‘There’s Rosemary, that’s for Remembrance’ December 7th

Rosemary flowering in december
Rosemary flowering in December

According to the Perpetual Almanac by Charles Kightly, this is the time when Robins are much to be seen singing their winter song, and when it is time to protect plants, particularly Rosemary, against winter frosts.

In December, rosemary flowers with a delicate blue flower. Rosemary was one of the most important plants, metaphorically and medically. Mrs Grieve, in her ‘Modern Herbal’ says it is used in medicine for illnesses of the brain and was thought to strengthen the memory. And as rosemary helps the memory, they are symbolically/metaphorically associated with friendship, love, worship and mourning. A branch of Rosemary was given as a gift to wedding guests, so they would remember the love shown at the ceremony. It was entwined in the Bride’s wreath;

Shakespeare uses Rosemary in his plant lore in Hamlet.

OPHELIA: There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.
Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s
for thoughts.

LAERTES: A document in madness:
thoughts and remembrance fitted.

OPHELIA: There’s fennel for you, and columbines.
There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me.
We may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays.
O, you must wear your rue with a difference.

There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets,
but they withered all when my father died. They
say ‘a made a good end.

(sings) For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.

Ham IV.v.176

Rue is the herb of grace and has the sense of ‘regret’. Pansies are also for remembrance, and their heart shaped flowers are for love and affection. Fennel represents infidelity and Columbines insincerity or flattery. Daisies are for innocence. Violets are associated with death, particularly of the young. As to how Orphelia means them all to be understood is not clear particularly, Fennel and Columbine. Some think they are directed towards Claudius and/or Gertrude.


Being evergreen, Rosemary was associated with religion and everlasting life, and called the rose of the Virgin Mary. Lying on a bed of rosemary, the Virgin’s cloak was said to have been dyed blue, which is how she is mostly depicted in Renaissance paintings. And so Rosemary is especially important for Christmas. At Christmas, it was used to bedeck the house and used at funerals to remember the dead.

The Virgin Mary Googled.

Its strong aroma means it was used as an incense and also used in magic spells

Thomas More let it ‘runne all over my garden walls’ because bees love it and as sacred to remembrance, therefore to friendship.

I mostly use Rosemary for the very rare occasions when I cook lamb, but it is much more versatile than that, or so the SpruceEats website tells me:

‘Rosemary is used as a seasoning in various dishes, such as soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Use rosemary with chicken and other poultry, game, lamb, pork, steaks, and fish, especially oily fish. It also goes well with grains, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, and spinach. ‘

Flowering Rosemary
Flowering Rosemary in the author’s garden