The Hidden Meaning of Flowers

Bonnie Nowicki, Master Gardener

As our country’s health struggles continue, I delve deeper into my book collection. I was fascinated reading about the language of flowers. From ancient times, flowers have been symbolic. Greek and Romans made garlands and wreaths for their warriors. Poets have extolled the virtue of flowers over the centuries, but it was the Victorians who turned flower giving into an art. The choice of flower was very important, but the presentation was critical. The placement of flowers and ribbon in a bouquet could mean something good or not so good. Also, wearing flowers in different ways sent certain messages. A flower worn in your hair implied caution, but worn over your heart meant love. Allow me to share some fun flowery tidbits.

Oak leaf geraniums’ (true friendship) botanical name comes from the Greek word ‘geranos’ meaning a crane for the fruit resembling a crane’s beak.

Bluebells (constancy) are a very hearty wild flower, returning year after year.

The daisy (innocence) is the children’s flower and means the eye of the day. It opens in the morning light and folds up when the sun goes down.

Sunflower (haughtiness) is usually the tallest plant in the garden. The genus name of Helianthus comes from two Greek words ‘helios’ meaning sun and ‘anthos’ meaning flower. The Incas of Peru and later the North American Indians worshipped sunflowers.

The rose (love) is one of the oldest flowers known to man. Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, created the rose out of the lifeless body of a woodland nymph. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, gave the rose beauty and Dionysus, the god of wine, added nectar to give her a sweet scent. The Persian sultans filled their mattresses with the perfumed petals.

Lily of the Valley (return of happiness) is the symbol of May Day and was grown by monks for decorating the church altar. These sweet flowers were called Ladder to Heaven because the tiny flower bells grow like steps up the stem.

Fellow gardeners, your passion for gardening should be a great source of joy and accomplishment. Appreciate the flowers you have grown. Go ahead and assemble a posy of joy as a gesture of a caring friendship for someone. Who wouldn’t want to receive a cheery floral bouquet?