Monday 2 May 2022

April Showers Bring May Flowers, or is it Mayflowers?

I think today's title has a much better ring to it than my last post, the one about worms.

"April showers bring May flowers" is the saying I started with for both post titles. According to Wikipedia, that saying -- or a version of it -- goes back to the 14th century, something I'd never have known if it weren't for Google (see link here).

But for today's title, I had to stop to think whether I wanted May and flowers to be two words or one.

"May flowers" means, to me at least, flowers that we associate with the month of May.

The reason I was conflicted is that I always think of mayflowers as one word. It is the common name for the trailing arbutus (or Epigaea repens), a plant that is found in wooded areas in Atlantic Canada and is the official floral emblem of my province of Nova Scotia.

For years my father picked a huge bunch of mayflowers each spring. I remember them at home when I was growing up.

After I was grown, with a family of my own and my parents divorced, my dad brought me a bouquet of them every year for my birthday in early May. The delicate pink or white blossoms lasted well in a vase of water for a couple of weeks, their scent so pleasing anytime I passed near them.

My dad has been gone for almost seven years, and before that was in a nursing home for eight years. It's been over fifteen years since I held real Mayflowers in my hands and inhaled their sweet smell.

But I always associate the word and the flower with him.

Why don't I pick my own mayflowers, you ask?

It's not because picking them is illegal, because it's not. That's a common myth here but they are not an endangered plant. That's despite the fact that picking them inevitably results in tearing them up by the roots. They are a woody plant and do not break off nicely when picked. I might pick one but I wouldn't pull up a whole bunch of them because that wipes out that patch pretty much forever. And eventually maybe they would be endangered. And although you'd think plants that come out by the roots could be transplanted to one's own garden, alas, they are a very picky plant that likes certain conditions and only those conditions and inevitably die if planted anywhere else.

It's a moot point anyhow because, like most people, I don't know where to find them. My dad had a couple of secret spots, one of which was in the large wooded area that stretched for miles behind the garage where he worked as a mechanic. He used to hunt for them during his lunch hour. I think he was likely trespassing, but it was equally likely he hadn't seen it that way. He was a walker of the woods, any woods, and didn't think about property rights, especially if the property belonged to the government.

Which, if you think about it, isn't a bad interpretation of property rights on government land. The government is basically you and I and people everywhere.

Anyhow, here is a picture of mayflowers. I wish I could waft their perfume through the internet to you.

Each blossom is more or less the size of an adult person's thumbnail.


37paddington said...

Happy birthday tomorrow dear Jenny! My birthday twin!

messymimi said...

They are delicately beautiful.

Infidel753 said...

April showers bring Mayflowers, and Mayflowers bring pilgrims. I'm not sure what pilgrims bring.

Red said...

Nice story about your Dad.

River said...

That was a nice thing your dad did for you each year. The flowers are so pretty. Could you possibly cut a small branch off the plant to have in your vase if you find some Mayflowers? Instead of accidentally ripping it up by the roots. It's a shame they don't transplant well.
Happy Birthday.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know if we have May flowers here, and they might be called December flowers here.

And a very happy birthday. I am sure your dad is watching over you and remembering May flowers too.

Bonnie said...

I love the story of your Dad bringing you the Mayflowers bouquet each spring! That is a very special memory. A very Happy Birthday to you!

Elephant's Child said...

A very happy birthday dear friend.
I like River's suggestion, and the flowers look lovely. I don't know that we have them, but what beautiful memories you have firmly attached to them.

Mike said...

A pair of small snips could get you one flower without harming the plant.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Happy birthday Jenny. I have never heard of this flower before, but some reading taught me the the were using mycorrhiza to thrive. This means that roots are not enough, some native soil and a big portion of luck as well. I would as River already suggested bring some cutting implement with me, hunting for mayflowers. My place the beeches have just sprung, and everything is a luscious green. You have chosen a beautiful day for your birthday.

dinthebeast said...

Plants like that are why Briana carries a pair of pruners around when she walks...
Mayflower to me will always be the moving company I did some contract work for back in the nineties.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Joan (Devon) said...

Happy Birthday Jenny, have a good day. Bluebells are the flowers which bring childhod memories back for me. Walking in the woods on a Sunday afternoon as a child with my family, picking bluebells to take home, which sadly didn't last a day. Better to leave them where they grow naturally.

Steve Reed said...

They look a bit like primroses. I wonder if we have them here in the UK? I don't recognize them. Sounds like picking them is unwise these days if it results in the death of the plant, so I applaud your restraint!

Speaking of April showers, we are dry as a bone here. I wish we'd have some showers!

Miss Kim said...

I've lived in NS for 3 years and still haven't seen any May Flowers... *sigh* Also-- a large lot nearby has just been plowed for development and I am so sad because that's where all the local Lupins were growing.

Marie Smith said...

I’ve never seen those beauties before. You have great memories associated with them. Thank you for sharing.

Diane Henders said...

What beautiful flowers, and lovely memories, too! I've never seen mayflowers, even though I lived in NS for a year. I guess I never made it to the "right" places. :-)

jenny_o said...

37p: And to you :D (I emailed you at your blog profile email address - just mentioning it in case you don't check it often)

Mimi: And the scent is so wonderful from such a small blossom!

Infidel753: A Mayflower I had forgotten about! I think we all know what the pilgrims brought ... green bean casserole :)

Red: Thank you - my dad and I were close and very alike.

River: That's a good idea. I'm not likely to have a cutting implement on me if I'm in the woods but I'm never in the woods anyhow so I doubt the problem will arise ... but it's still a good idea :D

Andrew: It would be interesting to know if there's the same thing in Australia. Thanks for the wishes. I miss my father.

Bonnie: Thank you - it's a memory I'm glad to have, as my dad and I were close and I miss him.

Elephant's Child: Thank you; yes, I hold that memory dear.

Mike: Yes, indeed. If I'm ever planning a walk in the woods I'll have to remember that.

Charlotte: Thank you; yes, River had a good idea there. I can't wait for the trees to turn green here!

Doug: And yet another Mayflower!

Joan: Thank you - and I agree about leaving plants where they grow. I've never seen bluebells but I've seen pictures and they look so striking growing in masses.

Miss Kim: I think you'd need to go deep into the right kind of forest to see mayflowers. Good luck if you go! I like lupins too; it's too bad you've lost a nice view.

Marie: I wonder if they grow on PEI? My research said all of Atlantic Canada so maybe ...

Diane: I've lived here my whole life without seeing them, but then again I don't hike the woods very often :)

Joanne Noragon said...

A wonderful tribute to your dear father. Happy birthday.

John M said...

Wonderful small flowers.

Martha said...

Oh, that is a lovely story of your dad! It made me smile. Those are such pretty flowers. And happy birthday! I hope it was a good one. Wishing you many more!

This post brought to mind my own father who I was very close to. We were very similar, too. His plant was basil, which he just adored. Every time I see/smell the plant, I instantly think of him.

Mr. Shife said...

I am ready for anything but showers. April was wet and cold and May isn't starting off too great either. Snow forecasted for next Monday. Granted it will be gone in the afternoon but I am tired of the rain, cold and wind, Dang it. Thank you for letting me use your blog as my soapbox, jenny_o. Take care.

jenny_o said...

Joanne: Thank you.

John: They really are.

Mr. Shife: I hear you. I'm tired of the cold and rain too. Why can't it just be sunny and warm without being hot, ALL the time?! Hope you get some better weather soon.

Karen said...

How interesting! I had those flowers show up growing around my compost pit a few years ago. No idea how they got there but they spread quite fast. The scent is indeed glorious.

jenny_o said...

Karen: Oh, lucky you! You must have just the right conditions for them to grow and thrive :)

baili said...

dear Jenny Happy Birthday to you ,may you see many more with loved ones in future amen!

i loved the sharing so much ,thank you for making me familiar with one of the most delicate and pretty blooms :) i loved looking at the the feel comes is comforting and enriching .

i ponder on how some plants are hard and can be planted anywhere and few are that don't like to change their place and react strongly .this is nice that basically everything within nature acts in similar way despite of how they appear differently .

i loved the story about how your father brought you Mayflower every year on birthday :)
i totally agree with you on the definition of " government property ":)

i hope you are enjoying the joys and glory of the season . wishing you health ,peace and happiness my friend!

The Happy Whisk said...

I loved that very personal story about mayflowers. And the soft pink is soooo pretty. Could they be something to grow in your own garden?

jenny_o said...

baili: Thank you for the good wishes! I wish you the same. Yes, it is strange how some plants are so hardy and grow anywhere while others need very specific conditions. The best think when we garden is to pick those things that grow in the conditions we can give them.

The Happy Whisk: I would love to grow them but as I mentioned in the post, they require very specific conditions that I do not have, and on top of that I don't know where to find any! My dad was the one who could find them :)

The Happy Whisk said...

That's true. You did mention that. As for finding them, should you ever have better conditions, online seed swaps, in-person seeds swaps and specialty online seller may have them.

kylie said...

I'm rather late but I still wish you a wonderful birthday! Birthday month?

It's a pity you haven't held a May flower in all of that time but ensuring they don't disappear is noble.

what a lovely memory of your dad xo

Bohemian said...

I have never seen this kind of Flower and now am imagining what their scent is like?

jenny_o said...

The Happy Whisk: Those are all good suggestions - thanks!\

kylie: Thank you. To be completely honest, I don't have the energy to go looking for them :) It IS a good memory of my father. He was a kind person.

Bohemian: I wish I could describe it but scents are kind of difficult that way. All I can say is that it is sweet and fresh, not overpowering at all.

jenny_o said...

Steve and Martha: Your comments aren't showing up with the rest; it seems to take a day or two for them to come through - sorry for the Blogger glitch!

Steve: The mayflowers don't look like primroses although it's hard to tell that from the photo. The blooms are smaller and more cup-shaped, and have thicker walls. The leaves are flat and leathery and tough. I'm comparing them to the primroses that grow here, which I think are the same as yours - at least they look like the ones in your photos. And I agree about not picking them, although my reasons also include not knowing where to find them and being too lazy to go look. lol

Martha: Isn't it amazing how scents help us access such strong memories?! It's nice that you have that strong connection with memories of your dad. Thank you for the birthday wishes :)