An Anemone Walk

A few kilometers south of Brussels lies the Hallerbos (Bois de Hal in French), also known as the bluebell forest. I’ve written about it previously and shared photos of its turquoise tinted valleys during the bluebell season which starts around mid-April. This year, however, I went to the forest earlier to see the anemones.

Although less striking in color than bluebells, woodland anemones have a graceful beauty. Their flowers are white, with delicate pink veining and as they turn to follow the sun, they look opalescent.

Wild anemone flowers (anemone nemorosa is their Latin name) don’t have a noticeable scent, but their leaves smell musky and nutty. It’s a bold odor for such a delicate plant, but it also warns predators–don’t eat me, I might poison you. And so it might, because one of the wild anemone’s components, called protoanemonin, is an irritant. In other words, anemones are best admired and not touched.

Whenever I walk in the forest, I think of my paternal grandmother, Daria, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and could recite stories about them for hours, making even the most unassuming herbs appear full of hidden mysteries. As lifestyles become more disengaged from nature, such knowledge is vanishing, and with it the understanding that plants are not simply about commercial utility and that they have their own lives and means of communication.

I try to piece together Daria’s stories as I take the narrow paths, treading carefully not to crush the musk-scented leaves of anemones and the first daffodils. It’s been more than twenty years since we’ve last walked in a forest together. More than the words, though, I remember the scents, because she was the one who taught me to smell everything carefully and to remember each plant not just by its color or shape but also by its aroma. Violet leaves smell of cucumber peels. Woodland daffodils smell of leather and sweet tea, but when they’re past their prime their scent resembles overripe apples and moldy paper.

In the city, spring can be elusive, reminding us of  its presence with the occasional magnolia bloom or the tautness of linden buds, but here in the forest, it can be felt, touched and smelled with ease. It’s in every anemone petal, in every musk redolent leaf, in every blade of grass.

Extra: The Bluebell Forest

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Subscribe

36 Comments

  • Rachel: It looks like such a beautiful and peaceful place. Beautiful photos! April 13, 2018 at 9:16am Reply

    • Victoria: It is! I try to go there at least once a month. April 13, 2018 at 11:10am Reply

  • KatieAnn: This is such a beautiful and poetic post. I am reminded of flowers called Spring Beauties that bloom here in Kentucky. They are also white with pink veining. Every spring they blanket the ground with hazy white. When they are in full bloom, you almost feel as if you are glimpsing a piece of heaven.
    These photos you took are absolutely enchanting. How wonderful to have such a gifted and insightful grandmother who lovingly passed on her knowledge to you. April 13, 2018 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: It was the first year I noticed how many anemones there were in the forest. They’re less striking than bluebells, and yet they have their own delicate beauty.

      I looked up spring beauties online, and they looked familiar. The pink veining is so bright next to the clear white. April 13, 2018 at 11:13am Reply

  • Emilie: Ahh so lovely! Flowers on mass always make me feel giddy 🙂

    Thank you for sharing the memories of your grandmother Daria. It feels like a gift when someone shares their knowledge of nature with you. April 13, 2018 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: She grew up in the countryside, so she knew the forest well. I agree with you, it’s a precious kind of knowledge. April 13, 2018 at 11:13am Reply

  • Brenda: In an attempt to teach us to read ‘exactly what we see’ our teacher wrote:

    …flowers in the
    the spring…

    on the board. Only about 2 out of 20 students noticed the double “the”. I would like to think I learned to read exactly what I see….but, the phrase itself has always stayed with me. Where I live, we endure very cold prairie winters and there is nothing so uplifting as catching a glimpse of red tulips and mauve crocuses as they push themselves through the
    icy ground – reaching for the heat of the sun. Like many people, I consider spring my favourite season….& it is lovely spring flowers that do it. Your photos of the forest are beautiful – and inspiring. Thank you… April 13, 2018 at 10:23am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s such a great exercise, and yes, the double the is very easy to miss, as our brain skips to make the logical link–flowers in the spring. The “the” adds an extra layer to the story, though. For this same reason I enjoy reading haiku. Its simplicity belies many meanings and stories. April 13, 2018 at 11:15am Reply

    • Fleurycat: Speaking of the the…Annuals of Thought: “Mind Expander” on Andy Clark in the April 2nd issue of The New Yorker. A must read if you are interested in philosophy and ideas about how our brains work. This really resonated with me. April 13, 2018 at 3:47pm Reply

      • Brenda: Thank you – I am always interested in articles written about the brain and it’s many mysteries. I will definitely take a look. April 13, 2018 at 4:07pm Reply

      • Fleurycat: Annals! April 13, 2018 at 7:37pm Reply

      • Victoria: I will also take a look at it. Thank you. April 17, 2018 at 10:48am Reply

  • Filomena: Gorgeous photos! April 13, 2018 at 10:28am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful experience with us. April 13, 2018 at 11:09am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! So glad that you enjoyed it. April 13, 2018 at 11:16am Reply

  • Maria: Lovely post and photos Victoria!! In Montréal spring is very elusive this year, but some crocus started to bloom, in the middle of the snow and mud of this period. I’ve always found them magic and fairy! April 13, 2018 at 12:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: They are among my favorite spring flowers too. So delicate and colorful. April 17, 2018 at 10:46am Reply

  • Fleurycat: Anemones are one of my favorite spring flowers, their delicacy is breathtaking, and I am so happy to live somewhere where I can naturalize them. I would love to stroll through that forest. I spent much of my childhood in a deciduous forest behind our house. A neighbor taught me the names of all the wildflowers and ferns, Hepatica, anemone, Virginia bluebells, trilliums, blood-roots, May apples, and more. Also the beautiful fairy-worthy mosses with tiny tendrils rising up from their cushioned plush. April 13, 2018 at 3:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: How lucky to know someone who can tell you all about wild flowers. It adds so much to the enjoyment of seasons. April 17, 2018 at 10:47am Reply

  • Sherry: Thank you for sharing the beautiful and enchanting pictures. It is still winter here in Canada, we are supposed to have ice storm tomorrow. These pictures made my gloomy busy day a whole lot “spring”er. Your grandma sounded like a gifted, charming and warm person, love the story! As if I am wrapped in a warm blanket and the enchanted scent of bluebells. April 13, 2018 at 11:25pm Reply

    • Maria: Hi Sherry! We must live pretty close! We are also preparing for the ice storm! April 14, 2018 at 8:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that spring will arrive to Canada soon!

      My grandmother had a very difficult life, but nature always gave her solace and comfort. April 17, 2018 at 10:51am Reply

  • Aurora: How I love their shy little faces, I wasn’t familiar with wild anemone, only with the flower shop kind which I quite like, and so pleased you find peace in the woods, Victoria. I am eagerly following the progress of spring, it is rather late this year and all the more beguiling for it. April 14, 2018 at 1:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: In France it went straight into summer. It’s getting into the high 20s here. April 17, 2018 at 10:54am Reply

  • Amalia: Thank you! So beautiful! April 14, 2018 at 5:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: So happy you liked it! April 17, 2018 at 10:55am Reply

  • Ingeborg: I love the pictures. Obviously it is too early for these flowers where I live in Scandinavia, but such anemones are a welcome sign of the real spring. Spring is late this year, so even signs like pollen spreading from certain trees come nearly a month later than usual. April 15, 2018 at 8:05am Reply

    • Victoria: Spring was late around here too, but it’s getting warm. Not looking forward to the summer as such, but I love the new season’s changes. April 17, 2018 at 11:00am Reply

  • Kandice: Thank you for sharing your trip to the forest and the beautiful pictures. Your grandmother sounds like such a special person. She obviously was a huge influence on you as well as your appreciation of nature and your introduction to the world of scent. It’s so nice to have memories like that to accompany us when we go somewhere. It makes the experience that much richer I’ve found. Happy Spring, Victoria. April 15, 2018 at 8:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Kandice. I spent my early years with her, and I have strong memories of her. April 17, 2018 at 11:01am Reply

  • bregje: What a beautiful story!

    Anemones were my mom’s favourites so they hold a special place in my heart.
    We also used them at her funeral and planted some afterwards.
    I love how delicate they are. April 15, 2018 at 4:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a touching gesture. May she Rest In Peace, in anemones. April 17, 2018 at 11:02am Reply

      • bregje: Thank you! That’s very sweet😊 April 17, 2018 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Miruna: Wild anemones used to blossom in my grandparents orchard, under the plum trees. My grandmother called them “Easter flower”, because they flowered around Easter time. She taught me and my sister how to make flower wreaths that we wore on our heads on Good Friday to church; after the mass, she would take them off our heads and lift us in her arms so we could put the wreaths on Christ’s cross.
    She also used them to decorate the Easter table and the bowls with coloured eggs.
    When I grew up, after the orchard had been sold, I asked my uncles and I asked the elderly in my grandparents’ village about the ‘Easter flower’, I searched the libraries and the web for years trying to find those flowers to plant in my garden – it took me years to find out they were forest anemones, I think she made that name up… Thank you for bringing this memory back, Victoria! I hope you have a sunny, delightful spring! April 16, 2018 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing this sunny, happy memory! April 17, 2018 at 11:14am Reply

What do you think?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: Thank you very much, Tara! There is so much to discover. December 9, 2018 at 4:26am

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: Thank you. You found the right crowd then. 🙂 December 9, 2018 at 4:25am

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: Thank you very much, Annie. Sharing with all of you makes me relive these journeys. December 9, 2018 at 4:25am

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: I started about three months ago. That’s generally how long it takes me to get to a comfortable conversational level. I speak Persian, so it helps a lot with Urdu.… December 9, 2018 at 2:57am

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2018 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy