The charming and delicate beauty of flowers has fascinated people of all nations and backgrounds for centuries. Flowers have been bred and cultivated for their decorative beauty as well as their ability to heal diseases. Flowers are the subject of poems and myths, and religious symbols are associated with flowers as well. Many girls are named after flowers. The main reason for the popularity of flowers though is their ability to bring good cheer.
For all fellow lovers and admirers of flowers here is some background information about flowers. This will help give your flower gift giving and buying a greater context.
There are over 600 species of asters, the most popular being the Monte Casino. Ancient societies believed that the odor of its leaves, when burnt, drove away serpents. While this might not be as applicable today, perhaps its connotation is still relevant: Giving asters means, "I am not sure whether you have been faithful to me". Be careful who you send asters to!
Meanings: charming, patience
Bells of Ireland
Although the name suggests these flowers come from Ireland, they originated in western Asia. Bells of Ireland have a spicy/peppery scent and are part of the mint family. They stand for good luck.
Meanings: good luck, whimsy
Turn of the century dandies would not leave the house without a white or red carnation in the buttonhole of their suit. With the end of this tradition and the fact that carnations are so easily cultivated and grown, the flower has lost some of its popularity. However, carnations are not only beautiful and long lasting flowers, they also send a message: When you receive a red carnation bouquet, it means, "My heart aches for you" and when you receive white carnations the sender is saying: "I am still available."
Meanings: fascination, devoted Love
Imagine, chrysanthemums have been cultivated in Chinese gardens for almost 3000 years! The name chrysanthemum comes from the Greek chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower). Today some of the meanings associated with this flower are: innocence, cheerfulness and loyal love.
Meanings: cheerfulness, innocence
The dahlia is the national flower of Mexico and this is also its birthplace. An old Aztec document states that the Aztecs used dahlias as a treatment for epilepsy. Only in the 19th century did the flower come to Europe where it was bred and cultivated into today's varieties.
Meanings: dignity, elegance
Did you know that there are so many different varieties of iris that they can be grown wild year round, in water and on land? Iris was most significant in history as the emblem of France -- Fleur-de-Lis -- established in the 11th century by the king of France. Today, it is the state flower of Tennessee and its meanings are faith, hope and wisdom.
Meanings: faith, hope, wisdom
Lilies have been associated with many ancient myths. They are mentioned in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, and symbolize chastity and virtue. Even today, lilies are associated with purity and faith.
Meanings: purity, faith
Peruvian lilies or alstroemeria are named after the Swedish botanist Baron Klas von Alstroemer. He brought the flower seeds back from a trip to South America in the 18th century.
Meanings: friendship, devotion
Calla lilies were first imported from South Africa to America in the mid-nineteenth century. The waxy white blooms and spearheaded leaves of the calla lily stand for radiant beauty and sophistication.
Meanings: sophistication, beauty
Lisianthus may sound like a Latin name, but it is one of several common names associated with this plant. It is also referred to as Prairie Gentian, Prairie Rose or Texas Bluebell. The flowers existing today are derived from an American wildflower that is native to prairies ranging from Colorado to Nebraska and down to Texas.
Meanings: outgoing, thoughts
During the 19th Century, orchids were widely collected. With nearly 25,000 varieties, some orchids are among the most exquisite and expensive flowers available. In antiquity, orchids were correlated with love and fertility. It was common knowledge that they would protect against diseases. Given as a gift they stand for preciousness and seduction.
Meanings: seduction, preciousness
Snapdragons are an old decorative flower, widely used by the Romans. From its origin in southern Spain the cultivated form was spread throughout the whole Roman Empire. Nowadays remnants of this original population which all belong to the species Antirrhinum majus are found among Roman remains like temples in southern France, Malta, and Italy. The flower, also called "gracious lady" stands for deception.
Meanings: desire, strength
With their far-reaching popularity, roses are the queens of flowers. After buttercup, the roses are the second oldest variety of flowers on the planet. Biologists can trace roses back some 200 million years! Although there is a huge number of meanings and symbols associated with roses, the most common of course is love, which originated in Greek mythology. When Aphrodite cried about the death of her lover Adonis, she had red "Adonis Roses" grown with his blood, - thus red roses are the symbol of never-ending love. Important to mention are the roses' thorns, of which we all probably have some painful memory. Symbolically, love can be painful and full of suffering when not treated carefully.
Red roses: I love you, unconscious beauty
White roses: spiritual love, purity
Yellow roses: joy, gladness
Orange roses: fascinated, enthusiastic
Pink roses: grace, gentility
Originally from Persia, tulips were introduced to Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century. When growers started to hybridize the flower, they found ways of making it even more decorative. Hybrids of the flower were a scarcity at the time and a symbol of high status. Soon tulips became very popular as a trading product and bulbs were traded at the highest prices. The months of late 1636 to early 1637 would make history in the Netherlands as "Tulipmania". A bed of tulips was worth up to $5,000, the value of a small house in Amsterdam. The bulbs became currency, and their value was quoted at the stock market.
Meanings: perfect lover, fame
Sunflowers turn their heads toward the sun and this how they got their common name. They originated in Central and South America. Sunflowers are not only pretty to look at but sunflower seeds are power-packed with healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamin E - all important to the nutritional quality of your diet. Wait! That doesn't mean you're supposed to eat the seeds out of your sunflower bouquet.
Meanings: adoration, sunshine
Josh Grossman is cofounder of online florist Beyond Blossoms (http://www.beyondblossoms.com). The company ships farm fresh, hand-tied flowers nationwide.