Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) is a popular flower likely to originate from the Mediterranean region, but due to its long history of cultivation it’s origination is not really known. Wild carnations however are found in the countries of Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Historically carnations have been used medicinally for stomach upsets and fevers and fragrant carnations were used in vinegar, beer, wine, sauces and salads.
The carnation holds much symbolism and varies according to colour with deep red ones representing deep love and freedom and light red being love in general. Some countries such as France consider the red carnation to be representative of mourning and since Ottoman times red carnations have been painted on the interior walls of mosques.
Red and pink carnations are the flowers for Parents day and also Teachers day in Korea, while in Chine carnations are very popular flowers for weddings.
Generally the carnation is seen as being symbolic of devotion, loyalty and love.
Poinsettia is a flowering plant native to Mexico and Central America, and was introduced to the U.S in the 1820s by Joel Roberts Poinsett which is where the plants name comes from. There is also a National Poinsettia day in the U.S which happens to be today December 12th.
In Mexico and Central America it is known as Flor de Nochebuena which means Christmas Eve flower and historically the Aztecs used the plant for red dye and as medication.
Poinsettia became associated with Christmas in 16th century Mexico with a story. The tale tells of a little girl who was too poor to give a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birth but after some divine inspiration, she gathered some weeds from the roadside and laid them as her offering. The weeds sprouted bright red flowers and thereafter the poinsettia was included in the season’s celebrations.
The poinsettia is associated with joy, cheer, success and bringing wishes of mirth and celebration.
The word chrysanthemum comes from the Ancient Greek words “chrysos” meaning gold and “anthemon” meaning flower. It is native to East Asia and north Eastern Europe with most species originating from Asia.
It is an extremely important plant in Asian culture and in Japan chrysanthemum day – Kiku No Sekku held on the ninth day of the ninth month is one of the five sacred festivals and in China is the symbol of Autumn.
Marigold (Calendula officinalis) is a wonderfully vibrant flowering plant and has many uses.
It is used extensively in Western herbalism for issues such as skin problems, bites, stings, sprains, wounds and sore eyes. The flowers of the pot marigold are also edible or can be used as a dye for food, textiles or cosmetics.
The marigold is rich in nectar content so a great source for bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds plus they are an excellent companion plant to grow with tomatoes, peas and carrots.
The vibrant blooms make marigold the choice of flower for the Mexican festival Dia de los Muertos, The day of the Dead. Its believed that the bright flowers and their scent guide the spirits of the dead to their altars.
Marigold symbolises joy, remembrance, endurance and healing.
The Aster is a perennial flowering plant of which there are 170 species mostly harking from Eurasia.
The word aster comes from the Ancient Greek word meaning “star” and is referring to the shape of the flowers.
It is also known as the Michaelmas daisy as it’s one of the few flowers that are still in bloom at Michaelmas on 29th September.
The Aster is a symbol of wisdom, faith and valour.
The name Gladiolus comes from the Latin meaning sword and is sometimes called the sword lily, named so because of its sharp looking buds before flowering. It is found in Asia, Europe and Africa with the most diversity being found in the southern tip of South Africa where it has been vastly hybridised for its ornamental value.
Gladiolus stems have been used medicinally as bandages, to extract thorns or splinters and mixed with goats milk to soothe colic. It is mostly used for its ornamentation.
Symbolically it has various meanings including strength of character, remembrance, faithfulness, infatuation and moral integrity although during the Victorian era extra meaning was added pertaining to colour
Gladiolus is the flower for August and also fortieth wedding anniversaries.
Water lily – nymphaeaceae are aquatic flowering plants named after the Greek nymphs and known for their beauty. Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) painted a series of art featuring water lilies of which he is famous for.
There are many colours and white ones in particular are seen as being connected to deity and spirituality but in general water lilies symbolise innocence, purity, hope, rebirth, wellness and peace.
Quite recently a new species of water lily has been discovered having been mistakenly identified as another species and is huge with leaves measuring 10 foot wide. !!
Larkspur is very closely related to the delphinium and almost identical, larkspur is an annual plant whereas delphinium a perennial.
It is a classic flower for the cottage garden standing beautifully tall at the back of any border but if considering it for your garden please be aware it is extremely toxic as too are delphinium.
Symbolically it represents an open heart, romance, grace, respectability and sincerity.
Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is also known as Common Poppy, Field Poppy and Flanders Poppy.
It is a flower loved by birds for its seeds and was a sacred flower to the Greek God of sleep and dreams Morpheus which is probably where some it’s symbolism comes from as poppies symbolise sleep among other things. This sleep symbolism also shows up in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her group walk through a field of poppies and it affects Dorothy.
Poppies also symbolise fertility, love and in Japan loyalty until death which I believe represents all the men who have lost their lives in war.
Wood Avens – Geum urbanum
Found along hedgerows and in woodland, the yellow flower of the Wood Avens can be spotted between May to August.
It’s common name ‘herb bennet’ is thought to have come from the Latin ‘herba benedicta’ meaning blessed herb as in medieval times the plant was was used frequently as a herbal medicine.
Wood Avens was according to folklore bestowed with the power to drive away evil spirits and protect from snakes and rabid dogs.
It’s symbolic meaning is purity
Rose (Rosa) – there are over 300 species, thousands upon thousands of cultivars and they can be shrubs, climbers and trailers. The oldest rose remains found are from millions of years ago.
Culturally they are associated with Aphrodite from Ancient Greek times and later associated with the Virgin Mary in Christianity. The rose was also used as a symbol for initiates entering into mystery religions and this is where the term sub rosa comes from meaning “beneath the rose”
Symbolically roses have varied meanings depending on the colour of the flower with the well known being red for love.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) – there are approximately 180 species with most being hardy climbers. Many have a sweet scent which is loved by wildlife including butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and dormice.
Although the berries are poisonous, the flowers have been used for syrups and teas and in China honeysuckle was an important plant in medicine and considered a cure all.
A symbol of happiness, sweetness and affection, honeysuckle was thought to prevent evil from entering a home if it was grown round the front door.
A flower for fathers
Here in the UK it is Father’s Day today and it got me thinking, is there a flower representing fathers and roses seem to be the choice.
Not only are roses blooming now in the month that Father’s Day is celebrated but there are also roses with names that celebrate dads and grandads such as “Diamond Dad” which is a white floribunda rose and “Special Dad” which is a red hybrid tea rose. For grandads there’s “Grandpa’s Rose” and “Special Grandad.”
These are just a few and of course there is always the option of naming a rose yourself in honour of your father.
Red and White Roses
The symbolic flower of England is the called the Tudor Rose which came about from two roses, the white rose of the House of York and the red rose of the House of Lancaster.
The crown was in contention and thus began a war between the two houses as to who should rule Britain. This became known as The War of the Roses. Eventually peace came about and the symbol of England became both roses together known as the Tudor rose.
This symbol of togetherness also shows in the the symbology of flowers. Red alone symbolises love, respect, beauty and courage while white alone means purity, new beginnings and rememberance. Together however they have come to represent unity and this symbology probably came from the historical union of the white and red Tudor rose and joining together of two houses for peace.
The flowers for those born in May are traditionally Lily of the Valley and Hawthorn, here’s a little about them.
Lily of the valley (Convallaria Majalis) is also known as Our ladies tears, May bells, and Glovewort. Another name is Apollinaris in honour of the god Apollo who was said to have discovered the plant. This beautiful flower is a symbol of purity and sweetness.
Hawthorn (Crataegus) is known also a Quickthorn, May tree and Whitethorn. Symbolically is relates to hope and fertility, fae folk and entrances to other worlds. In Serbian folklore it was stakes made from the hawthorn tree that could kill a vampire.
There is much folklore surrounding plants and flowers from days gone by. Some of it has been forgotten but some still remains in the realm of today.
Take the buttercup for instance, if it shines yellow under your chin then this means you like butter, this is an example of old lore still in use today but the lore that tells us about the smell of buttercups causing people to go insane is not used at all anymore.
Other folklore that has managed to survive through modern times is the four leafed clover being lucky and the picking of dandelions makes you wee the bed.
Other not so known lore is that picking bindweed flowers causes thunderstorms and that bluebells and foxgloves are unlucky to bring into the house. Honeysuckle was supposed to cause sore throat’s if brought into the house but primroses were thought to protect the house.
Well dressing is an old folklore tradition associated with flora where local wells were decorated with flowers, it is still practiced today and is becoming more popular.
There are many books on the old folklore of plants and worth a delve into as it’s a fascinating subject.