Witch Hazel

The poem below, Witch Hazel, by Theodore Enslin, (American poet, 1925-2011) perfectly conveys the sting of clarity offered by Hamamelis, or witch hazel. Flowering in an otherwise blunted winter landscape, witch hazel is impossible to ignore. It draws the attention tight. Similarly, it is valued medicinally for its great astringency – tightening and strengthening blood…

Gracious Oak

In the Victorian Language of Flowers, the oak represented hospitality. With their capacious and sometimes conveniently hollow trunks, formed over hundreds or even over a thousand years, oaks are associated with tales of welcome, shelter, bravery and worship. ChĂȘne chapelle oak in Allouville-Bellefosse, France, is between 800 and 1,200 years old. In its hollow trunk…

Magnolia

One sleeting February day, while walking through the City of London, I happened to pass the church of St Giles without Cripplegate. It has been a site of worship since 1090; John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, is buried here. Survivor of various incarnations, reduced to a carapace in the Blitz, the church, now long-restored, sits low and settled. It is stranded like…