In the Pink in Aldbourne

Pinks Feast Aldbourne 1792
Reading Mercury – Monday 11 June 1792 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

UPDATE: 23 April 2020 This article was originally written in the summer of 2018, leading up to the Aldbourne Produce & Craft Show. Sadly, that event hasn’t taken place since. A loss to the village calendar, but so poorly supported (except by the faithful few) that the organisers gave up the unequal struggle and called it a day.

Writing this in the days leading up to the Aldbourne Produce & Craft Show 2018 I thought it appropriate to explore just how long flower shows have been a feature of our lovely village.  The earliest reference I have found so far is a notice for a SUBSCRIPTION PINK FEAST at the Crown on 26 June 1792; the prize was a ‘handsome piece of plate … to him that exhibits the six best whole-blown PINKS of six different sorts’.

I’ve learned that the carnation is said to have been brought to Britain by the Romans.  The smallest member of genus dianthus is the pink; there’s also Sweet William.  Thomas Fairchild, born in Aldbourne in 1667, cross pollinated two of the genus to produce the hybrid Fairchild’s Mule. Two of Fairchild’s mules have survived in the herbaria of Oxford University and the Natural History Museum, London.

I can recommend a lovely book printed in 1969 called Shakespeare’s Flowers, by Jessica Kerr ( beautifully illustrated by Anne Ophelia Dowden).

Shakespeare’s plays are full of references to plants and flowers, he wrote in The Winter’s Tale much about gardens, flowers, trees and about their care and cultivation.

Sir, the year growing ancient,
Not yet on summer’s death, nor on the birth
Of trembling winter, the fairest flower o’ the season
Are our carnations, and streak’d gillyvors

‘Streak’d gillvors’ would be a fine example of Picotee – worthy of winning the Crown Picotee Cup – first presented in 2017.

Some links in praise of pinks!

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