many which otherwise would be difficult by traditional methods. King James I introduced the first Patent (The Statute of Monopolies 1624) which arrived too late to give the College any protection from Culpepperâ€™s translation, however, my understanding is that whilst you can patent a process to make a medicine, a plant itself cannot be patented. Previously much of the knowledge had been held within the walls of the Monastery, controlled by the Church, and thus the Monarch. It was mainly due to the invention of the Printing Press that increased the spread of plant knowledge and the addition of illustrations in herbals further enhanced knowledge, releasing the hold of the Church and State.
II RAPUNZEL Brothers Grimm - from Charlotte-Rose de Chaumont de la Force’s ‘Persinette’. 1812 Campanula rapunculus. Rampion. Campanulaceae. Source: Margaret Mason Nursery, Wales
‘The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.’ W.H. AUDEN
R A P U N Z E L: R a m p i o n In this tale a couple yearned for a child. When at last they were blessed with the promise of a child the expectant mother craved Rampion, also known as Rapunzel, from the garden of their neighbour who was also a witch. The husband agreed to procure some Rampion from the neighbour under the cover of darkness, but was caught. In exchange for his theft he agreed in a moment of fright and frenzy to hand over the baby to the witch when it was born. The child, a girl, was named Rapunzel. Rampion, was once a common useful winter salad crop, especially in Northern Europe. The leaves can be used as spinach, as they are rich in Vitamin C and have good tonic properties. Campanula rapunculus, a herbaceous perennial, was cultivated in Europe as a vegetable and grown in former times in England for the same purpose; however it has fallen out of favour. Some vegetables fall out of favour because other vegetables, often from a distance, are more profitable. New horticultural practices were brought over to Britain with Flemish Hugenot refugees including cultivation according to the phases of the moon. It is believed that the first refugees arrived in Sandwich in Kent in 1685, and all along the Eastern seaboard of England and Scotland. The fertile lowlands were particularly suited to agriculture. Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire remain important areas of market gardening in England. In the 16th, 17th and 18th century both the Low Countries and France were more advanced than Britain agriculturally, favouring intensive farming methods, which gradually gained favour in Britain. Seed selling became a business during the 16th century with its headquarters in London. Chelseaâ€™s fertile soil contributed to the fact that it was an important centre of thriving
market garden businesses in England. At this time all along the Kingâ€™s Road and the river bank in Chelsea was a centre of horticultural trade and was particularly famed for lettuce production. According to records, Chelseaâ€™s Mossop Street was formerly known as Lettuce Lane. The root of Rampion can be boiled or eaten raw with oil and vinegar and is said to taste similar to walnuts. If the roots are to be eaten the plant should be prevented from flowering. The tiny seeds are as fine as pixie dust and it is reputed to be a prolific self-seeder given favourable conditions; cool damp verges. The flowers are typical of the campanula family and of the palest soft blue with a hint of violet, growing on slender curving stems, not dissimilar to the native and diminutive Harebell, but of greater stature growing between 40 and 80 cm high. The flowering period is between May and September. It is very charming and a surprise it is not more widely grown.
III RUMPELSTILTSKIN Published in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm 1857 Hordeum vulgare var. nudum. Naked Barley. Poaceae Source: Cathy Palmer, Wales
I believe that every story is attended by its own sprite, whose voice we embody when we tell the tale, and that we tell it more successfully if we approach the sprite with a certain degree of respect and courtesyâ€™. PHILIP PULLMAN
R U M P E L S T I L T S K I N: B a r l e y In the Grimm version of this tale, a poor miller tries to impress the King with the idea that his daughter can spin straw into gold. During the 16th and early 17th century Alchemy was all the rage, especially the concept of turning base metal into gold; the imperfect to the pure. “Nature doth first beget the imperfect, then proceeds she to the perfect” (2:3) from The Alchemist. The Alchemist, a play by Ben Jonson, was first performed in 1610 by the King’s Men, and has at its core three conmen, Subtle, Face and Doll. Subtle, the Alchemist in the play, sets out to deceive by promising to turn all manner of things to gold. ‘I’ll believe that alchemy is a pretty kind of game, somewhat like tricks o’the cards to cheat a man’. 2:3 In this fairy tale a wizened elfin-like, mercurial, Rumpelstiltskin comes across the distressed girl and offers to spin the straw into gold. As the miller’s greed grows, Rumpelstiltskin’s demands increase until he finally demands her firstborn child in exchange, unless she can guess his name. She manages to learn his name with the help of a messenger who discovers the little man in the woods singing with glee that noone will guess that he is called Rumplestiltskin. He returns with the news, and she therefore gets to keep her child. Barley is one of the most ancient of all cultivated plants. Naked barley’s grains thresh freely out of the husks. Indeed verily do they pop from their husks with great vigour. In the time of Julius Caesar, (55 BCE) Roman legions were known to drink beer. Roman gladiators were known as Hordearii - barley men, renowned for their strength which was attributed to their consumption of Barley. According to Nikolai Vavilov’s research the centre of origin was probably modern
Iran, although when it comes to barley it seems as if it has been tricky for botanists to come to any firm conclusion as wild varieties abound through the Mediterranean area and beyond. Naked Barley is distributed throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa and archaeological finds point to the thought that it was the most important cereal crop of the Neolithic and Bronze Age. It has been suggested that Naked Barley is derived from Hordeum distichon (Hulled Barley); a plant listed in John Tradescant the Younger’s Hortus Tradescantianum 1656. Barley fell out of favour following the introduction of bread wheat, Triticum aestivum, however, it is regaining popularity at the beginning of the 21st century as we fall out of love with the Chorley Wood Bread Process - a 20th century industrial process to produce a soft product which is nigh impossible to achieve in the home kitchen. Equally in the 19th century Barley, according to de Candole, replaced wheat and maize and was preferred to Buckwheat and many kinds of Millet. Barley is essential in the beer brewing industry and it also has the reputation for providing us with the highest quality straw. It is the principal ingredient in the production of the amber liquid from Scotland - Whisky, and arguably one of the best British soft drinks, Lemon Barley Water. It also enters our psyche with the evocative sounds of the song sung by Eva Cassidy, written by Sting, “When I walk in fields of gold”. There can scarcely be a more lovely sight than a field of golden barley waving in a summer breeze in the heat of a British July afternoon.
IV SLEEPING BEAUTY 1697 Charles Perrault: The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood Rubus ulmifolius. Blackberry/Bramble. Rosaceae. Source: Bosham, West Sussex, hedgerow
‘People have the wrong idea about fairy tales; they think they’re about being rescued by handsome princes, whereas really they’re like ‘Girl Guide Handbooks’. KATE ATKINSON
S L E E P I N G B E A U T Y: B r a m b l e A young Princess has a curse placed upon her by a slighted wise woman left out of the celebrations to mark her birth who tells her she will prick her finger on a spindle and sleep for one hundred years. Despite the efforts of her parents to prevent her coming near a spinning wheel and spindle, Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and indeed, along with her staff, falls asleep for one hundred years. The castle is swiftly concealed by brambles and briars until a passing Prince intrigued by the tanglement of thorns beats a path to the castle, finds the Princess and breaks the spell with a kiss. Thorns; hooked and viscous; by these means the bramble scrambles over, pushes through, ducks under, all it encounters in a gargantuan tanglement. It is resistant to all but the most voracious and determined predators, such as pigs and wild boar who can make short work of them. Indeed historically pigs were used for grubbing up brambles and other pernicious undergrowth from scrub land in preparation for cultivation. The Bramble can propagate itself vegetatively; whenever a branch touches the soil, no matter how poor the surface may be. It can even penetrate tarmac! Cut it back and it will return with renewed and potent vigour. The sweetest fruit are produced which are home to numerous seeds providing nourishment to bird and beast alike, who happily forage and distribute the progeny further afield in the plantâ€™s attempt to colonise and conquer all it touches. The seedlings are masters of disguise masquerading as harmless additions to the garden, hiding under cover until its roots are firmly grounded and almost impossible to remove. Only when they have sunk their tenuous roots deep enough to anchor themselves, gripping the soil, do they reveal their identity. Over 400 micro-species
have been recognised in Britain, each differing in fruiting time, shape, texture and flavour. Reputedly Brambles were planted in church yards in the ancient endeavour to keep the dead from roaming and the devil from entering. According to tradition no pickings of Blackberries should be made after 29th September, Michaelmas Day, marking the the end and new beginning of the horticultural year in the Christian calendar. The belief is that the devil has spat upon them; indeed after this date the flavour is rarely good and lazy bluebottle flies congregate over them in abundance. Dr. William King writing in the Grub Street Journal wrote dismissively of Chelsea Physic Garden, for cultivating the Bramble, referring to their ‘peculiar collection of briars and thorns which were some part of the curse of Creation.’ It has been documented that Charles Perrault visited the classic fairy tale Château d’Ussé on the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre River in the Loire Valley of France. With its magnificent circular towers and Renaissance Architecture it is easy to see that this could provide the inspiration for his fairy tale. The Castle itself makes a claim for the setting of Sleeping Beauty, ‘the Princess who slept for a hundred years’, as well as the inspiration for the castle featured in Disney film.
V BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
La Belle et La Bette, Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve 1695 Abridged by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont published in 1740 Published in The Blue Fairy Book, Andrew Lang 1889 Rosa chinensis ‘Crimson Bengal’. Rosaceae. Source: Chelsea Physic Garden, London
‘When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.’ ALBERT EINSTEIN
B E A U T Y A N D T H E B E A S T: R o s e In this tale which was abridged from the original by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756, a merchant leaves for a journey in an attempt to regain his lost fortune lost at sea. His sons ask for horses and guns. The mean, spoiled sisters of Belle ask for jewels and fine clothes; Belle, however, is contented with the promise of the safe return of her father and a rare rose. Sapphires and Rubies are to be found in India, possibly indicating that was the direction and destination of the merchant sailor. According to historical documents, during the 15th century the Chinese travelled the oceans and took their precious roses with them on their voyages, possibly to remind them of home. A mean spirited prince had been transformed by a spell into an ugly beast until he had learned to love and be loved in return. Her father unwittingly comes across the beastâ€™s home and finding a rose blossoming in the garden plucks it for his daughter Belle. The Beast enraged at the theft demands the exchange of one of his daughters. Belle agrees to the exchange as she was the one that requested the rose and lives with the Beast who declares his love for her but she refuses to marry him. News arrives that her father is ill and she begs to be able to visit him, promising to return. After visiting her father, she honours his promise and she does return to find the Beast close to death, grieving for her in her absence. She realises her love for him and immediately he is restored to a Prince. Deep within the archive of the Natural History Museum, London, hides the tiniest fragment of a rose pressed and preserved for posterity. This rose, Crimson China was named â€˜Chineeshe Eglantier Roosenâ€™ by the
Dutch botanist and sponsor of Carl Linnaeus, from Leiden, Gronovius, in 1703. Later this rose was named Rosa chinensis by Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin in 1768. It would seem that the rose ‘Crimson Bengal’ was introduced to Britain by Gilbert Slater in 1790 who worked for the East India Company. Pierre-Joseph Redouté painted a rose ‘Bengal Crimson’ in 1821. Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix in their book Quest for the Rose compares a photograph to identify the rose from the painting. This differs from the ‘Crimson Bengal’ in Chelsea Physic Garden, but it would seem they are related. Many China roses were called Bengal because of their arrival into Europe via Bengal to the North East of India. What this rose lacks in scent it makes up for in its beauty. Rosa chinensis ‘Crimson Bengal’ is thought to have been the parent of a wide variety of Chinese hybrids which came to Britain from North East India in the early 18th century. At the time of their introduction these roses were unique, due to their ability to almost flower perpetually. This feature was used to breed modern remontant, repeat, flowering roses. ‘Crimson Bengal’ is a truly beautiful single crimson rose which has the ability to flower almost every month of the year given a sheltered south facing position. It can be found blooming prolifically within the walls of Chelsea Physic Garden, London. Another French Château is credited with being the castle in this story; Château de Chombard in the Loire was the inspiration for the animation 1991 and the 2017 feature film version of the tale.
The Complete Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen 1835 Tulipa clusiana ‘Peppermint Stick’. The Lady Tulip. Liliaceae. Source: Gee Tee Bulbs, Spalding
‘Magic springs continual surprises that break all the rules of probability’ MARINA WARNER
T H U M B E L I N A: T u l i p ‘’’It is a beautiful flower,” said the woman; and she kissed its beautiful yellow and red leaves. But just as she kissed it the flower opened with a loud crack. It was a real tulip, as one could now see; but in the middle of the flower there sat upon the green stamens a little maiden delicate and graceful to behold. She was scarcely half a thumb’s length in height, and therefore she was called Thumbelina.’ Carolus Clusius 1526-1609 plays an important the history of the tulip in Europe. In 1593 he was commissioned to lay out a Physic Garden in Leiden and was Horti Praefectus at Leiden University. Clusius, after whom the tulip illustrated is named, remarked in Curae Posteriores published in Antwerp in 1611 that this tulip had been sent to Florence from Constantinople in 1606. He himself received a consignment from a Florentine called Matthaeus Caccini and reports that it flowered April 1607. It was even then called ‘The Lady Tulip’. Parkinson knew it only as the early Persian tulip and indeed Tulipa clusiana is described as native to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan; naturalised in Turkey. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, 1522-1559, Ferdinand I’s Ambassador to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent in Constantinople has been, possibly erroneously, given the honour of introducing the tulip to Europe; Anna Pavord considers that the honour should be granted to a French explorer Pierre Belon 1517-1564. Tulipa clusiana ‘Peppermint Stick’ is a modern cultivar. Neatly furled buds open to tall and thin, red and white flowers. The stem is reddish in colour where it joins the flower. The narrow tepals (petals) are creamy lemon fading to white, the backs of the outer segments are washed with crimson leaving a clear white edge around the tepal
margin. Inside the flower a marvellous surprise awaits in the form of a deep purple basal blotch which contrasts beautifully with the pristine white of the inner tepal. The filaments are lemon yellow and the anthers are of a blackish purple, which when the pollen is released can sometimes appear to take on a greenish tinge. Cambridge botanist Agnes Arber spent much of her research looking at abnormalities in plants, many of her letters on the subject are held within the archives of the Natural History Museum in London. In her book The Natural Philosophy of Plant Form she contemplated Goetheâ€™s book The Metamorphosis of Plants written in 1790 noting that he observed that a fully formed and coloured petal may often be found on the stem of a tulip. A photograph by Gordon L. Miller illustrates this phenomena in a new publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goetheâ€™s book published in 2009 MIT. This strange feature could easily be interpreted on first inspection as a leaf as described by Hans Christian Andersen in the story of Thumbelina.
VII JACK AND THE BEANSTALK The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean 1734 Published in English Fairy Tales 1890. Joseph Jacobs Phaseolus coccineus. The Scarlet Runner Bean (syn P. multiflorus.) ‘Scarlet Emperor’. Leguminosae. Source: Unwins Organic, Huntingdon
‘I knew the magic beanstalk before I tasted beans.’ G.K. CHESTERTON
J A C K A N D T H E B E A N S T A L K: R u n n e r B e a n Poor farmers find themselves unable to feed their cow. Jack goes to market to get a good price for the beast. Along the way he is offered five ‘magic’ bean seeds. Deal done, Jack returns home to a furious household and the seeds are thrown away in disgust. The seeds, begin to shoot and grow . . . and grow to gigantic proportions. Jack climbs the massive bean - up into the clouds. “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum . . . I smell the blood of an Englishman” comes the roar. Jack scampers down the bean managing to slip away time and again with treasures beyond wildest dreams. Prior to 1756 the Scarlet Runner was grown as an ornamental, prized for its scarlet flowers. If the bean was grown purely as an ornamental then Jack’s exchange was foolish at best, but in truth it would spell disaster, for even if the Runner Bean was thought to be edible historically beans were only seen as suitable for fodder for cattle which Jack no longer had! Seed exchange however was on the increase and seed merchants began seeking new varieties of vegetables to grow and sell, so these few beans could have turned the family’s fortunes around - even if the giant didn’t have a pot of gold in the heavens above. In South America it is grown as part of the ‘Three Sisters’ Trilogy’ of planting. When the first rains arrive farmers drop seeds of maize, runner beans and pumpkin/squash into a hole. The tall maize provides the wherewithal for the bean to climb - the squash/pumpkin prevents the weeds from growing and provides moisture for the corn - the bean gives shelter and reinforcement to the maize. The bean is now ubiquitous to almost every allotment across Great Britain as it favours our cool climate and long summer days for growing. The
Scarlet Runner was introduced to Britain by John Tradescant, it is thought, via the West Indies. The ornamental flowers of the Runner Bean can be observed weaving their way through an abundant flower arrangement painted by the Dutch still life artist Rachel Ruysch, (1664-1750), Still Life with Fruit, Flowers, Reptiles and Insects 1716 at the Palazzo Pitti Gallery in Florence and in 1796 Pierre Joseph Redouté exhibited an oil painting at the Salon in Paris in the style of Gerard de Spaendonck Flower Still Life featuring Runner Bean flowers. The flowers scarlet; red for danger - a good reason not to eat the bean! Most plants in the bean family have flowers ranging from white, buff, violet through to pink. Philip Miller, (1722- 1771), at the Apothecaries’ Garden, now Chelsea Physic Garden, is reputed to be the first person in Britain to cook and eat the bean. His greater fame was for the cultivation of exotics, most notably the Pineapple. During his tenancy gardeners’ meetings were held at the local Inn and ‘the frequent riotous endings of herborizing expeditions in the local taverns’, led to a ban on alcohol by the Society of Apothecaries. It can only be speculation that it was after one of these sessions that perhaps Miller was persuaded to cook and eat the beans. In the fifth edition of his famous Gardener’s Dictionary, 1758, Miller recommends the Scarlet Runner as a delicacy. ‘Although this sort is chiefly cultivated for the beauty of its flowers at present, yet I would recommend it as the best sort for the table; and whoever will make trial of this I dare say must prefer it to all the other kinds yet known.’
VIII PRINCESS AND THE PEA 1835 From the Oral tradition Hans Christian Andersen Pisum sativum subsp. elatius. Pisum elatius The Wild Pea. Leguminosae Source: Magic Garden Seed, Regensburg, Germany
‘Sometimes fairy stories say best what needs to be said.’ C.S. LEWIS
T H E P R I N C E S S A N D T H E P E A: W i l d P e a ‘Now they say that she was a real princess, for through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down quilts she had felt the pea. No one but a real princess could be so tender skinned.’ It has been documented that Hans Christian Andersen heard this story as a child and rewrote the tale for a new audience of children in an approachable style. Some consider this fairy tale originated in the Middle East whilst others believe it to originate in Sweden. As the story comes from the oral tradition, wherever its home, it has moved around much as storytellers have. The exact origin of our garden pea Pisum sativum, is unclear, but it is thought to have arrived in Europe via Egypt. According to various sources it possibly derived from the wild pea, Pisum elatius. Pisum elatius is a diminutive pea; the seed is very small, not dissimilar to the sweet pea on first inspection. However it feels denser, smoother, slightly speckled and exceptionally hard. It is easy to understand that it could be very irritating, rather like a piece of grit, to anyone of a particularly delicate and sensitive nature. Alain de Botton described the delicacy of Marcel Proust as “a confrère of the princess whose night’s were ruined by a single pea . . .” Whist his robust brother Robert could have “slept on five tins of peas without suspecting that there was anything unusual under his mattress.” The botanical name ‘Pisum’ claims to come from the Italian town Pisa which was once famed for its pea cultivation. From the medieval period peas were traditionally grown for drying and storage for cooking over the winter months. These peas were reportedly as hard as iron.
At the turn of the 19th century, second President of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mr. Thomas Knight, took to experimenting with the cultivation of peas and crossing various types in an attempt to improve the pea and thus give a sweeter flavour. He is partly responsible for the fresh podded pea much beloved in Britain. Clarence Birdseye an American biologist was the first person to commercially freeze the pea in 1922. The Bacteriological Institute in Calcutta during the 1950’s undertook research into using the pea as a method of birth control in India and Asia due to its properties in reducing fertility. Gregor Mendel famously used the pea for his experiments which formed the basis of the science of Genetics and Nikolai Vavilov cites Mendel as a source of inspiration in his work with genetics. It is thought that the Romans introduced Britain to a wide variety of plants including the pea which relishes our damp, cool climate. Shakespeare writes of ‘peascod wooing’ as a divination in the affairs of love.
IX CINDERELLA Charles Perrault 1697 Cucurbita maxima ‘Turk’s Turban’. Pumpkin. Cucurbitaceae Source: Thomas Etty Esq., Heritage Seedsman, East Malling
‘I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible.’ G.K. CHESERTON
C I N D E R E L L A: P u m p k i n This extraordinary vegetable shares almost equal status as a fairy tale coach as with the Halloween Jack O’Lantern Pumpkin. In Grimms’ version of the story the Hazel tree, long associated with folk-lore, was planted over Cinderella’s mother’s grave which had magical properties. Cinderella would visit her mother’s grave and ask for help. Shaking the branches of the tree her wish was granted, calling to mind the ubiquitous Walt Disney fairy dust. After the first few performances of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie introduced the magical properties of fairy dust into his play as a pre-requisite to being able to fly. This was in response to concerns for children attempting to fly and injuring themselves. Fairy dust has been enthusiastically adopted into many magical events ever since. After Cinderella’s mother dies, she lives with her new step-mother and her two, obligatory, ugly sisters. She is forced to clean, not only the house, but clean up after her new family. The Royal Palace announces a series of balls to find their young Prince a bride, but Cinderella is prevented from attending by her ungrateful and jealous step-sisters. Alone in the house after the sisters have left for the ball, a fairygodmother appears to Cinderella to ensure she will not be left out of the celebrations. It is in the earlier version of the tale brought to us by the French storyteller, Charles Perrault, the Fairy Godmother makes her appearance and with a swish of her magic wand a fabulous fairytale coach appears from a magnificent pumpkin. The story seems coincide with the introduction and popularity of pumpkins brought to Europe from South America. There are two varieties of interest to the story
here; v. maxima - the winter squash such as ‘Muscat de Provence’ and v. turbaniformis, such as ‘Turk’s Turban’. The turban squash has the ovary protruding considerably from the receptacle giving it its extraordinary shape, resembling a turban. The fairy god-mother’s magic continues producing a beautiful dress, glass slippers, a coachman, footmen and horses so that Cinderella can go to the ball and thus meet and marry the Prince. In 1922 Walt Disney under the name of Laugh O’Grams Inc. made a short feature of Cinderella, a precursor to the feature film of Cinderella released in 1950. The story still endures within the cinema and in 2015 Kenneth Branagh directed a screenplay written by Chris Weitz. A painting by Eugène-Louis Lami (1800-1890) London: the State Opening of Parliament in the Wallace Collection painted in 1855 shows a pumpkinoid royal coach. This style of royal coach was very popular , especially in France during the reign of Louis XIV, The Sun King. A wonderful array of coaches can be seen at the Château de Versailles, in their Gallery of Coaches.
X PETER PAN
J.M. Barrie 1860-1937 First Performed in 1904 Lilium lancifolium (syn. L. tigrum ) ‘Tiger Lily’. Liliaceae Source: De Jager Bulbs, Maidstone
‘Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of a bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.’ G.K. CHESTERTON
P E T E R P A N: L i l y In the story of Peter Pan, Tiger Lily is the daughter of Chief Great Big Little Panther. She lives in Neverland, home to the Lost Boys; boys who fell out of their perambulators as infants, never to be found again. Kidnapped by Captain Hook and his Pirates, Tiger Lily is left to drown by being tied to Marooner’s Rock most probably on a rising tide, she is rescued by Peter Pan. There is an ancient legend originating in Asia. A Korean hermit helped a wounded tiger by removing an arrow from its body. The tiger asked the hermit to use his powers to perpetuate their friendship after his death. The hermit agreed and when the tiger died, his body became a Tiger Lily. Eventually the hermit drowned and his body was washed away. The Tiger Lily spread everywhere searching for its friend. Tiger Lillies today can be found along the banks of rivers in Korea and China. This lily has been accepted by many as a symbol of friendship. Korean myths were passed down through the oral tradition like our fairy tales. In Japan the symbolic meaning of the Tiger Lily is ‘never to meet again/lost memory/abandonment’. Korean fairy tales sometimes begin ‘Once upon a time when tigers used to smoke . . .’ When Barrie wrote Peter Pan Orientalism was of great fascination to those living in the West. Barrie’s older brother died aged 14 as the result of a skating accident and he was deeply affected by his death, in particular due to his mother’s grief. Whether Barrie was aware of the legend or not, his naming of Tiger Lily in response to the legend can only speculated upon. However, the legend of the tiger cannot fail to touch a sensitive soul. The Tiger Lily plant also makes an appearance
in Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, when she comes across the garden of live, talking flowers. Lilium lancifolium has been widely cultivated in Asia for its edible bulbs. Grown as a root crop, the buds are removed before the plant flowers to encourage the development of larger bulbs. Containing steroid saponins it has been used in homeopathic medicine with claims that it can be used to treat nausea, vomiting, uterine conditions and mental health issues. Steroid saponins have the ability to bind bile acids and aid elimination from the body. It has been reportedly used as an aid to suppress aggressive behaviour. Tiger Lily bulbs were regularly imported into Britain via Holland towards the end of the 19th century becoming a popular plant for gardeners, bringing a welcome splash of vivid colour from the exotic east. TIGER LILIES I like not Lady Slippers Nor yet the sweet pea blossoms, Nor yet the flaky roses, Red or white as snow; I like the chaliced lilies, The heavy Eastern lilies, The gorgeous Tiger lilies, That in our garden grow. Thomas Bailey Aldrich 1836-1907
CONCLUSION ‘All the very finest original pictures, and the topping things in nature, have a certain quaintness by which they partly affect us; not the quaintness of bungling - the queer doings of a common thought; but a curiousness in their beauty, a salt on their tails, by which the imagination catches hold on them.’ SAMUEL PALMER Concluding her book on Herbals in 1938 Agnes Arber tells the story of a man she met who was born in 1842. He knew of a woman living in England who was using an old thumbed copy of Gerard’s Herball originally written in the 16th century to treat her neighbours. It is thought that much of Gerard’s knowledge would in all probability have come from De Materia Medica complied by the Greek physician Dioscorides (AD 60). Arber speculates, how we are connected, via the herbal tradition, to the Ancient Past, some 2000 years, in an unbroken chain by sharing through a collection of our accumulated knowledge of plants. I conclude with some words from John Ruskin. His book The Elements of Drawing, dogmatic at times, but at others, poetic and insightful, has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to me. ‘Habits of patient comparison and accurate judgment will make your art precious, as they will make your actions wise; and every increase of noble enthusiasm in your living spirit will be measured by the reflection of its light upon the works of your hands.’ JOHN RUSKIN
Mariella has a breadth and depth of artistic experience. She studied Botanical Illustration at the English Gardening School based in Chelsea Physic Garden under the tuition of Anne-Marie Evans. She was awarded her M.A. in Visual Arts from the University of Sussex, studying at West Dean College, and her B.A. in Fine Art from the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham. She has exhibited in London, New York and Pittsburg and across the U.K. She is a regular tutor on the Short Course Programme at West Dean College in West Sussex and teaches on workshops and courses both in the U.K. and abroad. Her paintings are held in both public and private collections. Her book on Botanical Painting was published by the Crowood Press in 2011. Details of her courses can be found on her website and you can follow her on Instagram. CONTACT: www.mariellabaldwin.com
PLANTS THAT HAVE INSPIRED FAIRY TALES