The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea

The other day, I wrote a post which featured some clip art from Dover Publications https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/from-oostburg-to-christchurch-we-are-connected/.  This beautiful painting of sweet peas was also included in my free clip art sampler. The painting is by the Belgian Painter and Botanist, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, (1759-1840) who was nick named the “Raphael of flowers”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Joseph_Redout%C3%A9

Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

In floriography, or the language of flowers, the sweet pea represents ‘delicate pleasures’.  I am not sure what constitutes ‘delicate pleasures’, especially in Victorian terms when floriography was at its peak, but, as this interpretation comes from Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers, I shall assume it has an innocent and sweet meaning. Like a light kiss a mother might bestow on her child’s cheek, or a gentle, hand in hand, stroll with a loved one.

For me, the sweet peas are the sweetest of flowers. Some years I grow them in my garden.

Sweet Peas in my Garden

Sweet Peas in my Garden

They remind me of my grandfather, for the sweet pea was his favourite flower.

They remind me of my wedding day, when all I could find  for a bouquet, in the arid setting of Botswana, was a handful of sweet peas; surprisingly, and almost miraculously, brought forth, rich in colour and scent, from a monochrome, dry earth. On that day, they were, indeed, a delicate pleasure, and a precious connection to loved ones far away.

Whilst pleasing my eye with the delicate, sweet pea painting, I wondered if I could find a poem to accompany it. And, of course, I could, with some help from Mr Google.  Alfred Noyes wrote A Child’s Vision, which begins

“Under the sweet-peas I stood

And drew deep breaths, they smelt so good….”

The poem is a delightful view of sweet peas from a child’s perspective. It  takes me back to my own childhood  fascination with  sweet peas (and snapdragons, too 🙂

Alfred Noyes  was an English poet.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Noyes   Two of his better known poems are “The Highwayman” and “Daddy Fell into the Pond”. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/daddy-fell-into-the-pond/ He was  born in 1880, on 16th September. Yes, that’s right, 16th September. Today is his birthday, or would be, if he were still alive.

Happy Birthday Alfred

Happy Birthday Alfred

Isn’t that a pleasurable and fortuitous discovery :)?  Alfred Noyes lived for some of his life, in Ventnor, Isle of Wight, and died there in 1958. His final resting place was Freshwater, Isle of Wight. And that little piece of information, that Alfred Noyes’s  home was on the Isle of Wight, afforded me a gentle, crinkle-cornered smile. Because, for some weeks, I have been on a voyage of discovery into my ancestry.  I  have been reaching out through the  past and  learning, little by little,  about my great, great, great grandparents  and their life on the Isle of Wight. It’s a fascinating journey, and, helping me to understand my ancestral  home in its modern context, is my lovely, full of spirit,  blogger friend, Bethan, at http://thehouseofbethan.com/.  We have  fun planning my imaginary trip “home”, and, now, thanks to my love of sweet peas, I can add Alfred Noyes’s home, Lisle Combe, to my list of places to visit.  And, since I will be near Ventnor, I will also consider taking  a peek at Keith Brewster’s prize-winning sweet peas,  http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/gardening/sign-of-sweet-success-50269.aspx

All fun and fantasy aside, it has been a sweetly, delicate pleasure, today, to have one, sweet pea painting lead me, by its virtual tendrils, from my kitchen bench, in Christchurch, to the Isle of Wight;  in which place I know there is a spot, a portion of soil,  that is uniquely mine ; a piece of ground that knows my heart, and my footprint, because of those who have gone before me.

Now, if only I had been a Victorian, with an abundant supply of sweet peas, I could have reduced all these  words in to a small posy . How much easier and sweeter for all of you, my kind, patient readers 🙂

© silkannthreades

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92 thoughts on “The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea

  1. Pingback: Sweet Peas: Art, Friendship and Second Chances | Gardening Nirvana

  2. Cynthia Reyes

    I love sweet peas and have them growing in my garden. But they are never as large as these ones seem to be.
    Thanks for this post which so beautifully integrates family history with poetry and flowers, giving us an added dimension in understanding and relating to this sweet flower.

    Reply
  3. Steve Schwartzman

    Because Alfred Noyes’s best-known poem is “The Highwayman,” set two or three centuries ago, people are sometimes surprised to learn that Noyes wrote the poem in the 1940s and lived till 1958. I remember reading “The Highwayman” in high school English class, and at around the same time, in the 1960s, folksinger Phil Ochs set it to music:

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Somehow I missed Phil Ochs when I was growing up, so thanks for the introduction. His songs still seem topical and, perhaps, need to be heard more. Do people write protest songs, anymore?? Interesting point you make about the Highwayman. I expect when I read it as a child, I thought it was written 2 or 3 hundred years ago.

      Reply
      1. Steve Schwartzman

        One time I attended a live performance, most likely in 1966 or ’67, when Phil Ochs came to my college in New York City (which I believe is where he was living at the time). He was a great talent but a troubled person, and unfortunately he ended up taking his own life just a decade later.

        Yes, I think people still write topical songs, though I’m not tuned in to that these days.

        Reply
      2. Steve Schwartzman

        Not surprisingly, almost everything in that three-and-a-half-year-old article is virulently anti-Bush. I wonder if anyone’s now writing songs against Obama. (Sorry, the United States seems to dominate.)

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I am not finding much re Obama. However I did find this fairly near the top of my Google search. http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/24/kim-dotcom-launches-viral-video-protest-song-against-obama/ The really interesting thing about this link is not so much the song but that Kim Dotcom is a resident of New Zealand; his story is long and complicated but he is a thorn in the side of our current Government. He is also using his money to support a new political party contesting our September elections. I doubt I will vote for him but he has brought some life to our political scene and for that I am grateful.

      3. Steve Schwartzman

        I didn’t know about that video, but not long ago I saw a feature about this guy on the American television news magazine “60 Minutes.” As a creator of things, I have no sympathy for someone who got rich by making it easy for lots of people to steal copyrighted works.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          He is certainly no sweet pea, except for the tendril part. I really can’t even begin to tell you how he has got a hold on our political scene. It’s so complex.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. I do love sweet peas but I don’t always have the greatest success with them. In my case, I think it is lack of a really good sunny spot. I am dithering about whether I should try them in a warmer spot this year or just not bother; but, like you, I do love to have a few to pick and bring inside.

      Reply
  4. cindy knoke

    Sweetpeas and snapdragons. Some of the first of many flowers, I plant wherever I move. What is better than bunches of sweetpeas, except for your incredible berry tart. Your posts elicit feelings of the gentle home in all of us who read you. We want to stop by for for the scent of the sweetpeas, meeting you, and the berry tart!!! Not in that order, neccessarily…..
    Bravo my talented friend!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      And I would love to have you drop by; but don’t come by too soon because I have yet to get this season’s sweet peas into the garden. I need to get a hurry on 🙂

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks for enjoying the sweet peas. 🙂 Hopefully they added to your day of sowing fun and frivolity.The choice of flowers was limited in Gaborone but, even if I had been somewhere with more choice, I may still have stayed with sweet peas.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Mmmmm; he was not a talker, that I remember, but he was an excellent and diligent letter writer; kept detailed diaries and always wrote in exquisite copper plate handwriting,(pen and ink!)

      Reply
  5. ordinarygood

    Tendrils reaching out making connections and so many lovely photos and illustrations in your post.
    I’ve been reaching out my genealogical tendrils this week and have met with some very mixed success. Your post cheered me after I discovered a cupboard full of skeletons.

    Reply
  6. Ralph

    My parents and grandparents grew and sold sweet peas on the Isle of Wight as a sideline. I left Bembridge IoW for Spain 11 years ago, so thank you for the reconnection and memories. Ralph xox 😀

    Reply
  7. Mrs. P

    I don’t know if you recall but it was the sweet peas in your header that drew me to your blog. Not only do I love the flowers but it was a perfect nickname for my daughter when she was very young. You have so many wonderful memories connected to this flower and by reading the comments have found many more surprises and wonderful connections to so much of what you referenced in this post…serendipity, indeed!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I do indeed remember that it was my header photo that caught your eye and that you told me about your daughter’s nickname. So, there is another memory to attach to the beautiful sweet pea. It was this sweet little flower that brought me,you, one of my earliest blogger friends 🙂

      Reply
  8. Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

    So fascinating to read your post and all of the comments; I really enjoyed this over my cup of tea this morning. Sweet peas are my very favourite flower – my Mom has been growing them in her garden ever since I can remember. We grow a bunch of them just inside the gates of our community garden so that when you enter, you’re dazzled with their incredible fragrance. They’re also the flower symbol of my birth month, April.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s lovely to know that the sweet pea is special to you too. I think it’s charming the way this little flower has us all twisted around its tiny tendrils and thoroughly in love with it. It must be delightful entering your community garden when the sweet peas are flowering; I can just imagine the fragrance. And lovely to think of you enjoying a cup of tea whilst reading my post; at least I assume you enjoyed the tea as well as the post 😉

      Reply
  9. The House of Bethan

    Hi Gallivanta,
    This morning when I dropped Roo off for school I spoke to Rob Noyes about the spooky connection and also talk about you being in NZ. He laughed and said, “well, here’s another connection – on the other side of my family (maternal) my great grandfather was Fredrick Weld. He was a politician and governor in New Zealand around 1846ish.” Apparently at Lisle Combe he has some beautiful water colours that he did of NZ whilst out there. xxx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      ASTONISHING!!! Frederick Weld was the 6th Premier of New Zealand. The maternal branch of my family who arrived in New Zealand in 1842 would have been familiar with his name. They lived in the electorate next to Sir Frederick’s electorate.

      Reply
  10. The House of Bethan

    Er, Galli … something quite spooky is afoot here. Lisle Combe is about a quarter of a mile from my home. It is still in the Noyes family, owned now by the great great grandson – Rob, who is a friend. In fact, his little boy is in the same class as Roo and Roo came home wearing his PE t.shirt yesterday. At the weekend Naughty N was staying in their yurts in exchange for some glass that Spouser had blown in his studio. Two days ago I was on a St Lawrence exploratory prowl with my gorgeous pal, Amy and I was showing her the holy well in St Lawrence which is now looked after by the Noyes family … And now this post!! You are connected to this place with your SOUL, BONES and BLOOD Gallivanta. And if Lisle Combe is on your list for visits, then you can blinking well come up the road and have tea with me!! xxx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh my giddy gosh, I am freaked to the core of my bones.!!!!!!!!!! And, absolutely, I will come and have tea with you. The Holy Well? I must investigate that. I will know this island like the back of my hand before I even get there. I am so delighted you have close connections to Lisle Combe, the place that, apparently, so randomly, crossed my path 🙂

      Reply
      1. The House of Bethan

        Imagine if Alfred Noyes had some sort of connection with your g g g grandparents? It seems like such a coincidence for you to find the poem of Alfred Noye’s birthday and for all these connections … xxx

        Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Spinning, like all those little, curly tendrils on the sweet peas :), which are ever so hard to untangle when they get a grip on something. I didn’t think I would find flowers at all for a bouquet.So, I was amazed when I found a small flower market , and even more amazed to discover the flower stall had sweet peas.

      Reply
  11. utesmile

    I love sweet peas, they are such light beautiful flowers. And Thank you for this information about Alfred (my dad’s name also) . The Highway man is always read in our school by the children. I didn’t know though that he lived and died in Freshwater. I have been on the Isle of Wight and seen it all, well it is small. And now you have some connection too with it. Wow. It is a beautiful small island you can fall in love with. Lovely beaches and beautiful countryside. We did some stargazing while there as it is not so light poluted there. You will have to visit one day !

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ute, you may not have visited New Zealand but you travel to lots of other places that I would like to see. So pleased to hear that you loved your visit to the Isle of Wight. Your comments give me more incentive to really make an effort to visit. Your description of Sweet peas as light is perfect. Did your father, Alfred, like sweet peas and summer fruit flan?

      Reply
      1. utesmile

        My dad loved all flowers and butterflies, he saw the beauty in nature and little things and always pointed it out to us. His favourite were the red poppies in a meadow and in his garden the hydrangea. Since I moved away from home and I see a beautiful hydrangea I think of my dad instantly. He also did love his cakes and desserts. He was a sweet man in all accounts. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I love hydrangeas too. But I have a difficult time growing them. I was looking at them this morning and two of the plants have died over the winter. However, if the other two bloom I will think of your father who loved his cakes 🙂

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, either a jigsaw or a very complicated knitting pattern 😉 Glad you can smell the sweet peas. One of the joys of the sweet peas is that the more you pick them, the more you get. Such a generous plant!

      Reply
  12. pleisbilongtumi

    Ah, from ear to ear, how come?….. would it be said from mouth to ear?
    I just want to tell you there is something new to me. It is sweet pea. None of them seen in my country, you gave me a knowledge about it. Thank you very much for sharing your beautiful photos.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Well, now you have me thinking! Ear to ear or mouth to ear…..I am not sure, but I do know it was a very big smile 😀 I am pleased I could introduce you to the sweet pea.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Annie. The summer fruit flan was something I made one year when I had a huge harvest of my own raspberries. Sadly, the raspberry canes became diseased and I had to remove them. So no home grown raspberries this year 😦

      Reply
  13. tiny lessons blog

    This is a fascinating story – teaches us again that everything connects to everything! I hope your trip to your ancestral land will become reality. Everything starts with a thought! It’s also funny that last week my dad received a wonderful, artistic bouquet of sweet pees for his 90th birthday from a special friend of his.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am completely fascinated by how everything connects to everything. And, now, you give me another connection; the sweet pea bouquet given to your father for his birthday. Did you take a photo? Will there be a sweet poem about it? I would love to see it 🙂

      Reply
      1. tiny lessons blog

        I got a picture of his flowers and cards sometime in the afternoon and I can see the bouquet! Tried to copy a miniature picture here but it doesn’t stick 🙂 Maybe I’ll write something a bit later….

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Thanks for trying. Apparently I have to have some sort of software to enable people to insert photos to the comments. Not sure how that is done, so haven’t done it yet. I will gladly visit your blog if you do write something about it later. Videos seem to work okay in the comments but not photos!!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. I am not always successful with sweet peas. My photos are from several years back. I was interested to look at the photos again to see how the quality of the photos compares with the ones I take now with my new-ish camera 🙂

      Reply
  14. Anonymous

    How lovely for you to have found an ancestral connection in the Isle of Wight. It’s on my list of places to visit as it sounds so appealing.

    Reply

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