Interesting Facts

  Image by Bob Jenkin

The Language of Flowers

Since the earliest times, flowers and plants have been attributed symbolic meanings of all kinds, and this can be seen within Chinese writings, Egyptian inscriptions and Greek and Roman mythology. Giving certain flowers as gifts to convey particular sentiments is believed to have originated during the seventeenth century in Turkey. Flowers were exchanged by romantic lovers to express emotional messages. In Victorian times, flower bouquets were chosen very carefully as a sort of secret language, allowing feelings to be demonstrated at a time when this practice was quite restricted. It was easier to communicate love, sadness or jubilation via symbolic gestures, as displays of emotion were thought less desirable. Beginning in ancient times in the Middle East and China, the practice was eventually introduced into Europe in the eighteenth century.

The Primrose for instance, is used to symbolise youth, young love or to state 'I cant live without you'. Unappreciated merit is signified by red primroses, and confidence by lilac tinted primroses. Primrose Veris or Cowslip, have pendant shaped flowers, and are sometimes called 'key flowers', as they resemble a bunch of keys. Another name for these flowers is 'Herb Peter', as the symbol of St Peter is a bunch of keys. This version of the primrose was celebrated by ancient Norse peoples as the symbol of the 'Key Virgin' the Goddess Freya. In literature, primroses are frequently written about by poets and writers, Shakespeare indicates their cosmetic properties in 'A Midsummer Nights Dream', and English Poet, John Donne equates the flower with womanhood.

The Sacred Marigolds and Cautious Begonias

The humble yet popular Marigold was a sacred flower to the Aztecs who assigned religious, medicinal and magical properties to it. The first known use of marigolds was recorded in De La Crus-Badiano Aztec Herbal 1552, which notes their use for curing hiccups, treating lightening strikes and protecting one who wishes to travel across water safely. Apparently the name Marigold, or Mary's Gold, was inspired by the Virgin Mary. The flower was and still is part of the Day of The Dead ceremonies in Mexico.

The succulent Begonia is actually related to the squash, melon, cucumber, gourd and pumpkin family, with exceptionally small seeds, one ounce of which can produce 3 million seedlings! The floral emblem of North Korea the begonia is thought to mean 'be cautious'.

Aromatic Geraniums and Black Eyed Susans Ballad [Rudbeakia]

Geraniums are extremely hardy plants with an ongoing display of blooms. They are thought to lift the spirits, bring joy and happiness and are known as the flower of constancy. Some varieties of geranium have wonderfully scented foliage, high in aromatic oils mimicking rose, lemon, lime, mint, pineapple, nutmeg and apple. Dutch sailors introduced rose geraniums to Europe from Africa in the 1600's, and for centuries they were often planted in borders around homes in an effort to ward off evil spirits.

Rudbeakia, or Black Eyed Susan got its name from a popular ballad which circulated in the 1700's, written by John Gay who wrote 'The Beggars Opera'. The song tells the story of a young woman named Susan, who boards a British warship in search of her soon to depart sweetheart William. Her eyes are darkened with weeping and sadness, as her love tries to convince her of his love.

Hyacinths, the Wrath of the Gods and Bursting Impatiens

The Hyacinth is reputed to have received its name when a young Greek boy called Hyakinthos was the source of rival jealousy between Apollo the sun God and Zephyr the God of the west wind. While Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos how to throw a discus, an angry Zephyr blew the discus back, hitting Hyakinthos in the head and killing him. A flower then grew from the blood spilt and Apollo named the flower hyacinth.

Impatiens are symbolic of motherly love, and in the Medieval Mary Gardens devoted to the Virgin Mary, were viewed as 'our ladies earrings'. Available in an array of stunning shapes, colours and patterns, impatiens come in many forms and are rather difficult to grow from seed so are often grown from cuttings instead. These charming plants have a curious ability to change sex, and the flower opens as a male, shedding its pollen cap after a few days to reveal female reproductive organs. The seed pods of the impatiens, are under extreme pressure and if disturbed will burst open and scatter seed as far as 20 feet away.

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