Flowers of England  by Sylvia Watts

I have included all the explanation of the song sent to me by Sylvia as I felt nothing should be missed out. Martyn


I attach the words. You will note an extra verse. I realised I had omitted bluebells and so wrote that whilst sitting in a Sussex bluebell wood. You can leave it out if you like.

I remember I wrote it in June, just as the May blossom was fading and I could see a dogrose climbing up though the hedge.

I love the various names eg  Courtship and matrimony-  also known as meadowsweet. Maybe used to flavour ale, found in bronze age graves, called Yule Girse(grass) in Shetland so I am guessing a strewing herb. The flowers are sweet smelling  ( sickly I think) and more bitter when picked. Hence courtship and matrimony!!

And how lovely is the name, and the flower, Queen Anne’s Lace  – cow parsley. When that is out and lining the lanes, how gorgeous.

Elecampane -. Not seen growing wild very often – I have seen it only ONCE,  on the B road between WOkingham and Bracknell. Pliny wrote about its medicinal and culinary value. A handsome plant that I like to grow in the garden. I just transplanted one this week. If it doesnt do well I still have some seed.

That’s just three I have used in the song. Most of the old names tell us what they were once used for. And there are so many I have left out – just today I saw a clump of milkmaids at the side of the road, and down here in the banks the scurvygrass is in flower!! And the primroses at the moment – wonderful.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t notice wild flowers and know their names.  As a child my mother would send out to collect a few flowers and grasses for identification when I was moaning to her about having nothing to do! I wrote in another song which I call Longhill Woods – a place I spent a lot time playing –

‘fist grasping treasure, jay’s feather, owl pellet;

bend low for primroses far back in the briar.

the girl who stands trembling when fir cones are cracking

ignores the blood trickling to reach just one flower’

Adapt these random notes as you think fit. I have tried to pinpoint why I wrote the song, but it’s along time ago….

By the way , there is one deliberate error – a name chosen for its literary quality. So far only one person has ever questioned me about it – and he STILL mentions it from time to time haha.   

Sylvia Watts