Titania’s bank

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846) by Sir Joseph Noel Patton (died 1901)Amalee Issa reminded me that a few years ago I answered a question in my column on the subject of ‘Titania’s bank’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

So I had a rootle around my archive and found it – I remember now having great fun putting it together and thought I would give it another airing here…as midsummer approaches.

The questioner was Martin Littlewood, from Caldy, Wirral:

I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night

“Where can I find plants to create a bank to impress Titania?”

First the easy ones: Various type of wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum), oxlips (Primula elatior – big, pale cowslips) and violets (probably Viola odorata – sweet violets) are to be found at nurseries specializing in herbs and native wild flowers – my ‘local’ is Iden Croft Herbs, Staplehurst, Kent.

Luscious woodbine has to be our native honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum – normally now found at most nurseries and garden centres in the form of ‘Belgica’ (early flowering) or ‘Serotina’ (late flowering).

(Even better, to my mind is the vigorous L. periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ which bears creamy-white definitely ‘luscious’-scented flowers over a very long period.)

The roses are not quite so simple. Sweet musk rose is Rosa arvensis, and eglantine is Rosa rubignosa. Both of these are ‘wild’ European hedgerow roses, heavily scented but with a fairly short flowering season and good subsequent rosehips. They do best on quite limey soil.

I suggest you track down your local specialist rose nursery for these. However, be warned, few rose nurseries will supply them now until the autumn, the best rose-planting time being definitely over for this year.

Lucky old Titania – this beats polycotton sheets and a tired duvet hands down – in the summer months at least.

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One Response to Titania’s bank

  1. lovely lovely lovely. Did you know you seem to have created a whole new class for Summer Shows –

    Class 43: the Titania Bank. Six species of native Shakespearean flower presented on a bed of moss and cobweb. Doily not necessary.

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