Over two millennia ago, the poet Ovid wrote of his encounter with Flora, the scintillating goddess of flowers, who he met on 2nd May, to be precise, on the bustling streets of Rome amidst the festivities of the Ludi Florales. Between breaths that exude spring roses (of course), the playful goddess tells the poet her story, claiming the very colours of the earth as her own design and boasting of her generative capacity to transform the victims of untimely deaths into vibrant flowers that bear lasting testament to their memory – crocuses, violets, anenomes, narcissi and hyacinths, to name a few. Inspired by the memorialising potential of these floral incarnations, Ovid makes an earnest request of the goddess,
‘That Naso’s song may flower for all time, scatter, I pray, your gifts on my heart.’
– Fasti 5.76
Which brings me to the purpose of this blog: to testify to the ever-lasting flower of Ovid’s poetry and its influence on a few of my favourite things: botany, gardens, food and Renaissance Italy…
Ovid’s Garden is a project that forms part of my PhD research. I am working in partnership with Grade II listed Arts & Crafts villa Winterbourne House & Gardens to recreate an Italian Renaissance garden based upon plantings inspired by Ovid’s botany, which has been designed by acclaimed landscape designer Kathryn Aalto. By adopting a phenomenological approach recreating the plantings of the past, I will define the garden encounter through its somatic experience, examining how the senses evoked a specific response in the visitor and are intrinsically linked with the semiotic elements of garden design. This project is generously funded by University of Birmingham and Midlands3Cities Student Development Fund.
Classics Kitchen recreates ancient recipes from the classical world as I seek to understand more about the sensory and gastronomic experiences of the past. The Classics Kitchen began as a supper club set up by myself and the fabulous Stef over at Flavouring the Moment, providing hearty meals to hungry Classics postgrads when we lived together in Exeter and continues in our food blogs and pop-ups! It also includes ancient recipes from the Hungry Historians, a combined effort from the English and Greek kitchens of myself and the marvelous Carmen over at Circe’s Kitchen.
Flavouring the Garden explores the recipes that incorporate the flowers and fruits found in both Ovid’s text and Italian Renaissance gardens, using Scappi’s Opera (1570) to revive the gastronomic experience associated with the garden.
Wonderland Wanderings charts my journey through some of the most stunning gardens of the Italian Renaissance and will attempt to overcome modern preconceptions of the Italian garden structured landscape dominated by green, but instead to imagine it filled with vibrant floriculture.