Easter is both a religious and celebration that spring has arrived. The time when we are reminded that new life is all around us, from playful lambs and birds nesting and singing to trees bursting into leaf. Spring flowers are also starting to bloom, so it’s no wonder that we find ourselves in the mood for a spot of gardening.
Easter is also a time of feasting and giving too. The giving of gifts at the equinox was normally the exchange of eggs and celebrating a symbol of fertility, which was the bunny rabbit, hence bunnies at Easter. When Easter was eventually adopted by the Christian religion, eggs were preserved until after lent as they were forbidden during the 40 days of fasting.
Over time eggs have continued to be given as gifts, though these have changed from real eggs to ones made of chocolate. Flowers also play a huge part in this spring ritual and celebrations and popular flowers for the Easter period are daffodils and narcissi.
Lots of Flowers are associated with spring and Easter festivals. Some flowers have also been given special meanings by Christians to help them celebrate Easter – here are some of my favourites…
Instead of giving your diet-conscious friends a chocolate egg, consider presenting them with a delicious cosmos. These beautiful plants produce sumptuous velvety-bronze flowers that have an intense chocolate aroma – perfect for any chocoholic!
GYO Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocamocha is one of the best, flowering continually from June to September. Its compact at just 30cm tall so doesn’t need staking and is ideal for growing in a pot or sunny border in well-drained fertile soil. As it is frost-sensitive, it’s best to cover plants with deep mulch or lift the tubers in autumn and overwinter indoors.
White Easter lilies
The most traditional symbol of Easter is the beautiful Trumpet Lily, Lilium longiflorum
Tradition states that the Easter lily originated in the Garden of Eden by the teardrops of Eve that she spread while leaving the Garden of Eden. They were teardrops of repentance. The Easter lily also has its roots in pagan rituals – specifically, Hera, the queen of motherhood.
Long considered an ancient embodiment of the Resurrection, today this beautiful highly fragrant, lily, which produces pure white blooms up to 17cm long that have strongly recurved tips that reveals its yellowish-white heart and orange-yellow stamens, evokes images of purity, hope, new life and serenity, which is the spiritual essence of Easter.
GYO Plant the bulbs in autumn in grit-lined holes 15cm deep and 30-45cm apart in pots and borders. It blooms in early to mid summer and as it grows to 60-90cm tall, it makes an excellent cut flower.
When Spanish Christian missionaries discovered the passionflowers in South America, they used the gorgeous blooms to explain the story of Jesus dying on the Cross
The three stamens were used to represent the three nail wounds of Jesus or the Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
The circle of petals represents the crown of thorns that Jesus wore and as the ten petals the disciples that did not deny or betray Christ.
The leaves represent the spear that went into the side of Jesus.
The dark spots under the leaves are said to symbolize the 33 pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus.
The blooms die after a single day – the time Jesus spent on the cross never last for more than three days and represent the three days Jesus spent in the tomb
And because the petals reclose over the ovary, the conquistadors pointed out that this was similar to Jesus being placed in the tomb and seen as the “hidden wisdom” that constitutes the “mysteries of the cross.”
GYO The blue passion flower, Passiflora caerulea, will flower freely in most parts of Britain and can be grown permanently outside in mild regions. Let the plant cling onto pergola supports and balustrades where the star-shaped, mildly fragrant flowers can be admired from close quarters. Good drainage is essential for success and if conditions are right bright orange, egg-sized fruits will follow the flowers – spraying the flowers with tepid water will encourage the fruits to set. These are edible but not very tasty!
The egg-shaped blooms of tulips are considered to be messengers of love, passion, and belief and symbolize new life and the joys of spring
You can reinforce the message of Easter by giving your loved one yellow tulips, which in the language of flowers will be telling them that you’re hopelessly in love with them! White blooms represent innocence, reverence and humility and pink flowers, the joy you feel in knowing them.
GYO Whilst the dry bulbs are planted in autumn, you can buy tulips in bud and bloom from late March and go on through April and May. The May-flowering tulip Queen of the Night is the closest to a black tulip you can find and well worth growing. The deep dark blooms fairly shimmer in the light. Standing tall on sturdy on 60cm sturdy stems, this variety would make a fine choice for a “Gothic Garden” and makes a striking accent for pastel varieties and especially pink coloured ones such as Esther and the robust lily-flowered variety China Pink.
Pulsatilla vulgaris or Pasque flower produces drooping cup-shaped flowers that emerge at Easter time. Each bloom, which is around 5cm across and densely covered with white silky hairs emerge on 17.5cm tall stems
GYO Pulsatilla grows primarily in grasslands where the soils are alkaline and of limestone origin. They have deep taproots and are herbaceous, losing their leaves in winter. The leaves re-emerge in early spring before they flower. The flowers are an ideal companion plant for early spring flowering bulbs such as wildflower tulips, miniature daffodils, and crocus. Like the bulbs, Pasque flowers are an invaluable source of early season nectar for honeybees and native bees. Our native Pasque flowers are lavender in colour but there are cultivated varieties like Rubra, which is bright red that are well worth growing and especially in a window box where they can be admired at close quarters.
Cercis siliquastrum is popularly known as the Judas tree due to the longstanding myth that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from this small bushy tree after he betrayed Jesus
It has attractive heart-shaped leaves, so it’s often known by its more appealing common name of the love tree, and beautiful, pea-shaped flowers that smother the bare branches in late April and May. From late summer onwards, large bunches of rich purple pods deck the branches and last well into winter, while the pretty foliage turns light yellow and chestnut in autumn.
GYO Plant cercis in well-draining soil in a warm, south-facing spot as it needs the heat to ripen the new shoots each summer to flower well the following spring.
Oriental hybrid hellebores are a mongrel plant is derived from Helleborus orientalis, and the ‘blood’ of other species. They flower from February to April, coinciding with Easter along the way
GYO Hellebore x hybridus are easy to grow and relatively care free plants that thrive in dappled shade providing you avoid poor dry soils, peaty soils and waterlogged conditions. They can be grown in pots and superstitious old gardeners often put a pot or two by their back doors to ward off evil spirits and repel flies! If necessary, cut back the old foliage to allow a better view of the flowers.