Student Museum Musings – Lauren

By Lauren R., Summer Student

In my time as a co-op student, a volunteer, and now as a working summer student I have learned that at the museum you never know what to expect when you show up for work. When I started my summer position this year I honestly had no clue what I was in for; I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing and I had no clue what kind of projects I would be working on.

Despite this uncertainty, I was incredibly excited to start in my new position and I knew that no matter what I did I would love it (every project is exciting in its own way). This summer I got assigned a project that was even more exciting than I ever could have imagined! My summer project is to create a new audio tour for the houses! For this I will be looking at talking more about the families in the houses instead of just the houses  themselves. Also, I will be looking quite a bit at the heritage gardens of Henry House and adding this new information to the tour as it was not part of the original tour.

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Woolly Lamb’s Ear

The Henry House heritage gardens is home to an assortment of interesting (and strange) plants. The Henry House garden is designed to display what an everyday garden would have looked like, similar to what the Henry’s themselves would have had. It is split into different sections depending on what the use of the plant is. There is one garden dedicated to tea, another to dyes and the last to herbs and plants that can be used for medical and other practical purposes. In the practical garden there are eight sections: practical, protection, serious conditions, culinary, insect control, healing, cough control, and calming.

So far, out of the many plants that I have researched and looked at in the garden, I have found four that continue to catch my interest. The first two belong in the healing section of the garden. The first plant is Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium). This plant is used to reduce blood pressure and, if the fresh leaves are put into a poultice, it can stop bleeding from cuts and scrapes and things of that kind. Another plant that is found in this portion of the garden is Woolly Lamb’s Ear. This plant is really cool as it feels fuzzy and is soft to the touch. The way that the Henrys may have put this plant to use would have been as bandages to keep cuts clean and covered, the soft texture of these leaves being non-aggravating to injured skin.

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Valerian

Another plant, in the calming section, that I find interesting is Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis). This plant would have been used to help prevent nightmares and to reduce anxiety. However, if too much is taken (or if it is taken for too long) it can cause some adverse side effects such as hallucinations, abdominal pain and headaches.  The final plant that catches my eye, or rather my nose, in our garden is Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis).  This plant is part of the tea garden. Lemon Balm is an incredibly versatile plant. It can be used as an extract to add flavour to dishes, added to a relaxing bath, applied to help soothe insect bites, used to make soothing teas (for headaches and nausea), lessen depression, eczema and it can even help allergy sufferers. In addition to all of this, Lemon Balm can help clean and heal wounds as it acts as an antiviral substance and will starve the bacteria in the wound of oxygen thereby killing it.

 

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Lady Bug on Tea Plant

There are really some incredible plants in the Henry House garden. What is even more incredible is to think that all of these plants would have been used in some way by the Henry family in their everyday lives.

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The Host Files – Victorian Flower Language

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between!

By Karen A., Visitor Host

The Victorian Era ushered in a time of proper etiquette among the upper class in England during Queen Victoria’s reign. Among the many rules and customs, there were expected behaviors that prohibited outright flirtations, questions, or scandalous relationships between two young lovers.

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The use of flowers to convey messages had been used in Persia and the Middle East, it was during the Victorian Era and the publication of flower dictionaries explaining the meaning of plants, flowers and herbs, that the tradition began to spread throughout England. Soon it became popular to use flowers to send secretive messages. Though often portrayed to relay positive messages of interest, affection and love, flowers could also send a negative message and at times, the same flower could have opposite meanings depending on how it was arranged or delivered.

There was even a “Floral Clock”, with each flower representing a different hour of the day. “Meet me tomorrow at five o’clock”, for example, could be said with a combination of pimpernel, buttercup, and sweet-pea. Through the language of flowers, Victorian sweethearts were able to exchange messages and arrange meetings under the noses of their unsuspecting parents!

Victorian Era etiquette was dictated by who was around to observe the behaviors and manners of others. There was a clear distinction between upper class, middle-class, and the poor. Proper etiquette often limited communications based on people of another social status, or of a different gender.

Even within the same social class, many topics were taboo and it was impolite or downright rude to ask openly about relationships. Flirtations did take place, but secretly and with attention to discretion. By today’s standards, much of Victorian etiquette seems overly complicated or foolish, but in fact much of it was based on simple good manners. Some customs have been passed along and continued to be followed today such as men removing their hats when indoors, showing respect to women by opening doors for them or bringing a hostess gift to parties.

Here are some examples of the Victorian flower language:

Lavender- Sad refusal. “I like you, but only as a friend.”
Purple Iris- Ardour. “My heart is aflame.”
Bulrush- Haste. “Be more discreet in future.”
Daffodil- Rebuttal. “I do not share your feelings.”
Daisy- Delay. “Await my answer in a few days.”
Fuchsia- Warning. “Take heed, your lover is false.”
Pimpernel- Meeting. “Suggest when and where to meet.”
Primrose- New Love. “I may learn to love you. It’s too soon to tell.”
Begonia – Warning. “We are being watched.”
Tulip- Confession. “With this flower I declare my love.

So the next time you receive a gift of flowers, pay close attention—they may be talking to you!

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From the Archival Collection of the Oshawa Museum