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Gardening superstitions

February 15, 2019
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

We have no need to worry about winter and groundhogs, we have neither, but superstitions still abound, especially in gardening therapy. Gardening is superstitious practice, and harvesting a rewarding time. Whether or not you're superstitious, it can't hurt to follow folklore. Folklore has been handed down for ages by people seeking to analyze what they don't understand.

Many revolve around phases of the moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac suggests above ground crops be planted by the light of the moon and below crops during the dark of the moon. It has something to do with the moon's gravitational pull. Or do you feel garden gnomes bring good luck, or stinky marigolds planted around a vegetable garden deters pests.

My main occurring incidents involve four-leaf clovers. I'm always enthused to find one. It goes back to biblical references. It seems Eve took one from the Garden of Eden when she was cast out, to have a keepsake of paradise. The four leaves represent hope, faith, love and luck. St. Francis used the three-leaf clover to represent the Holy Trinity. That's getting on the right side of God.

The one that surprised me was, never say thank you for a gifted plant. In Ohio I lived across the street from a gardening lady, so, of course, we exchanged plants. She let me know that I shouldn't say, "thank you or the plant will not grow." Sort of goes against the grain or nature of being civil. Some plant lovers believe the plant grows better if stolen. They will put down the plant and turn their back on it so you can "steal" it. I'm just not that superstitious.

One plant I'm not familiar with is Lady's Mantle. It grows in zones 3-7. A little out of our range. It needs cool summers and moist, fertilized soil. Does best in shade and likes to spread. The cup-shaped, semi-round scalloped leaf collects dew along the edges, which in pre-mid-century Europe, people believed these dewdrops contained magical powers. It is collected and added to magic potions and people then believed they could use it to turn common metals to gold. Called alchemy, this is where it got its name, in Latin, Alchemilla mollis.

Another belief is, talking to the bees. I was told to stay still and not move if attacked by a bee, well I don't care to test that theory, but I can certainly talk to them. This is a traditional English custom dating back to the 1800s when bees were considered part of the family. They needed to be kept informed of family life events, births, marriages and deaths. If not, dire happenings came about, they would be leaving their hive, stopping production, and die. Gossiping with the bees is encouraged.

Scarecrows are another consideration. Treat them right or your crops will die. They must be given hats to protect them from the sun, don't re-wear their clothes, mucho bad luck. Originating in ancient Greek culture about the son of Aphrodite, Priapus, who was so ugly everyone avoided him, even the birds.

Ergo - keeps the birds away.

When I want to knock on wood, I will knock on my head. Supposed to be good luck. Origin not certain, but knocking on tree trunks was thought to wake up the fairies inside to let them know you needed help. They would then oblige and grant you luck.

Have you ever seen a ring of mushrooms in your lawn? They are called "fairy rings," supposedly where fairies dance the night away, resting on the toadstool chairs until the next dance. Found in warm, wet areas, they are the fruiting bodies of the fungi breaking down organic matter. They can be mowed or kicked off. If they reoccur, it means there may be a rotting tree trunk underneath. It is prevalent in sandy, under-watered or poorly fertilized soils. Mythically, if you step into its middle, the fairies can capture you there. Just sprinkle thyme or marjoram, that will intoxicate and confuse the fairies allowing you to escape.

Foxglove is a favorite of witches and fairies. Witches made salve from animal fat and foxglove to rub on themselves and their brooms in order to fly. Fairies love to play around inside the blooms, wherever they touch the petals, freckles form. Picking a bloom to bring inside is thought to be bad luck, because they belong to the fairies, they will take revenge on you. It grows in zones 4-10. We do grow it here. It needs some shade. We derive digitalis from it.

Hanging fennel over your door helps prevent dark magic from entering on mid-summers. People used to place fennel seeds in their keyholes to prevent witches and demons from entering. It does have a lot of healing qualities, boosting the immune system, but you need to eat it.

Potatoes should be planted on Good Friday, confusing because the date changes each year. This superstition started in the 16th century when potatoes were first introduced. Just plant in the spring. Because they grow underground, it was believed they were the devil's food. So, they planted their potatoes on Good Friday and watered them with holy water to keep any evil away.

Herbs have many interesting superstitions. Some people believe you need to apologize as you harvest herbs for forgiveness of taking away their leaves and there are those who believe you need to curse them for them to grow well. Basil helps protect from bad luck and evil. Placing it at entryways and windows supposedly helps keep wicked forces away. Given as a token of love, if it dies in the presence of someone impure, it was a token of their worthiness.

A tree especially, helps maintain our systems. Thank one.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.

 
 
 

 

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