Lilac

Week 24 of PBP.

There is nothing like driving past a hedge of lilacs in bloom with the windows rolled down. It’s incomparable. The only thing more fun is standing amidst them in the rain, letting the water roll down over glossy leaves and splash on your face.

These are the flowers of my maternal line. My mother brought the white lilacs from her family home in Pennsylvania. It’s a stubborn plant, growing in a place that should be too shady, and blooming anyway. It’s always been smaller than its purple neighbors, but I’ve always been very fond of it because of its history.

Kobold gayfeather (liatris/loosestrife)

Week 23 of the PBP.

All right. This my first blatant use of a commercial name in order to make a plant fit into a letter. I really really wanted to talk about loosestrife, and this was the only way I could make it fit—there are surprisingly few plants in New England with either common or scientific names beginning with “k”!

In any case, this is an incredibly invasive plant, originally brought over as a medicinal herb. In August it turns many swampy areas in the Northeast a brilliant purple. There is a certain amount of irony that a plant named “loose strife” has inspired such a crusade against it!

Loosestrife is actually one of the plants I use magically on a regular basis, mainly as a charm to ease anxiety and tension. It’s a wonderful tool for this, and during Lughnasah I like to keep vases of it all over the house to mitigate the rising tempers of August heat. Because of its swampy habitat, I associate it with Water and with Venus, both because of its beauty and voluptuousness.

Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)

Week 21 of the PBP.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, this series is more than a little bit of an exercise in nostalgia. Here we have Kalmia latifolia, or Mountain Laurel, a plant which promises that summer is close. It is native to the eastern United States, and there are areas of New Jersey which have wide swaths of mountain laurel forest, which is absolutely magical to walk through as they bloom. Like many beautiful things, it is poisonous—although it is related to the blueberry, in fact.

One of these tall beauties grew next to my front door. I loved the clusters of pink and white flowers that started out so intense and then faded as the weather grew warmer. I’d put clusters of them into my barrettes as I went about slaying the dragons that lurked in the deeper flower beds.

With regards to magical associations, Air and Jupiter seem the most apt, mountain laurel being both expansive and abundant. It also might make a good wand wood, as one of its names is “spoonwood” as the native peoples used it to carve their spoons; it never gets large enough to be good for bigger projects, though it can sometimes be seen used as hand rails.

Juniper

Week 20 of the PBP.

Juniper has been something of a love-hate relationship for me. I love the berries, love the flavor that they give to corned beef and other stews, love the smell of its burning branches.

But I hate how ubiquitous is has become in suburban American landscaping. It seems like anywhere a landscaper doesn’t know what to do with, they stick in a low-growing juniper, just to break up the mulch a little bit. Ugh. This can be such a useful plant in so many ways from cooking to magic, but it fades into the very background of our consciousness because it is so common. (I do have to admit to being slightly allergic to juniper leaves, so maintaining or planting them has never been a joyful experience.)

My personal association are of Mercury and Air, particularly because of its fragrant, opening qualities. This is another shrub I would like to make a wand of at some point, though finding a specimen large enough to do that can be tricky. An ogham few for my North American set is much more likely at this point!

Ipomoea acuminata (Morning Glory)

Week 19 PBP.

Morning glory lives up to its name. It’s one of the most joyful plants to come across in the dawn light. Nothing brings a smile to my face like the sight of a morning glory opening her trumpets to the sun. It’s how I feel when I perform a sun salutation or the Ovate Pentagram exercise: swirling and inviting to the light shining on me.

I thought this plant might be a bit redundant after Datura, but it was very much a part of my memories of my grandmother. I was helping her walk her (very spoiled) poodle out in rural Pennsylvania when I asked her what that vine with the pretty flowers was. She told me it was a morning glory, and for some reason that name and the way she said it filled me with such inspiration that I wanted to become a morning glory fairy right then and there!

I thought about how wonderful it must be to spread beauty just my growing, and to have the resiliency that these meadow flowers show, coming back year after year no matter how many times they are cut down or plowed under. Even now, when they invade the garden, I can’t really help but smile. How can I not, when it feels like the morning glory is reaching out to embrace the whole world, all at once?