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A Gilly-Flower (European wallflower)

A gilly flower referred to any clove scented bloom such as a clove pink that we now call a dianthus, or a wallflower or scented stock.

Cheiranthus_cheiri_a1

Photo: Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux

Cheiranthus cheiri, also known as "Wallflower"

John Drinkwater (1882-1937) wrote this poem for children many years ago:

Thank God for sleep in the long quiet night,
For the clear day calling through the little leaded panes,
For the shining well water and the warm golden light,
And the paths washed white by singing rains.

We thank Thee, O God, for exultation born
Of the kiss of the winds, for life among the leaves,
For the whirring wings that pass, about the wonder of the morn
For the changing plumes of swallows gliding upwards to their eaves.

For the treasure of the garden, the gilly flowers of gold,
The prouder petalled tulips, the primose full of spring,
For the crowded orchard boughs and the swelling buds that hold,
A yet unwoven wonder, to Thee our praise we bring.

In the highlands of Scotland, a “gillie” is a sportsman’s attendant or servant. During a shooting outing, for example, the gillie would reload the guns and carry the game. A gilly flower referred to any clove scented bloom such as a clove pink that we now call a dianthus, or a wallflower or scented stock. Since the poem just read mentions “gilly flowers of gold” it is likely that Drinkwater, the poet here, was referring to the European wallflower that has spikes of yellow blooms with brown markings. Wallflowers are still frequently seen in English gardens even today, though they are rarely grown in America.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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  • http://www.thebestgardening.com Ann

    So much for the meaning behind the term 'wallflower' nowadays. I think it's a beautiful flower.

  • Nissi

    Was watching Game of Thrones S3/E10 and some ladys name was Gilly :)

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