It’s day 21 of our Heritage Advent calendar and also the Winter Solstice, to celebrate we’re delving deep into a very beautiful item from our Special Collections.
Some of our favourite winter plants can be found in the beautifully illustrated encyclopaedia of trees Sylvan Musings, or, The Spirit of the Woods (1849)by Leeds botanist and poet Rebecca Hey.
Rebecca drew and painted her own illustrations by examining real life examples as she came across them in nature, the images were then followed in the book by one of her poems and a description of the plant.
These are a couple of festive examples;
“The holly is one of the most esteemed of our native evergreens. Its value is felt in sylvan scenery, even in spring and summer, when the woods and thickets are arrayed in the full flush of ” leafy luxury ; ” but it is in connection with the wintry landscape, that it may most confidently challenge our admiration. When all the deciduous trees have “put their graceful foliage off,” and ” stand barren as lances,” the holly cheers us with its unwithering leaf and coral berries, suggesting a thousand images, “pleasant,” not “mournful to the soul ; ” and when its blushing wreaths, as is not unfrequently the case, are seen shining beneath a transparent incrustation of frost, they possess a magic beauty, and look as if they belonged to Fairy-land.”
“We are indebted to the ivy for the picturesque beauty it throws around every object to which it attaches itself: no architectural ornament, however classical, no tracery, however light and elegant, can vie in graceful effect with this ” wild tapestry.”
“Connected as it is with gloomy reminiscences, it is somewhat strange that this plant should ever administer to ” heart-easing mirth ; ” and yet, wherever old customs are preserved,
“Forth to the woods do the merry men go, To gather in the mistletoe”
and it is chosen, as it were, to preside over the Christmas gambols; at least in the servants’ hall or the kitchen, where a large bunch is hung up in great state, and is the occasion of much merriment.”
See you tomorrow for day 22 of the Heritage advent calendar.