LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING, Amaranthus caudatu
THE amaranth is a fact and a fancy. It is the flower of immortality, the flower of love, the flower of fame, and the flower that accompanies Hope until she is ruthlessly swallowed by Despair. "Love-lies-bleeding" is a name needing no explanation to one who has seen the flower, for often the pendent inflorescence, of a brilliant crimson colour, may be likened to streams of blood; but as a figurative expression it might with equal propriety be called "Hate-lies-bleeding." Amaranthus is the unfading flower, amar giving the adjective to the noun. By a confusion common in the history of words, amar has been changed to amor, and thus the unfading flower becomes the flower of love: the outward characters explain the rest.
The mythical or fanciful part of the history of this flower admits us to the region of poesy, and we find the amaranth to be a flower of the gods. Better for us at present, perhaps, is the adoption of the flower by Milton for crowning the celestial beings that bow before the throne of the Most High, in "Paradise Lost"--
"To the ground,
With solemn adoration, down they cast
Their crowns, inwove with amarant and gold:--
Immortal amarant, a flower which once
In Paradise, fast by the tree of life,
Began to bloom; but soon for man's offence
To heaven removed, where first it grew, there grows
And flowers aloft, shading the fount of life,
But where the river of bliss through midst of heaven
Rolls o'er Elysian flowers her amber stream;
With these that never fade, the spirits elect
Bind their resplendent locks inwreathed with beams.
Now in loose garlands thick thrown off, the bright
Pavement, that like a sea of jasper shone,
Impurpled with celestial roses, smiled."
It is fortunate for Milton that jasper has a great range of colours. It is best known in the world of art by the Wedgwood ware, so called; but it will scarcely be considered a mistake on our part to say that jasper has never been seen of the colour of any amaranth known in gardens.
Shelley, in "Rosalind and Helen," thus introduces our flowers:--
"Whose sad inhabitants each year would come,
With willing steps climbing that rugged height,
And hang long locks of hair, and garlands bound
With amaranth flowers, which, in the clime's despite,
Filled the frore air with unaccustom'd light.
Such flowers as in the wintry memory bloom
Of one friend left, adorned that frozen tomb."
It is a sad drop from the heights to which the poets carry us to the uncomfortable suggestions of the old French name for the flower, "Discipline des religieuses"--the nun's whipping-rope. Another French name takes the "amor" into consideration, for it is "Fleur de jalousie." The geographical enterprise of the Spanish and Portuguese is reflected in the name--"Papagayo"--it bears in the Peninsula; it is there the parrot flower, though quite unlike a parrot, except in its brilliant colour.
All the amaranths are annuals, and all that are known are worth growing. Three of the number are of considerable importance to amateurs who require flowers in plenty at the least possible expense, and needing but very little exercise of horticultural skill. They comprise the one here figured, Amaranthus caudatus, which will grow in any soil, but attains to a splendid character when located in a rich, deep, moist loam. It is sufficient to sow the seed on the border where it is to remain; but for a well-managed garden, the proper practice is to sow in pans or pots, and raise the plants in a frame, and plant them out when large enough. There is a yellow-flowered variety, and there is one with whitish flowers; but the common crimson is the most effective.
Prince's feather is a replica of the foregoing, but with upright instead of pendent inflorescence. Its book name is Amaranthus hypochondriacus. It is more hardy, grows to greater size, and lasts longer in flower than love-lies-bleeding; but though a fine plant, it must be placed second in order of merit as regards distinctive beauty.
A showy amaranthus is A. speciosus, a native of Nepaul, growing three to four feet high, with reddish-purple leaves, and crimson flowers in dense whorls. If sown in the open border in April, it makes a fine plant, but it is better to sow in March, in a warm house or frame, to insure a longer season of growth and a fuller development.
The globe amaranth, the cockscomb, and the pyramidal celosia are true amaranths, the last-named being one of the most lovely plants of its class in cultivation. It is only an annual, and requires the warmth of the stove; but its feathery plumes of many colours are unequalled for distinctness and lustre. Its book name is Celosia pyramidalis.
How many of the amaranths are edible we cannot with precision say. We have grown A. polygonoides in a frame for use as spinach, and found it excellent. Another species, A. tristis, is largely used as food in India; and the young stems of A. oleraceus are in the same country eaten as a substitute for asparagus.
Title: LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING, Amaranthus caudatu Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
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