‘One May Get Out Without a Bonnet’

Bee in Your Bonnet!

Elizabeth wrote “I believe the garden will be a great delight in our new house. Clay soil it will be, and there is no help for it, but it will be gay and bright with common flowers; and it is quite shut in, – and one may get out without a bonnet, which is a blessing”.

What do Violets symbolise?


In the Victorian language of flowers, violets symbolised modesty. Modesty means not showing off about your body or your abilities.

Ideas about modesty formed a big part of Victorian society. To appear respectable, you had to follow social rules about when you should wear or remove your hat or bonnet.

Here in their garden, Elizabeth and her family would have been free to enjoy the fresh air and connect with nature without a hat or bonnet on, away from the rules of the outside world.

#Game Imagine you were a Victorian lady or gentleman in the garden. Lift your (pretend) hat or do a little curtsy. Ask each other for tea and a dance.

Bee in their bonnets about bonnets?

The phrase ‘bee in your bonnet’ means that if you had a bee in your bonnet, you wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else except the bee.

In the 1850s, when the Gaskells first moved to 84 Plymouth Grove, it was fashionable for ladies to decorate their bonnets with violet flowers, lace and ribbon – the bright colours must have attracted quite a few bees!

When the beautiful flowers in this garden are in full bloom, we attract lots of bees too.

In 2019, Plantlife found that all of the lawns in their UK survey produced 23kg of nectar sugar per day, which could support 2.1 million bees! This meant that an average un-mown lawn produced 12g of nectar sugar per day, which could support 1088 bees!

#Game Can you spot any wildflowers in our lawn?
These might include, daisies, buttercups or selfheal.

Wildflowers in a UK lawn

Try this at home

  • Try not to mow your lawn, or mow it as little as possible, keeping the grass about 5cm tall – this is to make sure the flowers can grow!
  • Count the flowers in 1 square metre of your lawn
  • Work out the area of your whole lawn (the number of metres long x the number of metres wide)
  • Calculate the number of flowers in your whole lawn: (number of flowers you have counted x the total number of square metres of your lawn)
  • Go to https://nomowmay.plantlife.org.uk/every-flower-counts/ to find out more about the survey and how you can get involved!

And we've got a house. Yes! we really have

Elizabeth Gaskell, 1850