Since Victorian times people have attributed certain qualities to individual flowers. Poppies which are used to remember fallen soldiers, symbolize eternal sleep. During the late 60’s and early 70’s “flower power” was a symbol of passive resistance to promote peace and love. Being November 11th, it is a pertinent day to remember this fact.
The Meaning of Flowers
You may not be surprised that the red rose symbolizes love but did you know that the yellow rose represents jealousy? “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and “The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart” by Holly Ringland are two books that are based on the individual meaning of flowers. While the first refers to the traditional English flowers, the second book by Holly Ringland refers to Australian wildflowers.
Recently, when I was presenting an author talk, a listener asked me why marigolds were so popular in India. She said she had always found their smell offensive. Rattling off some of their positive points I responded,
- they are inexpensive and available to all
- they are hardy and make great garlands
- they act as an insect repellant
- they are vibrant in their many hues of gold
Significant in India, marigolds are used in weddings and religious ceremonies, as well as to decorate shops, houses and vehicles. It made me think about the personal link between people and flowers. What is it that attracts us or repels us to certain flowers?
Our Attraction to Flowers
Sometimes we have to overlook the thorns in order to enjoy the fragrance. That is the case with my favourite garden rose, “Fragrant Cloud”. Unlike most climbers, it blossoms into a huge flower, is crimson red with the most wonderful fragrance but is covered in the sharpest of thorns.
While some older women enjoy an impressive rose garden with displays of colour and heady fragrance, my grandmother’s garden was simple and minimalistic. She grew statice in varying shades of purple and mauve. Paper-like to touch and disappointing to smell, statice are insignificant flowers that lack the splendour of roses but require little attention and can withstand the test of time, not unlike my Grandma.
With a covering of consistent purple flowers all the way up their strong broad stems, they could hold their heads high above her simple picket fence, upright and steadfast. Unlike some plants that boast irregular shows of perfumed blooms with thorny stems to snag unwary fingers, statice has no hidden snares. What you see is what you get.
The thorny types can be trimmed and placed in a vase to be admired but too soon, they shed their wilted velvety petals, revealing naked skeletons and bald heads. Once cut, statice can survive for days and looks just as good inside as it did in the garden. The cuttings can also be re-planted.
When my mother was a girl she lived in Ravensthorpe and was rather fond of the native Qualup bells found in that area. For many years after she left Ravensthorpe, a childhood friend would send her a bunch each year when they were in season. There was something about those flowers that reminded my mother of her childhood. As she touched the gentle bells and smelled their unique fragrance, she was transported back to carefree days surrounded by nature and memories of her family and friends.
Flowers Have the Power to Transport us
Flowers will often transport us back to a place or memory of where we last saw that flower. Wandering around a local nursery I caught sight of an unusually shaped hanging plant and immediately thought back to when I was climbing Mount Kinabalu. I was fascinated by the strangely phallic prey-trapping pitcher plants, with their visual lures and bribes of sweet nectar. I wondered how many unsuspecting creatures drowned in the liquid of their alluring trap.
Not being able to travel overseas at present, many of us have been enjoying the wonderful display of wildflowers in Western Australia. With our incredible biodiversity we have about 12,000 species of plants growing here with about 60% growing nowhere else.
While exploring our local tourist sites, we visited a local orchard where the blossoming rows of fruit trees reminded us of Japan where we were supposed to be going for our annual holiday. Similarly, visiting the Lavender Bistro in the Swan Valley with their attentive French waiters was reminiscent of Monet’s Gardens where we spent our holidays last year in Giverny. We are indeed fortunate to have so many places to go in this large state of ours.
What is Your Favourite Flower?
Recently, a news item in Europe showed a farmer who was planting sunflowers in his fields to remind people “to rise up against even the darkest times and find the sunlight”. Not surprisingly the meaning given to sunflowers is pride and sunshine. With everyone posting their beautiful photos of spring flowers, what is your favourite flower and does it remind you of some special place or event in your life?
You may be interested in reading another relevant post I wrote earlier on the Signifiance of Marigolds https://moirayeldon.com/the-significance-of-marigolds/