Saturday, June 15, 2013


It's Jonquil time of year
If you drive through the 'Garden Shire' of Sydney at any time of the year you will find enterprising vendors selling cut flowers at their front gates by the old honesty box system of selecting your bunch from the ones on display and putting money in a tin. I wonder for how much longer, as the old farmlets and acreage properties are carved up, giving way to housing estates and new developments.  A "flowers for sale" sign which caught my eye yesterday was one which offered "Johnquills" for sale. So it made me think of the word "Johnquill" as being a good clue in a botanical crossword or as an alias for the great 17th century botanist / horticulturist John Parkinson who probably wrote his books using a quill pen, and, who introduced the jonquil/narcissus/daffodil into England, brought back to his garden by plant hunter, one William Boels, who found them during a trip to the Iberian Peninsular in search of new plant treasures.
An illustration of a double jonquil from Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole from 1656

John Parkinson (1567-1659)
Portrait from 1640 from his book Theatrum Botanicum
What is interesting about the life of "Park-in-Sun", his pun not mine, is that he managed to garden, work as an apothecary/herbalist ,write popular books which have had many reprints, even as recently as 1976, yet retain his faith as a Roman Catholic at a time when it was dangerous to do so. He dedicated his book Paradisi in Sole (first edition 1629) to his gardening friend Henrietta Maria of France who was Queen Consort to King Charles 1, while reminding his readers that the botanical world was really an expression of "Divine Creation" through this poem in the introduction:
Qui vent parangonner l'artifice a nature
Et nos pares a l'Eden indiscret il mesure.
Le pas de l'Elephant parle pas du ciron,
et de l'Aiglele vol parcil du mouscheron.

Australian artist Fiona Hall gives her contemporary spin on the fascinating Parkinson Jonquil story in this video.

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