April from Walters W.425
This April calendar image from the Walters W.425 prayer book fragment is another calendar page featuring a naturalistic border, like the March calendar page from Walters W.425. The calendar proper includes the feast of Saint Euphemia on April 7. Taurus, the astrological symbol for April, is a recognizable bull, set off by a medallion.
Above and below the astrological medallion naturalistic pink and white flowers add a decorative spring-time touch. I don’t know what the flowers are; I suspect, given the detail, that a Flemish gardener of the 15th century would be able to identify them as popular spring time blossoms.
There are, I think, three types of flowers in the border; the top left corner features a pink flower in bud that looks distinctive, and not the same as the white and pink multi-petalled blossoms on the right, above and below the Taurus medallion.
On the bottom right corner of the margin is a flower that looks a bit like a peony to me—but I am not a botanist. Peonies were popular in the European Middle Ages. Their seeds were used as a seasoning, as in the Piers Ploughman passage where Betty the Brewer entices Gluttony to try her ale:
Ac Beton the Brewestere bad hym good morwe
And asked of hym with that, whiderward he wolde.
“To holy chirche,” quod he, “for to here masse,
And sithen[ref]Sithen here is the adverb “after,” or “subsequently” See the MED sithen.[/ref] I wole be shryven, and synne na moore.”
“I have good ale, gossib,” quod she, “Gloton, woltow assaye?”
“Hastow,” quod he, “any hote spices?”
“I have pepir and pione,” quod she, “and a pound of garleek,
A ferthyngworth of fenel seed for fastynge dayes.”
Thanne goth Gloton in, and grete othes after (William Langland. Piers the Ploughman. Passus V).
But Betty the brewer bade him good-morrow
And asked of him with that whitherward he would.
“To holy church,” quod he “for to hear mass,
And after I will be shriven and then sin no more.”
“I’ve good ale, gossip” quod she. “Glutton, will you try it?”
“Hast thou,” quod he “any hot spices?”
“I have pepper and peony,” quod she, “and a pound of garlic,
A farthing worth of fennel-seed for fasting days.”
Then Glutton goes in and great oaths [came] after.
The traditional labors and pastimes for April include picking flowers, pruning grape vines, and, as we see here, planting. The lady of the manor, shown in the image above, standing to the right, wearing a veil and holding a rosary, appears to be giving directions to a maid planting a something in a small fenced garden plot, perhaps a kitchen garden of useful herbs and flowers. I don’t think this is meant to be a scene from a nunnery despite the veil and rosary, because behind the two women, are pictures of what looks like two men-at-arms, standing guard. I also think the lady’s sleeves and her trailing skirt are too elaborate for a nun.