We all become sentiment and nostalgic when remembering our childhood. Our parents told us bedtime stories which were so engaging that we remember even to this day. Stories are a magical thing. They take us into different, fictional, but nonetheless real worlds. But as we grow older, we seem to forget the charm stories bring. We forget that charm can hide everywhere, even in everyday objects. And we just need to open our minds to see them.
One of the great aspects of gardening are the legends behind certain plants. So, we at Fantastic Gardeners decided to share some of the most fascinating mythical stories about your backyard vegetation.
Although we all know the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, the apple is universally recognised as a Biblical symbol of sin. The first thing that comes in everyone’s mind is the Satan tempting Eve with a large red apple. But the stories about the sinner’s fruit does not end here. In the time of ancient Greeks, apples were legendary for the story about Atlanta and the great race. She had to outrun her opponent Hippomenes, for whom she had to marry if she’d lost. He, supported by Venus, plotted an evil strategy to distract Atlanta by tossing golden apples on her path. The plan succeeded as Atlanta lost the race, stopping to pick up each fallen apple.
Even in modern times we can see how the apple symbolizes a bad fortune. A more contemporary example is “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs”, where the famous beauty gets poisoned by the luscious fruit that was given to her by her rival – the evil queen.
According to the ancient Greek legend, mint plant was, in fact, a transformed nymph. Hades, the dark god of the Underworld, liked to visit the realm of mortals from time to time. He was married to Persephone, but on one of his visits fell in love with the nymph Minthe. Although Persephone wasn’t quite fond of her husband, when she found out, she cast her revenge by turning Minthe into a plant. There was nothing that Hades could do to break the spell. In the end, devastated by the loss, he decided to give the mint a strong and sweet scent, so she would never be unnoticed by people.
There are many legends about this beautiful plant. According to one of them a poor Spanish girl was ill in bed – her mother tried everything to save her, but with no success. The girl was on the verge of dying when her mother started praying in despair. She was praying to St. Joseph when she noticed that the room started to glow with rosy light. A man’s figure was standing close to the child and placed a branch of oleander on her forehead. Then the figure disappeared. The mother noticed that for the first time in many days her daughter was sleeping calmly. St. Joseph healed the little girl completely.
We see moss every day since it’s pretty common here, in the UK. But this ordinary plant has some unusual myths surrounding it. In German folklore there is a story of good fairies that live in mosses and the hollow parts of dead trees. These legendary creatures weave moss in all kinds of shapes and textures. And if somebody does them a favour, they weave a moss cloak as a gift. They were also known to reward good deeds with magic. A story tells how a young girl was passing through their forest, carrying some forest fruits for her ill mother. A fairy crossed paths with her and asked for a few berries. The girl gladly gave some fruits to the forest creature. But when the child arrived home, she found out that all of the remaining berries turned into gold.
The legend tells about Shawondasee – the South Wind. He was more gentle, kind and shy than his other brothers – North, East and West winds. One day he walked around the fields and saw a lovely maiden in the distance. Her hair was like pure gold and her dress was fresh green colour – just like the fields around. He wanted to go over to her and introduce himself, but was too afraid. He told himself: “I’m not going to rush, I might scare her off. I will go to her tomorrow”. With this promise he fell asleep. The next day he saw her again, more beautiful than yesterday. Each day he returned to look at her, but never had the courage to talk to her. One day he went to the fields and there he saw her. But something was terribly wrong. Her hair wasn’t gold anymore, it was white. He waited too long and she was already old. Shawondasee sighed with such a grief and disappointment, that all the air filled with silver puffs and the maiden disappeared. Hence, the story of dandelion and its seeds.
The mythical story behind this delicious fruit says that the Devil hates blackberries. One of the main reasons is that the crown of thorns that Christ wears is furnished with it. Devil’s anger by his debacle from St. Michael leads him to specially curse the plant. And after he has been thrown out of heaven on October 11-th, he landed on a blackberry bush, spoiling all the fruits. Hence, the famous saying that we should not pick blackberries past the middle of October.
In Greek mythology, the fruit symbolizes arrogance. A mortal named Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus – a flying stallion – when he fell on a thorny bush. The man was blinded and the gods received their revenge for the attempt to steal their powers.
Queen Anne’s lace
This plant goes by various names, bird’s nest and wild carrot being few of them. And the myths and stories about it are countless, too. One of the many names of the weed is Mother Die because it is believed that if you bring it to your home, your mother will die. But let’s not get stressed yet, there are no scientific facts that confirm this correlation.
On a different note, there is a legend which says that while making lace, Queen Anne of England pricked her finger. A drop of blood fell onto the beautiful creation and from this day after the wild carrot plants have a purple floret. Another story says that the soon-to-be queen wanted to impress the subjects of the kingdom. She arranged a contest of lace knitting and whoever made the most beautiful pattern would win it. She had legendary skills, so the result was quite obvious.
There is an Ancient Greek myth about the walnut tree that tells the story of a young woman named Carya. She was one of King Dion’s daughters, and her sisters Orphe and Lyco were very protective of her. The kingdom was often visited by the gods and was greatly favoured by them. One day Dionysus visited the King’s home and fell in love with the staggering beauty of Carya at first sight. One night he tried to visit her, but he was stopped by her sisters. This was a violation of the oath that the king’s family promised to keep – never to condemn the gods, no matter what. Dionysus, in his anger, turned both sisters into stones – and turned the beautiful Carya into a walnut tree.
This common backyard plant often gets confused to plantain the fruit – a variety of banana. People tend to think of the plant as a useless weed, but in fact its leaves have medicinal powers. It is referred to as “Whiteman’s foot” by the Native Americans, and they are famous by using it as an ingredient in their healing creams. Treating battle wounds and bruises was a problem they had to deal with on an everyday basis. But that’s not everything. A story tells that this small weed grows only in places where a man’s foot passed by, regardless of the climate. Another folk’s myth states that once in seven years the plant turns into a cuckoo and flies away to seek for fellow birds.
Similarly to other plants of yellow hue, marigold is associated with light and the sun. The name of the plant comes from a legend about a beautiful young Greek girl called Caltha. One day she hopelessly fell in love in the sun god Apollo. The girl woke up every day just before sunrise with the hope to see Apollo again. Day after day went by, but there was no sign of the god. However, the beautiful maiden never gave up and continued to observe the sky. Eventually, she withered away from this world. And one day a small marigold appeared on the place she once stood every morning, gazing in the distance.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this travel back in the ages where gods ruled the world, and there was no force on earth that could stop love. And, most importantly – the plants were famous for more than their beauty and usage in everyday life.