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The Symbolism of Favorite Garden Flowers
Some of the most common garden flowers have fascinating histories and symbolic meanings. Flowers have been associated with symbolism for thousands of years. Flowers are a significant part of our lives from birth to death. Many popular garden flowers, including foxgloves, lupines, poppies, sunflowers, sweet peas, tulips and zinnias are associated with a wealth of stories and mythologies.
Thimble flowers have positive and negative symbolic meanings. They are said to sometimes hurt and sometimes heal. In the language of flowers, chanterelle flowers are associated with insincerity. On the plus side, the common name is said to come from “folk glove”, with the “folk” referring to the helpful fairy folk.
In medieval gardens dedicated to Mother Mary, the thimble was called “Lady’s Gloves” or “Virgin’s Gloves”. The scientific name is digitalis, a reference to the presence of powerful chemicals that can cure heart disease if taken properly, but can also kill if taken in large quantities.
Foxglove thrives on soils rich in iron and coal. New coalfields can sometimes be located by finding clumps of chanterelles growing together. Foxgloves are perennials that thrive in temperate zones and love shade, semi-shade and sun.
Foxgloves come in white, yellow, pink, pink, red, lavender and purple. Thimble can be grown either by seed or by dividing plant clumps. Plants range from 2-6′ tall, depending on variety.
The flowers look best in the back of the garden and bloom in a pyramid shape with the lowest flowers opening first and the buds remaining closed at the top. Add some foxgloves to your garden this year to invite the fairy folk to take up residence in your yard!
Lupins are a symbol of imagination. The name “lupinus” actually means “of the wolves” because of the mistaken belief that the ancient peoples had that the lupine was robbing the soil of nutrients. The fact is that lupins add nitrogen to the soil. The Romans used lupine as fertilizer and ate the protein-rich seeds.
In the United States, lupins grow well in the Pacific Northwest, West Coast, New England, and other northern states. Both are cultivated lower and wild flowers. Lupins also grow abundantly throughout Europe as far as Norway.
Lupine comes in blue, pink, white, yellow and purple. Flowers are useful for dyeing cloth. The seeds are said to aid digestion and are used in skin care to remove blemishes from the face. The Romans used flat seeds for theater money.
Lupine is the only food for the caterpillar of the Karner blue butterfly. Larvae crawl up the stems of wild lupine to feed on new leaves in mid-April.
The smell of lupine flowers is like the smell of honey, a nice addition to any garden. The magnificent flower spikes can be 36 to 60 inches tall. Lupins need full sun, rich soil and plenty of moisture. They can grow in poor soils if the soil is not too alkaline. Add some imagination to your garden with a full range of colorful, majestic lupines!
Poppies are a symbol of beauty, magic, comfort, fertility and eternal life. Egyptians placed poppies at funerals and in tombs. The Greeks used poppies in the sanctuaries of Demeter, the goddess of fertility, and Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Poppies signify sleep, rest and relaxation. In modern times, poppies are associated with the fields of Flanders as an emblem of those who died in the First World War.
Poppies do best in cool climates. They are both cultivated flowers and bountiful wild flowers. Although poppies are perennials, they are often grown as annuals. Poppies grow throughout Europe, the East and America. Poppies are the state flowers of California.
Poppy has been used for centuries as a spice, medicine and health tonic. Poppy tea is used for its soothing effect. Oriental poppy is the only poppy that contains opium, but other poppies also have a mild sedative effect. Poppy water is said to remove wrinkles and refresh the skin. Poppy seeds can also be used for coloring and to add flavor and texture to bread and pastries.
Poppies should be watered moderately and kept in full sun. Poppies grow between 2′ and 5′ tall with flowers up to 12 inches in diameter. Colors include crimson red, dark orange, light orange, white, yellow, purple, and pink with black centers. There are one-leaf and two-leaf forms. For a bright, eye-catching addition to your garden, add a border of bright poppies.
Sunflowers are a symbol of worship. Sunflowers turn their heads towards the sun, hence their common name. Sunflowers belong to the genus helianthus, a reference to Helios, the god of the sun.
Sunflowers are native to America and are the state flowers of Kansas. Sunflower generally grows in scrub and dry areas. Sunflowers vary widely in size depending on their adaptive genetic makeup, but can reach a maximum height of about 10′.
Sunflowers have recently been bred to produce shorter varieties for use in the garden. The petals were originally quite small and irregular, so efforts were also made to increase the size and number of petals. Some types of double petals have also been created, as well as variations in the color of the center (brown to black) and even the petals (honey, beige, pink cream, soft yellow, pale red).
Sunflower seeds are full of healthy fats, vitamin E, protein, fiber and minerals. Sunflower oil can be used for cooking. Sunflower also serves as fodder, mainly for cattle and birds. Sunflower seeds were also used by Indians for blue or black dye, and petals for yellow dye. Smaller sunflower varieties are often used as cut flowers for bouquets and floral arrangements.
Try planting sunflowers along a fence or in the back of your garden for a beautiful, very useful addition to your garden.
The language of flowers associates sweet peas with the following meanings: blissful pleasure, delicate pleasure, goodbye, departure, goodbye and thank you for the good weather. The sweet pea was very popular in the late 1800s and is often considered a floral emblem for Edwardian England. Sweet peas are the flowers most associated with the month of April.
There are more than 250 types of sweet peas. Annual varieties like full sun, regular watering and soil with a lot of humus. Perennial sweet peas survive on average soils with moderate watering. Sweet peas have a wonderful aroma and were originally grown in the fields of Sicily. Most species grow 1-5′ tall, although some can reach 6′.
Sweet peas can be successfully used as cut flowers and in corsages and boutonnieres. The most famous and perhaps most important use of sweet peas was the extensive genetic research conducted by Gregor Mendel.
Tulips are generally a symbol of glory and perfect love. The symbolic meanings also change with the color of the tulip. Red tulips mean “trust me” and are a declaration of love. Multi-colored tulips mean “you have beautiful eyes.” Yellow tulips mean “the sun is in your smile”. And cream colored tulips mean “I will love you forever”. Tulips are the most important national symbol of the Netherlands, rivaling wooden shoes and windmills!
Tulips are originally from Persia, and were brought to the Netherlands in the 17th century. About 150 varieties of tulips grow in the wild, especially in mountainous, cold regions. After the tulip became a hybrid, a huge variety of petal colors and shapes was created.
The name for tulips comes from the headdress worn by many peoples of the Middle East known as the turban or Taliban. It means “tulips” in Latin.
In the years 1636-37, tulip mania reigned in the Netherlands. Tulips were a symbol of wealth and status and were traded as currency. A bed of tulips could buy a small house. Some highly prized tulips were even more valuable and one bulb could be exchanged for a large house and all the land, furniture and other necessities.
When the tulip market crashed, it was similar to the stock market crash of the 20th century. Thousands of business people were destroyed when the bubble burst.
Even today, the tulip remains a favorite flower, the harbinger of spring. Almost every garden can be decorated with this beautiful, easily recognizable flower.
Symbolic meanings associated with zinnias are thoughts of absent friends, enduring affection, constancy, kindness, and daily remembrance. Zinnias are the state flower of Indiana.
The original zinnias were found at the beginning of the 16th century in the wilds of Mexico. They were so boring and unattractive that the Aztec name for them meant “eyes”. When introduced to Europe, they were equally despised and called “everybody’s flower” and “the poor man’s flower.” Zinnia was named after Dr. Gottfried Zinn, a German whose hobby was growing wild flowers.
The common name garden Cinderella indicates the stage of later transformation of the zinnia. In the late 1800s, a French botanist produced the first brightly colored double zinnias. In the early 20th century, Luther Burbank created the first zinnia-like dahlia. Today, the number of colors and shapes of flowers available is astounding.
Zinnias thrive in hot climates and will not grow in cold weather. Zinnias should not be overwatered and do not like mold. A wonderful feature of zinnias is that the flowers that open first remain fresh while the new flowers open and begin to bloom.
The next time you decide which flowers to plant in your garden, keep the amazing symbolism of flowers in mind!
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