Friday, 27 May 2022

Flower Fairies

Cicely Mary Barker, an English illustrator, was best known for her series of fantasy books depicting fairies and flowers. When I first learnt to read my parents gave me some of her Flower Fairy books, which I now believe may have been partly reponsible for my love of flowers. I remember that the letter "R" in her alphabet book did not stand for my namesake or even a Rose, but for a rather obscure flower called Ragged-Robin. The flower was unknown to me at that time, but her illustration made me determined to discover them growing in the wild. I found the clues to Ragged Robin's location in her poem.

The Ragged Robin Fairy

In wet marshy meadows

A tattered piper strays -

Ragged, ragged Robin;

On thin reeds he plays.

He asks for no payment;

He plays, for delight,

A tune for the fairies,

To dance to, at night.

They nod and they whisper,

And say, looking wise,

"A princeling is Robin,

For all his disguise!" 

Some of the flowers currently catching our eye in the garden are the many free Foxgloves that simply turn up, from who knows where, to visit us?

Bumble bees love foxgloves, this one was enjoying an early morning forage. It has an incredibly tousled fluffy head - I name him "Boris". He is probably a male Bombus humilis, Brown-banded carder bumblebee, but if you know better, please let me know.

Foxgloves - Digitalis with their tall spires of thimble-like flowers rising from rosettes of soft downy leaves, have always been a popular choice to have in our gardens.
Arriving in various different hues, this one has a pretty pale golden interior, some have white, cream, or palest pink.
There are a host of myths, legends, and stories surrounding foxgloves which although beautiful can be deadly - they have the power to cure but also to harm.
"Foxglove, Foxglove,
What do you see?"
The cool green woodland,
The fat velvet bee;
I've honey here for thee!
"Foxglove, Foxglove,
What see you now?'
The soft summer moonlight
On bracken, grass, and bough;
And all the fairies dancing
As only they know how.
 Cicely Mary Barker

36 comments:

  1. This should be a clarion call to all parents to read with their children. The influence of such a simple bonding of parent and daughter may last a lifetime and even play a role is establishing values.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do hope that books still bring youngsters joy - it gives a lifetime of pleasure.

      Delete
  2. I love Boris the bee! I bet he's a real partier too. Foxglove are such beautiful flowers. One of my favourite instrumental pieces by Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn is his composition called "Foxglove": https://youtu.be/ShalqS12hzQ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the recomnendation - I must check it out.

      Delete
  3. I had two of those lovely fairy/blossom books. Now I'm sorry I let them go. They were for one of my sons, but didn't inspire him, that I know. Perhaps he'd been influenced by our culture that fairies weren't real, or some such nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand that they are now very collectible - perhaps they were too "girlie" for you son.

      Delete
  4. I laughed out loud when I read of you naming the bee "Boris". The hair certainly matches! Foxgloves tend to show up here and there in our garden, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are wonderful freebies in the garden.

      Delete
  5. I too have a set of the Flower Fairies little books, guess most little English girls were gifted with them - and I love them so much.
    Beautiful photos Rosemary - the 'Boris' bee is awesome on the beautiful foxgloves - and Ragged Robin was always a childhood favorite when playing out in the fields around my house.
    Hope you enjoy the Jubilee weekend - I almost wish we had come over a week or so earlier, would love to see the Air Show over Torbay!
    Had to make appts.yesterday to get the COVID test in London to return to the US after our visit. £99 each!!!! How ridiculous is that - and all the fault of our terrible US govt.
    Life has become far too complicated, sigh.
    Sending love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never see Ragged Robin these days - do hope that he is still around.
      Travel these days appears to be extremely fraught. Yesterday I was watching the news and everyone was having great difficulty getting away for their holidays with flight problems, train problems and ferry problems.
      £200 is a lot of money to spend on something that, on the face of it, appears to be totally unneccessary.

      Delete
  6. I know about foxgloves' beauty but am still more anxious about the harm they can cause.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In all of my many years, I have actually never heard of anyone coming to any harm from foxgloves.

      Delete
  7. Certainly a delightful book. The foxgloves are beautiful flowers but unfortunately a weed in Tasmania and the State of Victoria.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are weeds here too Margaret, but nevertheless I and others enjoy having them in our borders.

      Delete
  8. A bee called Boris! I imagine him doing a little dance to show the others in the hive where the bottles of wine can be found.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry that this did not get published John - I have only just discovered it in 'spam' for some strange reason. The bee looks as if he could be the leader of his gang.

      Delete
  9. I can see why that would stay with you. I can still remember many of my first books and can also guess that even things before that can have a big effect. For instance I still have a strong memory ( real or half imagined) of my cousin being stuck in my pram for a day trip somewhere beside me, which, until that point was mine alone, and how repulsed I was that I had to share it. You would not think that something as minor as that would leave an impression yet it's somehow one of my earliest memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Early childhood memories are fraught with doubt - I have some too which feel real, but I sometimes wonder are they 'true' or are they 'false'.

      Delete
  10. I still have knees like the Ragged Robin fairy's.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't know the ragged robin but do love foxgloves which keep appearing in different parts of our garden. One of those books would have been ideal for our great-granddaughter who turned 3 on Friday, perhaps next year. We had another great-granddaughter arrive early this morning. Pleased they both have their own birth days. Lovely photos as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if they can still be purchased today, it would be a shame if they were not. Congratulations on the arrival of your new great-granddaughter.

      Delete
  12. aren't foxgloves the most beautiful plants, I believe they are used in heart medication, ragged robin too, very pretty - it grows around here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky you, I haven't seen Ragged Robin for years.

      Delete
  13. Oh I just love her illustrations! Foxgloves are just beautiful, my favourites in the garden...
    Have a happy Sunday!
    Titti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved her illustrations as a child and still love them now.

      Delete
  14. Oh those photos of the Foxglove are amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Whenever I see Foxgloves, I feel like inserting my fingers into them. I wonder if it’s safe to do so. Unfortunately they are rarely seen except for English gardens in my part of the word. Nice, Rosemary, you came up with apt nickname for the bumble bee.

    Yoko

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always erred on the safe side and never touch a foxglove - just in case. My bumble bee needs a good brush and a comb!

      Delete
  16. The flower fairies are simply gorgeous and I would have treasured these books if I'd been lucky enough to have my own copies. I can quite easily recall many of the images from childhood books; such close examination really leaves a mark on one's memory. Meanwhile, I "see" Boris, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her illustrations are charming, but her flowers were always depicted accurately.

      Delete
  17. I had never heard of Cicely Mary Barker... where have I been? But, I love what you posted about her so I am on a search now to see her work. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am delighted to know that you enjoyed seeing a couple of her illustrations here - her books charmed me as a youngster and in fact still do.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh