Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Being one of the first blooms in March, they herald the arrival of spring and warmer days to come. Primula (pictured above) is derived from two Latin words meaning ‘first rose’ and refers to its early flowering. As they bloom when there are very few insects about, the flowers are often not pollinated. Shakespeare wrote in The Winter’s Tale, ‘pale primroses that die unmarried’.
In the Middle Ages a remedy for gout and rheumatism was made from the flowers and an infusion of the roots was taken for nervous headaches. A tisane from the leaves is thought to relieve anxiety and insomnia. Dried flowers retain their colour well for dried decorations and potpourri.
Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)
Well-known for being a symbol of love and fertility, these highly scented sweet fragrant flowers are a delightful herald of spring and provide a valuable early source of nectar. They have long been used for perfumes, cosmetics, sweets and drinks.
Medicinally the flowers are thought to be helpful for coughs, headaches and insomnia. The flowers produce a substance called ionine, which quickly dulls the sense of smell. So not only would the flowers sweeten the air, but also help to conceal musty smells. Shakespeare makes reference to this in Hamlet:
‘A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute.’
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