I was delighted when I realised that this weekend is the May Day bank holiday. My first thoughts were for that extra day at home. But, after that, I started thinking about what else May Day makes me think of: dancing round maypoles, posies of spring flowers, dainty May Queens…
I’ve never danced round a maypole or been a May Queen (although I rather wish I had). Instead, I’m going to take the easier route and follow the ancient tradition of gathering fresh flowers and greenery. For centuries people have made garlands, posies and nose-gays for May Day to celebrate the joyful arrival of spring and early summer.
In the early seventeenth century John Stow wrote that on May Day every man, ‘would walk into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers.’
We don’t have many meadows or green woods in the Fens. Instead, I’m going to gather flowers from my small garden. The spirit of the day is about stepping outside and gathering what you can find. I haven’t done much gardening yet this year, but even in my weedy garden it’s possible to find some flashes of spring colour.
This week, I made an early posy. Everything I gathered are things that pop up in my garden every year. I haven’t planted any of them – they’re either self-seeded or they’ve been there for years.
Here’s what went into my posy:
Grape Hyacinths. I always remember picking these as a child. I’ve got lots of these bulbs in my garden and more appear every year. They’re almost over now, but there’s still a few left.
Forget-me-nots. These perennial wildflowers flowers self seed all over my shady garden and they’re a joy every year. The tiny flowers are on surprisingly long stems, so they’re great for flower arranging.
Bluebells. These bluebells pop up in my garden every year too. I think they’re Spanish bluebells, which are more upright than native English ones. I’m not complaining though as they’re really pretty.
Pulmonaria (or common Lungwort). Another perennial plant which comes up in my garden every year. It has lovely specked leaves and delicate flowers. It looks slightly weedy, but don’t pull it up as it’s really pretty!
So, what does May Day make you think of? If you don’t fancy making a posy, then how about trying the tradition of bathing your face in the May Day dew? Supposedly very good for the complexion…