At the entrance to the Cemetery Lodge there is a beautiful display of Michaelmas daisies. These flowers belong to the aster family and aster comes from the Ancient Greek word meaning star, referring to the shape of the flower head. They are popularly known as Michaelmas daisies because of their typical blooming period.
Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (also the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels) is a day in the Western Christian calendar which occurs on 29 September. In Christianity, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honoured for defeating Lucifer in the war in heaven. He is one of the principal angelic warriors, seen as a protector against the dark of night.
As Michaelmas falls near the equinox, it is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. This date has also delineated time and seasons particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland as one of the quarter days. These were the four dates in each year on which servants were hired, and rents were due. They fell on four religious festivals roughly three months apart and close to the two solstices and two equinoxes.
• Lady Day (25 March)
• Midsummer Day (24 June)
• Michaelmas (29 September)
• Christmas (25 December)
In medieval England, Michaelmas marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman’s year, George C. Homans observes: “at that time harvest was over, and the bailiff or reeve of the manor would be making out the accounts for the year.” On the quarter days it was ensured that debts and unresolved lawsuits were not allowed to linger on, accounts had to be settled, a reckoning had to be made and publicly recorded. The significance of quarter days is now limited, although leasehold payments and rents for land and premises in England are often still due on these dates.
Amongst the Michaelmas daisies outside the Cemetery Lodge, a plant bearing amazing bright red seeds can be seen. This is Iris foetidissima or Stinking Iris, as its leaves if crushed are quite smelly. In summer the flowers are a rather pale insignificant purple but the glory of this plant lies in its seed pods which split open and peel back revealing scarlet seeds in autumn.
Source: Wikipedia & Encyclopedia of Garden Plants & Flowers (Reader’s Digest)
Photographs by Janette Gregson