That which we call a Gillyflower…

Saturday, 28 January 2017 22:53

…by any other name would be as sweet.

I have to confess we've occasionally doubted the choice of 'Gillyflower' as our company name. We'd already been through a lot of possibilities, but there was always something that didn't quite fit. When Bettina first suggested it, we both felt we'd found the right one. Because we were setting out to grow English cottage garden flowers in a traditional organic way - in season only and without synthetic fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides, this old English word seemed the perfect match. 

What we discovered when we first looked it up was that 'gillyflower' (sometimes 'gilliflower' - these were the days before standardised spelling) referred to a number of varieties. These included carnations (or others of the genus Dyanthus), stocks, and wallflowers. The name derives from the old French ' gillofre' which in turn came from the Greek karyophyllon , meaning 'nut-leaf', the source of the spice we call 'clove'. These plants have that fragrance in common. 

As an actor, I love the fact that Shakespeare wrote of it on several occasions, and the varieties that it refers to are some of our favourites. I assumed that most people would have run across the word, if only in passing, and that it would ring bells in their memories. As it turned out, it's not that commonly known, and sometimes results in some confusion. It's given us a few gentle laughs, actually. People have written about the company and called us 'Gilly's Flowers'. About half of our inquirers pronounce it 'Jillyflower', or 'Jilly's Flowers'. And many people ring about a bouquet or a wedding and ask to speak to Jilly. There's nobody here called Jilly! 

So have we changed our minds?

No. We love the name, and it hasn't done us any harm. It's an old name with a history going back over the horizon, and for us it conjures up times when we lived as part of Nature, and celebrated the seasons - both the seasons of Earth and the seasons of our individual lives - with the scents and colours and extraordinary shapes of flowers that grew within our own sight. But it is Gillyflower, not Jilly's Flowers!