As the most famous symbol of Ireland, the shamrock is glorified the world over on St. Patrick’s Day, where people from far and wide don the three leafed plant in honour of the Green Isle’s most famous patron saint.
According to St. Patrick, who is celebrated on 17th March, it is a metaphor for the Christian Trinity. Folklore has it, that one day a group of followers came to the patron saint and admitted that they found it difficult to believe in the doctrine of the holy trinity. After a moment’s reflection, he plucked a leaf from the shamrock, held it before them and informed them of the power of three thus explaining that the leaves stood for the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Since that day, the shamrock is reputed to have mystical powers. Its upstanding leaves are also said to warn of an approaching storm.
The name shamrock is derived from the Gaelic word ‘seamróg,’ a diminutive version of the word for clover, though experts say it’s not a clover at all. According to botanists there is no such thing as a ‘true’ species of shamrock, but that the Trifolium dubium is considered to be the actual Irish shamrock.
Others say they are species of Oxalis and grow best in bright light but not direct sunlight. They should only be planted in very well drained soil and need to be watered regularly and thoroughly.
During the winter months, they are dormant and like to be kept dry. As they like to be kept in cool temperatures with plenty of fresh air, Ireland is the perfect place to grow shamrocks. The fact however, that shamrocks can only grow in Ireland on Irish soil is a marketing myth, and relies on little horticultural truth.
In the weeks leading to St. Patrick’s Day, huge shipments of shamrocks are freeze dried and sent to retailers across the globe in time for the annual celebrations.
Such is the demand however that exporters fear that the lack of seedlings from the plants could lead to its extinction in the near future.
It is vital for growers to keep seedlings so that there can be further batches. As it stands the shamrock is shipped as far as the very far-flung South Pacific island of Fiji.
Each year more and more people want to be part of the Irish celebration, and will only settle for the real thing on their lapel.
Once St. Patrick’s Day is over, just like Santa at Christmas time, the little batches of shamrocks retreat for another year until they take centre stage once again when Irishness is celebrated as the being the best thing on earth – for one day only!
Happy St. Paddy’s Day from gardenTV!