#18 Cherry Pie/ Heliotrope

Cherry Pie/ Heliotrope

Cherry Pie is the Victorian name for Heliotropium arborescens, a highly scented purple form of borage from Peru (Hogan 689).  The tiny star-shaped flowers are gathered in small bunches, several stems to each cluster, and borne over lance-shaped, deeply indented, somewhat hairy leaves.  The culinary name comes from the intensely sweet smell, rather like a combination of vanilla, cherry, and almond.   

Cherry Pie appears twice in Woolf’s writing, in a single scene that is repeated in two different novels.  In both cases, it is twilight, and great hawk-moths are swooping and twirling over brightly colored flower beds.  In Jacob’s Room (1922) the scene is set at the Durrant’s house in Cornwall: “Already the convoluvlus moth was spinning over the flowers. Orange and purple, nasturtium and cherry pie were washed into the twilight” (56).  Triggered by the “earthy garden sweet smell” of the flowers in Mulberry’s flower shop in Mrs. Dalloway Clarissa remembers the moment when every flower glows “white, violet, red, deep orange” and “how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!” (MD 13) Considering the fact that EVENING PRIMROSES appear in the 1919 essay “Reading” and in To the Lighthouse, both of which are set in houses overlooking the ocean, it is tempting to suppose that Cherry Pie was grown at Talland House.

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About 98 Flowers

Welcome to the Virginia Woolf Herbarium.  For many years I have been researching and writing about Virginia Woolf and parks, gardens, and fl...