Forget-me-not: a Love Story

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The forget-me-not (Myosotis) symbolizes undying love.

For this Valentine’s Day, why not a charming medieval legend that unites love and a popular plant, the forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.)?

Here’s how it goes.

20170214bA French knight was walking along a river with his lady. He bent down to pick her a pretty little blue flower, but his heavy armor caused him to lose his balance and he fell into the current. Before sinking forever, he tossed the flower to his lady, shouting “ne m’oubliez pas” (forget me not)! And that was how the forget-me-not got its name.

Curiously, even if the legend is French, the name has been essentially lost in France, where they simply call the plant myosotis after its Latin name. But the name forget-me-not lives on not only in English but in other languages: Vergissmeinnicht in German, no-me-olvides in Spanish, nontiscordardimé in Italian, gleym mér ei in Icelandic, etc.

The Other Legend

There is also another legend that explains how the forget-me-not received its name… but it’s not nearly so romantic.

It is said that God had assembled all the flowers in order to give each one a name until there was only one tiny plant that remained. Then God turned as if to leave, causing the little plant to cry out: “Forget me not, O Lord!” “That shall be your name”, he decided.

A Symbol of Love and Remembrance

The forget-me-not remains a powerful symbol even to this day.

In the language of flowers, for example, it symbolizes true and undying love.

Alzheimer Societies around the world have adopted it a as symbol of memory loss. A forget-me-not invites you to remember both people with this disease and their caregivers.

It is also the symbol of International Missing Children’s Day, held annually on May 25th.

Grow Your Own Forget-me-nots

There are about 100 species of forget-me-not, but the most widely cultivated one is the woodland forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica, a biennial or short-lived perennial. It grows readily in our gardens where it blooms in spring. It reseeds abundantly (perhaps too abundantly for some tastes!), so one plant quickly becomes dozens. It performs best in moist soil in sun or partial shade and is very cold hardy: zone 3.

Forget-me-nots for Valentine’s Day?

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Wouldn’t a pot of forget-me-nots make a great Valentine’s Day gift?

What is missing is a link between this plant, certainly at least as symbolic of undying love as the red rose, with Valentine’s Day. Forget-me-nots just aren’t available in February… or at least, I’ve never seen any. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able be able to pick up a pot of pretty blue flowers for Valentine’s Day?

Why not mention this to your local garden center? It’s certainly an easy enough plant to grow from seed and doesn’t need much heat to thrive, making it inexpensive to produce. With supplementary lighting, it could easily be brought to bloom at just the right season.

I’m hoping a nursery somewhere will take up the challenge and that we’ll soon be seeing pots of pretty blue flowers on Valentine’s Day next year! Spread the word!20170214a

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