Tag Archives: Midsummer Night’s Dream

Herbs and Romance for Valentine’s Day


“There’s a few things I’ve learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can.” ~Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

“My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.” ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

 “Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me.” ~Danaher, 1756

lavenderfield-300x199

“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep Seeming and savor all the winter long. Grace and remembrance be to you.”- William Shakespeare

Thyme Creeping Red

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,  Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

dill with white aster and other herbs and flowers in our garden(Dill in our garden by Daughter Elise)

 When daisies pied and violets blue And lady-smocks all silver-white  And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue. Do paint the meadows with delight.

Love’s Labours Lost

lavender 3

“And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound to lurk admist the labours of her loom, and crown her kerchiefs witl mickle rare perfume.”

~William Shenstone The School Mistress 1742


herb garden
“Those herbs which perfume the air most delightfully,  not passed by as the rest, but, being trodden upon and crushed, are three;  that is, burnet, wild thyme and watermints. Therefore, you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.” –  Frances Bacon 

“How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?” –  Andrew Marvel

“Herbs…Perfume the Air Most Delightfully.” ~Frances Bacon


English country garden and gate with flowers“My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.”

~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

“Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me.” ~Danaher, 1756

lavenderfield-300x199“Lavender is for lovers true, Which evermore be faine; Desiring always for to have Some pleasure for their paine: And when that they obtained have The love that they require, Then have they all their perfect joie, And quenched is the fire.” ~Lavender and Turner (Herbal, 1545)

“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.”
– William Shakespeare

Thyme Creeping RedI know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
Midsummer Night’s Dream

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
Love’s Labours Lost

lavender 3“ladies fair, I bring to you
lavender with spikes of blue;
sweeter plant was never found
growing on our English ground.”

~Caryl Battersby

“And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound
to lurk admist the labours of her loom,
and crown her kerchiefs witl mickle rare perfume.”

~William Shenstone The School Mistress 1742

“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.”
– Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard’s Almanac

herb garden with chair“Those herbs which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but, being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild thyme and watermints.  Therefore, you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.”
–  Frances Bacon

“How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?”
–  Andrew Marvel

Planting A Fairy Garden


If you lack whimsy and magic in your life, consider enticing fairies to your yard by including the plants they find irresistible.

Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of fairies and they are more than welcome in my garden.  I just hope the cats don’t get them, though I expect they’re clever enough to evade felines and nosy farm dogs. Perhaps they catch a ride with butterflies or bumblebees and soar to safety, or simply hide among the leaves and flowers.

Not too long ago, my youngest niece, Cailin, now seven, aspired to be a fairy when she grew up and often checked her back in the mirror for signs of  sprouting wings.  To her disappointment, none were forthcoming. She still believes ardently in fairies, though, and knows quite a lot about them.  I’ll pass on any questions you might have and share Cailin’s replies. She’s a highly imaginative child with lots of ideas to share.

But back to Fairy gardens, I found much useful information on planting one at this herbal site.   “Some herbs are associated with fairies, the most important one being thyme. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania, the fairy queen, sleeps in a bed of wild thyme growing on a bank.”

*I love thyme and have assorted varieties growing with more or less success in my garden (s) and am forever planting more. You can’t have too much thyme.

“Foxgloves are essential for fairy gardens. According to legend, fairies sleep in the bell-shaped flowers, and wear them as gloves. Other common names for the plant include fairy fingers, fairy thimbles, and fairy cap.”

But of course. I just have to get the darn plants to grow here again.

“The purple foxglove is a biennial. Its blooms range in color from white and cream to pink and purple. There may be attractive dark spots in the throats of the bell-shaped flowers. There are perennial foxgloves as well, including the yellow foxglove.

Foxgloves often self-sow and prefer cool weather. Those in warm climates may want to grow the quick-blooming variety, called ‘Foxy.’ This will produce flowers the very first year from seed.”

*But they are not nearly as stunning as the varieties you have to wait for.

Another herb that is essential in the fairy garden is saffron. Fairies are especially fond of this culinary herb/spice for flavoring cakes and dyeing cloth. Other recommended plants are rosemary and roses. Roses are much-loved by fairies for their beauty and fragrance.”

Clap if you believe in fairies~

tiny fairy baby

“Herbs…Perfume the Air Most Delightfully”~


“My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.”

~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.

“Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me.” ~Danaher, 1756

“Lavender is for lovers true, Which evermore be faine; Desiring always for to have Some pleasure for their paine: And when that they obtained have The love that they require, Then have they all their perfect joie, And quenched is the fire.” ~Lavender and Turner (Herbal, 1545)

“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.”
William Shakespeare

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
Love’s Labours Lost

“ladies fair, I bring to you
lavender with spikes of blue;
sweeter plant was never found
growing on our English ground.”

~Caryl Battersby

“And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound
to lurk admist the labours of her loom,
and crown her kerchiefs witl mickle rare perfume.” ~William Shenstone The School Mistress 1742

“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard’s Almanac

“Those herbs which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but, being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild thyme and watermints.  Therefore, you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.”
–  Frances Bacon

“How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?”
–  Andrew Marvel

*Royalty free images

Herbal Lore and Romance


The love potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been analyzed by a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in England. Doctor Sell thinks it was made up of heart’s ease (violas) blended with the sweetness of musk roses. In the play, Oberon drops the flowery decoction onto the eyelids of the sleeping Titania, but the good doctor cautions against trying this at home. Rather, opt for the nape of the neck or the décolleté. Men just love the décolleté, breasts pushed up by a tightly drawn corset for those of you who didn’t realize.

In ages past it was thought that a young maiden could toss a sprig of St. John’s Wort over her shoulder and soon learn the name of the man she was to marry. Leafy branches of this herb were also hung in windows to ward off evil spirits and burnt to protect against devils, goblins and witches. Bear this in mind, if you’re troubled by them. Legend has it that angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the bubonic plague. All parts of the plant were deemed of great value against enchantment. And don’t forget boughs of the sacred rowan tree to ward off evil spells.

Feeling timid? Anoint your feet with catnip tea to embolden yourself. Fennel seed is said to boost desire. Lavender is “of ‘especiall good use for all griefes and paines of the head.” For those of you who would be true, rosemary is the symbol of fidelity between lovers. Traditionally, a wreath of the aromatic herb was worn by brides. Rosemary is also the herb of remembrance left at the grave of loved ones.~

***I’m teaching a class on Herbal Lore and the Historic Medicinal Uses of Herbs in May for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers—open to the public.  Click the link for more information and scroll down until you come to the listing for my class.  You can be an active participant or a lurker–entirely up to you.

Images from our garden by daughter Elise~

Ah, Love potions, Fairy gloves and Mandrake roots…the Lore of Old~


“And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.” ~Frances Bacon

My fascination with herbs is largely prompted by my absorption with all things historical and the thrill of seeing, touching, sometimes tasting, and above all smelling the same plants known by the ancients.  Herbs have changed little, if at all, over the centuries and offer us a connection with the past that precious little does in these modern days.  It’s pure intoxication to rub fragrant leaves between my fingers and savor the scent while pondering the wealth behind these plants.

I hope my enthusiasm will enrich your lives with a deeper awareness of those people who dwelt on this earth long before us and to inspire you to plant herbs in your gardens or in pots on a patio or sunny windowsill.  My love of herbs and herbal lore spills over into my stories.

The following post is one I wrote for my blog that’s been reprinted at various online sites and in RWA®chapter newsletters and sums it up rather well.

Time out of mind, herbs have figured prominently in mystery and romance. Shakespeare is probably the most famous author to incorporate the juice of monkshood as the deadly elixir in Hamlet.  Mandrake, the screaming roots in Harry Potter, made up the sleeping potion that sent Juliette into a death-like slumber.  Poor Romeo, if only he’d known before he drank belladonna, a member of the deadly nightshade family, or wolf’s bane. It seems no one is quite certain what the ill-fated lover knocked back.

Whimsical fancies sprang up around the shape of plants. The bell-like flowers of foxglove were thought to be the minute gloves that fairies wore, especially as foxglove bloomed in shady woodlands where everyone knows the little folk dwell. Commonly called digitalis, this now-famous plant is widely used to treat heart disease. But too strong a dose and bang––you have a murder mystery.  In Pocketful of Rye, famous mystery author Agatha Christie favored a poisonous concoction made of yew disguised in marmalade. The author hid deadly hemlock in a bottle of cold beer in Five Little Pigs.

Many herbs also had romantic uses. The love potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been analyzed by a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in England. Doctor Sell thinks it was made up of heart’s ease (violas) blended with the sweetness of musk roses. In the play, Oberon drops the flowery decoction onto the eyelids of the sleeping Titania, but the good doctor cautions against trying this at home. Rather, opt for the nape of the neck or the décolleté. Men just love the décolleté––breasts pushed up by a tightly drawn corset for those of you who didn’t realize.

Speaking of romance, it was thought that a young maiden could toss a sprig of St. John’s Wort over her shoulder and soon learn the name of the man she was to marry. Leafy branches of this herb were also hung in windows to ward off evil spirits and burnt to protect against devils, goblins and witches. Bear this in mind, if you’re troubled by them. Legend has it that angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the bubonic plague. All parts of the plant were deemed of great value against enchantment. And don’t forget boughs of the sacred rowan tree to ward off evil spells.

Feeling timid? Anoint your feet with catnip tea to embolden yourself. Fennel seed is said to boost desire. Lavender is “of ‘especiall good use for all griefes and paines of the head.” For those of you who would be true, rosemary is the symbol of fidelity between lovers. Traditionally, a wreath of the aromatic herb was worn by brides. Rosemary is also the herb of remembrance left at the grave of loved ones.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love,
remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~Spoken by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

In conclusion, historical writers, especially, can incorporate the use of herbs to flavor their stories, as do I. But anyone can mix in a love potion or fatal elixir to spice up the usual suspects in a suspense or murder mystery.   If you do so in real life just don’t tell me anything about it. ~

Herbal Lore and the Wonders of Time Old Plants


Simple wayside flowers, even weeds, have a far greater heritage than most people realize. We modern folk cannot begin to grasp the enormous part that herbs, any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring food, creating medicine, or scents, played in every aspect of life in times past; the not so distant past. There were no Walmarts or drugstores to run to for health and beauty aids, no cures to be had at every corner. Remedies for everything from colds to the bubonic plague were brewed, made into tinctures or salves.

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, first published in 1931, allots six pages to dandelions alone. The yellow flowers of this much maligned weed, so loved by children, supply rich nectar for the bees and wine for man. The tender spring leaves are vitamin rich and eaten fresh, or dried for digestive drinks and herbal beer. The roots are roasted for dandelion coffee, said to be indistinguishable from real coffee, though I suspect I would detect the difference. The entire plant is esteemed as a tonic, especially good for the liver and kidneys. This just scratches the surface of the wonders of dandelion.

Burdock is a marvel in its own right. The leaves and seeds are infused to treat many skin disorders, including eczema, and are taken as a remedy for nervous hysteria. An interesting combination and certainly useful. Lovesick? Pansies, also known as heartsease, were highly valued for their potency in love-charms and played an important part in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare