It has long been customary in Williamsburg to overplant our tulip beds in the fall with species of small, hardy flowering plants that will withstand the rigors of winter to bloom in the spring; first under the tulips and then, when the tulips are exhausted, to succeed them in a glorious ground cover of color.
Three of the most popular plants for this use are Johnny Jump-ups, English Daisies and Forget-me-nots.
Johnny Jump-up, Viola tricolor, is the pansy of Shakespeare and the flower mentioned in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that the maidens call “love-in-idleness.”
It is also known as Heart’s Ease by colonial herbalists for its reputed help, when added in the salad, to that most vital of organs.
It is a creeping winter annual that Mr. Philip Miller, author of “The Gardener’s Dictionary,” observes will “scatter their Seeds, and propagate themselves in plenty, where they are permitted to stand.” Indeed, five plants this year will yield 30 the next and the following year your neighbors will have it.
What is now known as the English Daisy, Bellis perennis, was the original daisy of Chaucer and other ancient authors.
Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon “daes eage” meaning “day’s eye” as the flowers close in the evening. They are the daisies lovelorn children use for the age old predictor of “he loves me, he loves me not.”
It is a robust perennial in the proper climate but must have a cool moist situation.
The Forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica, was long a little regarded weed that grew in wetlands throughout the European continent.
Its name seems to derive from a 15th century German legend in which a knight, stooping to gather this little flower by the side of a stream, was over balanced by the weight of his armor and fell into the river crying, as the water bore him down, “forget-me-not!”
A posy of Forget-me-nots has long been used by German ladies as a sign of their fidelity.
It is generally a biennial plant that must return by seed each year that emerges in the fall for a spring time bloom.