Most of the flowers you see below with the exception of the Stargazer Lily were grown in the garden. I’ve found a lot of people don’t go through life seeking the meanings the same way that I do. It usually reminds me to tell others that my detail orientation will probably drive them absolutely crazy if they ever get to really know me. My family says it is my strongest skill, but I can legitimately see it causing some to become flustered.
Flowers were once assigned magical meanings and connotations. During the Victorian Era floriography was used for cryptological communication through flower arrangements. This practice also led to the publication of flower dictionaries. In the past open communication was restricted and as you could not openly express your thoughts in public so we used flowers to send our messages. Today the customs of this past era would seem complicated and unnecessary. Flora Symbolica would be published during the Victorian Era containing the signature of a hundred flowers with the etiquette in giving the correct flowers. The meanings of flowers were based on traditions, myths, medicinal uses, and the imagination of the person authoring the book.
Victorian Era floral design gave us Tussie-Mussies as small handheld fragrant bouquets wrapped in lace doilies and nosegay bouquets. In this time period suitors gave Tussie-Mussies to women to see if they were held at heart level to signify happiness and acceptance. If they were held pointing downwards it signified rejection.
Today I’m going to briefly share the meanings of some of what was chosen to grow in our garden over the last few years. We’ve grown other flowers as well, but I did not want to share all of them at once.
These flowers were discovered by Johann Gottfried Zinn who was taken with these little abundant flowers. They can symbolize:
- Thoughts of a missing friend
- Lasting affection
- Daily recollection
Zinnia flowers are continuous bloomers even in the extreme temperatures of Summer seasons that can include drought. They’re known for coming in a wide variety of colors which includes red, orange, yellow, white, lime green, pink, and lilac. Each color can also signify an individual meaning when given to someone. For example, yellow represents daily remembrance, white represents pure goodness, and magenta is lasting affection. They are ideal for pollinator gardens as they attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Zinnias spread the message which says setbacks are temporary, the moment will pass, and you can move graciously through your obstacles to achieve your goal. The Sun’s rays will shine down on you once again once the clouds pass by. Spiritually the zinnia speaks to unbroken faith as it blooms through the thick and the thin. Very little will keep it from growing.
Sunflowers are named for their resemblance to the Sun and the Greek mythology of a nymph who becomes a flower after losing her love. There are variations of this story actually. In one version, for example, Clytie’s adoration towards Apollo in the beginning was reciprocated till another nymph caught his attention. Clytie enraged informed the other nymph’s father, and Apollo’s response was to bury her alive as a punishment turning her into the Sunflower. They are said to symbolize:
- Platonic love
- Nourishing self and others
- Good luck
The Sunflower came to Russia, Europe, and Ukraine in the 1700s. They are one of the worlds leading oil seed crops in some parts of the world, the seeds are still consumed, and the oils can be medicinal for cough, lowering cholesterol, or wound healing. While many Sunflowers are yellow careful breeding has brought us many color varieties. We grew Chocolate Cherry in our garden. White may signify innocence, orange and red may signify strength and positivity, and brown or burgundy loyalty and support. Songbirds love these flowers for their abundance of seeds. The plant itself can produce a pale yellow dye. The Sunflower tells us to stand tall and follow our dreams focused on what is positive in our life and don’t let anyone get us down.
This Lily hibernates in the winter and has been said to symbolize:
Receiving Stargazer Lilies can symbolize a return of faith or regaining one’s innocence. It is told that angel Gabriel gifted Mary with a lily during Annunciation to symbolize her role in the coming of Christ to the world. They have also been known to represent insecurities, hesitation, and feeling as if you’re at a crossroads in life unsure of which way to turn. They bring to us messages of mysteries of two worlds between innocence and pure love as well as representing a living sample of what humanity can accomplish through willpower, effort, and a little imagination. Deviating from the norms and looking beyond what is already present can lead towards the creation of something better. Restraint from growing and developing due to what you think society expects of you limits you from learning and stepping out of the comfort zone.
The Hollyhock became known in 1584 and can be called Mallow Blossoms as well. These flowers symbolize:
- Therapeutic counseling
- Energy healing
- Mitigation of broken/war-torn lands
- Re-aligning with a nation’s heritage
They are deemed sacred in Japanese culture and can refer to the Aoi Masturi a traditional festival celebrated May 15th in Kyoto. The festivals are said to exorcise one’s sins while lifting praise to the Gods/Goddesses or Kami. It was also the crest of nobility and high status for the Tokugawa family during the Edo era. Later the motif would adorn kimonos, lanterns, and lacquer ware. Ancient Egyptians made wreaths of Hollyhock to be buried with mummies to indicate the circle of life in leading the dead to new lives. During the Middle Ages teas were made from Hollyhocks to fight lung and bladder disease. During the 1800s Hollyhock sap was whipped, sugar added, and poured into molds to sell as candy.
With their various colors of orange, pink, red, and yellow Nasturtiums symbolize:
- Good humor
Native to South America the Nasturtium was introduced to Europe in the 1500s after the Spanish conquests. We find them growing in French royal gardens as well as a special feature in Thomas Jefferson’s presidential gardens. The Incas believed the flowers gave the energy and strength to scare away invaders. The red variety represents passion/courage, yellow variety represents happiness /elation, and orange variety represents energy/creativity. Ideally they can be given as a celebratory gift or award as well as for birthdays.
Dahlias offer layered petals with lots of body while symbolizing:
- Grace under pressure
- Major life changes
- Following your own path
Victorians believe the Dahlia stood for lasting bonds between two people. They are the birth flower of August and the national flower of Mexico as this is their native habitat. They typically grow in mountainous valleys protected from harsh weather. The red will represent power, pink/purple will represent kindness, and white will represent staying focused. Mexicans still make poultices from crushed and warmed Dahlia petals for tired feet in foot soaks. Tunebo Indians have used the petals as well for decorating cakes and pastries. They may not be wise to give to anyone with pets, however, as these tubers are mildly toxic. In any other condition giving Dahlias is best done for new marriages and the birth of a new baby.
Daisies were said to mean dark eye as they only open during the daytime and symbolize:
- Fresh opportunities
- True love
- Keeping a secret
Children who were bored may have made Daisy chains, but adults likely have used them for wild Daisy tea to cure a sore throat or purify an open wound as well as to garnish a salad as the leaves are edible. Their message is for us to see the world as a child once did. Celtic mythology states that God/Goddess sprinkled Daisies over the Earth to cheer up any parent who had lost a child. Norse mythology believed the Daisy was sacred to Freya the Goddess of beauty, love, and fertility while the Romans had mythology of Vertumnus as God of the seasons and gardens who fell in love with Belides pursuing her relentlessly. The only way Belides could escape his advances was to become a Daisy. Some consider the manner with which Daisies close up at night only to re-open each morning as symbolic of a good night’s sleep.
These are in fact a slow growing evergreen shrub related to other cacti and succulents. They symbolize:
Early American’s referred to them as lamps of God/Goddess due to beautiful white flowers which seemingly lit their way during long and dangerous journeys. They have a symbiotic relationship to moths which pollinate and survive on their nectar. This relationship is so entwined/entangled that neither the yucca nor the moth could exist without the other.They have been known to clean the air removing toxins and Native Americans have known they are sources of vitamins B and C as well as calcium and iron. Adam’s Needle and other yucca varieties have treated arthritis, colitis, hypertension, migraines, and other inflammatory conditions. The Cherokee particularly use yucca root for treating rashes and sores while the Navajo have used the leaves ceremoniously to make hoops, prayer sticks, and chant arrows.
PS: The underlined text hyperlinks go to a copy of Flora Symbolica, the story of Clytie, and Aoi Matsuri.