Friday, May 29, 2009



Rose - Love

White Rose - Purity and Spiritual Love

Yellow Rose - Decrease of Love and Infidelity

Cabbage Rose - Ambassador of Love

Musk Rose - Capricious Beauty

Single Rose - Simplicity

If Jove would give the leafy boers
A queen for all their world of flowers,
The rose would be the choice of Jove,
And blush the queen of every grove.
Sweetest child of weeping morning,
Gem, the breast of earth adorning,
Eye of flow'rets, glow of lawns,
Bud of beauty, nursed by dawns:
Soft the soul of love it breathes,
Cypria's brow with magic wreathes;
And to Zephyr's wild caressed,
Diffuses all its verdant tresses,
Till glowing with the wanton's play,
It blushes a diviner ray.
Sappho of Lebos, c. 600 B>C.

The Rose is one of the oldest flowers known to man and still one of the most popular. Beauty, durability and fragrance have made the rose a symbol of love. No other flower has been so admired or has inspired so many poems as the queen of the flowers.

Nebuchadnezzar used to adorn his palace. In Persia, where roses were grown for their perfume, rose petals were used to fill the Sultan's mattress. Roses later became synonymous with the worst excesses of the Roman empire---the peasants were reduced to growing roses instead of food crops in order to satisfy the demands of their rulers. The emperors filled their swimming baths and fountains with rose-water and sat on carpets of rose petals for their feasts and orgies.

The Rose is the flower of love. Chloris, the Geek goddess of flowers, created the rose out of the lifeless body of nymph whicc she found one day in the a clearing in the woods. Chloris asked for help: Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who gave her beauty; Dionyous, the god of wine, added nectar to her a sweet scent; the three Graces gave her charm, brightness and joy; Zephyr, the West Wind, blew away the clouds so Apollo, the sun god could shine and make the rose bloom. So th eRose was born and was immediately crowned Queen of the Flowers.

Queen Elizabeth I, known as the Virgin Queen, took the Tudor Rose as her emblem and chose "Rosa sine spina" as her motto. Elizabeth was known as the rose without a thorn and many of the Elizabethan poets wrote of her.

O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By tht sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The candor-blooms have full as deep a dye,
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses:
But for their virtue only is their show,
They lived unwoo'd, and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made.
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your turth.
Sonnet LIV, William Shakespeare, 1564-1816
The rose, the national emblem of England, was known in ancient India; Confucius mentions a rose garden in Beijing; and Columbus found it in the New World.



Female Fidelity


Beloved, it is morn!
Redder berry on the thorn,
A deeper yellow on the corn,
For this good day new-born:
Pray, Sweet, for me
That I may be
Faithful to God and thee.
Emily Henriette Hickey, 1945-1924

Speedwell grows wild on banks and hedgerows and covers the ground in the spring with its brilliant blue flowers.

Its appearance has caused the little plant to be called by many "eye" names, after the sharp little eyes of a bird, or the little eye which looks out at you from the heart of the flower. It is commonly known as Bird's-eye, but also Angels'-eyes, Cats'-eye, Bright-eye and Milkmaid's-eye.

The genus name is Veronica, the origin of which is uncertain. It weems possible that it comes from the Greek word "beronike" meaning a faithful likeness. More likely the plant is called Speedwell because the flowers fall as soon as it is picked and people fancied it was like saying goodbye to a parting friend.



Early Youth

Perdita. Now, my fair'st friend,
I would I had some flow'rs o' th' spring that might
Become your time of day---and yours, and yours,
That wear upon your virigin branches yet
Your maiden heads growing. O Proserpina,
For the flowers not that, frighted, thou let'st fall
From Dis's waggon!...
...pale primroses,
That die unmarried ere they can behold
Bright Phoebus in his strength---a malady
Most incident to maids
The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

There are few flowers whose coming is so eagerly awaited in the year as the Primrose and it is because it is one of the early signs of spring that it received its name which means "first rose". It is not what we call a rose today, but long ago the name was used more widely.

In the language of flowers, the primrose expresses contentment and pleasure but by contrast, for Shakespeare the primrose was a symbol of frivolity and thoughtlessness. "I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire," says the porter in Macbeth.

In parts of western England the Primrose is still called the Butter-rose, because the color of teh flowers is so like that of the farmhouse butter which is made there.

Primroses became very fashionable in Victorian times and were Disraeli's favorite flower. Queen Victoria sent him many bunches from her garden during her reign, on his death she sent a large wreath of Primroses as a token of her affection a nd respect.




My true love hath my heart and I hvae his,
By just exchange one fo aonther geven:
I holde his deare, and mine he cannot misse,
There never was a better bargaine driven.
My true love hath my heart andI hve his.
My heart in me keepes him and me in one,
My heart in him his thoughts and sences guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his owne,
I cherish his becasue in me it bides.
My true love hath my heart, and I hve his.
Just Exchange, Sir Philip Sidney, 1554-1586

Phlox most commonly is interpreted as agreement. Perhaps more ardent suitors were intoxicated by its heady scent, which perfumes like the whole garden in the early evening, and felt inspired to a proposal of love.

Phlox was named after the Greek word "phlox" meaning flame, no doubt referring to their color and shape.




With honeysuckle, over-sweet, festooned;
With bitter ivy bound;
Terraced with unguses unsound;
Deformed with many a boss
And closed scar, o'ercushioned deep with moss;
Bunched all about with pagan mistletoe;
And thick withnests of the hoarse bird
Taht talks, but understands not his own word;
Stands, and so stood a thousand years ago,
A single tree.
Coventry Patmore, 1823-1896

The Ivy is not able to support itself but depends upon trees and walls up which to climb. But once it has gained hold, nothing can seperate it, hence its meaning. It does not live off its partner, however, but feeds off its own roots.

Associated with Holly both are used to decorate our homes at Christmas. This tradition originated centuries ago in order to protect us from evil spirits: the druids believed the Holly and the Ivy has magical properties and would drive away the devil. Hung in the cow-shed Ivy would stop the milk from turning sour.

Growing on the wall of a house Ivy would keep the occupants safe from witches and if it died, disaster was anticipated. In Wales, if the Ivy failed, it meant the house would pass into other hands, probably through infertility.

Ivy, with its clinging habit, is a feminine symbol.



Dark Geranium - Melancholy

Oak-leaved Geranium - True Friendship

Rose or Pink Geranium - Preference

Scarlet Geranium - Comforting

Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead!
Sit and watch by her side an hour.
That is her book-shelf, this her bed;
She plucked that piece of geranium-flower,
Beginning to die too, in the glass;
Little has yet been changed, I think:
The shutters are shut, no light may pass
Save two long rays thro' the hinge's chink.

But the time will come,---at last it will
When, Evelyn Hope, hat meant (I shall say)
In the lower earth, in the years long still,
That body and soul so pure and gay?
Why your hair was amber, I shall divine,
And your mouth of your own geranium's red---
And what you would do with me, in fine,
In the new lifecome in the old one's stead.
Robert Browning, 1812-1889

Found in most parts of the world, the Geranium's botanical name comes from the Greek word "geranos", meaning a crane, for the fruit of the plant resembles a crane's beak., hence the nickname Cranesbill.

Geraniums are said to have been given their color by Mohammed who left his clothes todry on a bed of mallow. The flowers blushed with dark red with pride and never lost their color, and have been know as geraniums ever since.

Often seen in the Mediterranean region tumbling out of terracotta pots and downpainted stone walls their color creates a festive mood.




Ophelia. There's rosemary, That's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there's is pansies, that's for thoughts.

Laertes. A document in madness---thoughts and remembrance fitted.

Ophelia. There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you; and here's some for me. We may call it herb of grace a Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father died. They say 'a made a good end.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare 1564-1616

Poor Ophelia rightly carried columbines in her arms for columbines are perfect for the bouquet of a deserted lover. The red flower signifies Anxiety and the purple, Resolution.

Its genus name, Aquilegia, is from the Latin word for eagle, The base of the flower resembling an eagle's claws. It reminded others of a flight of doves for it was named Columbine for the Latin "columba" meaning dove. It is due to this association that the flower has become a symbol of the Holy Spirit and appears in religious paintings by the great masters.



Red Carnation - Alas for my poor heart

Striped Carnation - Refusal

Yellow Carnation - Disdain

Perdita. Sir, the year growing ancient,
Not yet on summer's death nor on the birth
Of trembling winter, the fairest flowers o' th' season
Are our Carnation and streak'd gillyvors
Which some call nature's bastards.
The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare 1564-1616

The Carnation changes its meaning according to its color, so while the Striped Carnation means Refusal and the Yellow Carnation Disdain, the Red Carnation signifies the blood of Christ.

The cultivation of these confident flowers goes back over two thousand years and it is said that the plant came to England from the Normans. It may be found growing wild in the walls of the Norman castles of Dover and Rochester and is believed to have been rooted to the stones imported from France.

The Athenains honored Carnations by calling them Di-anthos, Flower of Jove, and used the flowers to make wreaths and garlands at their festivals, hence came the word "coronation" from which Carnation is derived.

Carnations were sometimes added to wine and ale to add spiciness and are still known as sops-in-wine in some parts of the English countryside.

The Carnation was associated with vanity and pride, possibly because it was at first a rare and valuable flower. Poets sang its praises as a sign of friendship because it keeps its color to the last.

Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, in 1907,chose the carnation as the symbol of Mother's Day.




If I should die, thinl only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forver England. there shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
The Soldier, Rupert Brooke, 1887-1915

The Nasturtium came to England from the New World in the 16th century, at the same time as tobacco. It was then banished to the kitchen garden and grown for centuries as a salad. Its name, Nasturtium, which it shares with watercress, comes from the Latin phrase for "twisted nose" and it refers to the peppery taste they have in common. It botanical name comes from the Greek word meaning trophy because the flowers and leaves are shaped like helmets and shields---perhaps another explanation for its symbolism.





Open fresh your round of starry folds,
Ye ardent marigolds!
Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,
For gteat Apollo bids
That in these days yoru praises should be sung
On manyharps, which he ahs lately strung;
And when again your dewiness he kisses,
Tell him, I have you in my world of blisses:
So haply when I rove in some far vale,
His mighty voice may come upn the gale.
John Keats, 1795-1821

The Marigold was always been associated with the sun's journey across the sky, from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. The Victorians believed they could stet the clock by the hour the Marigold opened and closed its colorful petals.

The Marigold probably means Mary-gold after the Virgin Mary. In some parts the marigold is also known as Mary-bud and Mary-gold. Lots of children have been reminded of a button when looking at the big, round flower, and so called them Bachelor's Buttons, a name the marigold shares with several other memebers of the daisy family.

In the 19th century, the Marigold, representing the shining sun, became a symbol of life following its preordained path in the same way as the flower follows the sun.

Yet the Marigold, too, has another, opposite meaning: because of its strange smell, it is also known as the flower of the dead and is planed in graveyards. The Marigold signifies Grief, it is believed, because the flower daily mourns the departure of the sun when its petals are forced to close.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Female Ambition

Lady Macbeth
Glamis tou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
Waht thou are promis'd. Yet do I fear they nature;
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst no play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win.
Macbeth, William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

While we think of the Hollyhock as the most English of plants, it was imported from its native China in the 16th century. The Chinese consider it the symbol of fruitfulness, hence its meaning.

The Hollyhock is easy to grow. It quickly became popular in England. Since its leaves were used to cure horses' swollen heels it was initially known as Horseleaf. People wrongly attributed it origin to the Holy Land so it came to be known as the Hollyhock.

The tall, pastel blooms swaying at the back of English cottage gardens came to symbolize female abmbition.





The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue,
Will not reveal what peals were rung
In Faery, in Faery,
A thousand ages gone.
All the golden clappers hang
As if but now the changes rang;
Only from the mottled throat
Never any echoes float.
Quite forgotten, in the wood,
Pale, crowded steeples rise;
Mary Webb

Foxgloves are thought of as the fairies' flower and their name is a corruption of Folk's-glove. They obviously provided more than gloves for the little folk for they are also known as Fairies'-petticoats, Fairy-caps and Fairies'-dresses. If you see a foxglove bending over, it is because the fairies are hiding in the bells.

The Foxglove's genus name is Digitalis, which means finger-length. Children have always delighted in poking their fingers into the speckled purple blooms.

But Foxglove has a darker side. For centuries it has been widely used as a herbal cure, however, excessive doses are poisonous. In Scotland Foxgloves are called Bloody Fingers and Dead Men's Bells and to har them rung forebodes an early death.




I'd choose to be a daisy,
If I might be a flower;
Closing my petals softly
At twilight's quiet hour;
And waking in the morning,
When fails the early dew,
To welcome Heaven's bright sunshine,
And Heaven's bright tear-drops too.
I'd Choose To Be A Daisy, Anonymous

Daisy means the day's eye, or the eye of the day. The daisy is the children's flower. They love to gather it for posies and for making daisy chains.

If a little girl picks a bunch of daisies with her eyes shut, the number of flowers in the posy will be the number of years before she marries. Young girls have always told their fortunes by pulling the petals off to the refrain "He loves me, he loves me not".

The daisy is quite true to its name, for in the morning it opens with the light of day and when the sun goes down it folds up its white petals again as if it were going to sleep.





So sweet love seemed that April morn,
When first we kissed beside the thorn,
So strangely sweet, it was not strange
We thought that love could never change.

But I can tell--- let truth be told---
That love will change in growing old;
Though day by day is nought to see,
So delicate his motions be.
So Sweet Love Seemed, Robert Bridges, 1844-1930

This vivid blue flower, which grows wild in cornfields, is known as Bluebottle, Ragged Sailor, and Hurt-sickle, because its tough stems blunt the reaper's tools.

In days of yore, if a girl wore a cornflower it meant she was available for marriage. If a young man put a cornflower in his pocket, he was in love. If the flower lived it was a sign that he should marry; if it died, he must find another sweetheart. It was also believed that if a girl hid the flower under her apron, she would have the bachelor of her choice. Thus the name Bachelor's Buttons.

Greek legend tells how Chiron the Centaur wounded by Hercules' poisonous arrows covered his wounds with cornflowers and was healed.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Water Lily

Red Chrysanthemum - I Love
Yellow Chrysanthemum - Slighted Love
White Chrysanthemum - Truth

To love one maiden only, cleave to her,
And worship her by years of noble deeds,
Until they won her; for indeed I knew
Of no more subtle master under heaven
Than is the maiden passion for a maid,
Not only to keep down the base in man,
But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
And love of truth, and all that makes a man.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809-1892

The Chrysanthemum must feel a poor immigrant in the West where it is welcomed only in the autumn because of the scarcity of other flowers.

Grown in the Far East for over thousands of years, it is so admired in Japan that the Emperor sits on the Chrysanthemum throne.

The name comes form the Greek words "chrysos"' meaning gold, and "anthemum"' a flower, for the species grown was a yellow one. Today their colors include all shades of yellow, pink, and red.

Grown for cutting and arranging indoors, it always seems a miracle of nature taht such a thin stem can support such a heavy round head.

Water Lily

Water Lily

Purity of Heart

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809-1892

Water Lilies take their name from the Greek water nymph, Nymphe, the goddess of springs, as they are found growing where the nymphs were said to play.

The pure white flower which does not open until midday then retires in early evening.



Shame and Bashfulness

Lear, I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell.
We'll no more meet, no more see one another.
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that's in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine; thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle
In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it;
I do not bid the Thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-juding Jove.
Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure;
King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

Mischievious nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the peony thus causing this magnificent flower to be given the meaning Shame of Bashfulness.

In its native China, the Red Peony was considered the King of the Flowers and its rich, dark color and bulbous shape became symbolic of abundance.

Once planted the peony likes to be left alone and punishes those who try to move it by not flowering again for several years. Once established, however, it produces splendid blooms each year for decades.



Fantastic Extravagance

Summer set lip to earth's bosom bare,
And left the flushed print in a poppy there:
Like a yawn of fire from the grass it came,
And the fanning wind puffed it to flapping flame.

With burst mouth red like a lion's it drank
The blood of the sun as he slaughtered sank,
And dipped its cup in the purpurate shine
When the eastern conduits ran with wine;

Till it grew lethargied with fierce bliss,
And hot as a swinked gipsy is,
And drowsed in sleepy savageries,
With mouth wide a-pout for a sultry kiss.

A child and man paced side by side,
Treading the skirts of eventide;
But between the clasp of his hand and hers
Lay, felt not, twenty withered years.
The Poppy (To Monica), Francis Thompson, 1859-1907

Sometimes called the Red Rose of Ceres by the ancient Romans. They believed the poppy was raised by Ceres, the corn goddess, wo is always depicted carrying poppies and corn, and who offered them as a sacrifice to the goods.

The poppy will always be associated with the Great War, springing up to cover the corpses of those who fought bravely on the battlefields of Northern France.

Many children are afraid to pick poppies because they believe that the petals wil fall (as they always do) and they will be struck by thunder. So they call them Thunder Flowers.

Another name given to the poppy is Headaches, bvecause it is said that the smell, or the vivid color, is bound to induce a pain in the head.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009



Viola tricolor


I send thee pansies while the year is young,
Yellow as sunshine, purple as the night;
Flowers of remembrance, ever fondly sung
By all the chiefest of the sons of light;
And if in recollection lives regret
For wasted days, and dreams that were not true,
I tell thee that the pansy "freaked withjet"
Is stil the heart's-ease that the poets knew.
Take all the sweetness of a gift unsought,
And for the pansies send me back a thought.
Sarah Doudney

Pansy is an English way of saying the French word "pensee" which means thought. People used to send these flowers for their neaest and dearestto remember them by.

This little flower with the smiling face was said to be a love potion, and was the cause of Titania falling in love with an ass in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Known to children and country folk by these affectionate names: Johnny-jump-up, Love-in-idleness, Two-faces-under-the -sun, Face-and-hood, Tickle-my-fancy, the pansy was also called Herb Trinity, because there are often three colors in the one flower, reminding one of the Holy Trinity.

But perhaps best known of all the names is Heartease. Many believed that carrying the pansy about with you would ensure the love of your sweetheart. Thus engaged couples would present their partners with portraits of themselves surrounded by garlands of pansies.



Myosotis scorpioides

First Emotions of Love

O were my Love yon lilac fair,
Wi' purple blossoms to the spring.
And I a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing;
How I wad mourn when it was torn
By autumn wild and winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing
When youthfu' May its bloom renew'ed.
Robert Burns 1759-1796

The lilac is a member of the olive family but known as Blue-pipe in allusion to its hollow stems being used for pipes.

Called May Flower and Lily-oak by country people and many of them were superstitious about bringing the lilac indoors. Particularly the white variety whose meaning was Youthful Innocence.

In some villages a lilac branch is said to signify a broken engagemanet.



Allium aflatunense

The name allium comes from the Latin word for "onion," and if you bruise the leaves of these "flowering onions" you will immediately know why they earned this name. The fragrance of the blossoms can be quite pleasing.

According to Howmer, this lily leek or golden garlic possessed magical qualities. It was the plant that kept Ulysses from being turned into a pig.

Pliny, a Roman statesman, considered allium an exceedingly precious plant becasue its supposed poweres as a charm and as protection from charms.



Myosotis scorpioides

True Love

From off her glowing cheek, she sate and stretched
The silk upon the frame, and worked her name
Between the Moss-rose and Forget-Me-Not---
Her own dear name, with her own auburn hair!That forced to wander till sweet spring return,
I yet might ne'er forget her smile, her look,
Her voice, (that even in her mirthful mood
Has made me wish to steal away and weep.)
Nor yet the entrancement of that maiden kiss
With which she promised, that when spring returned,
She would resign one half of that dear name
And own thenceforth no other name but mine!
The Keep-Sake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772-1834

Greek botanists were the first to name the plant and called it myosotis, "mouse ear", after the shape of its leaves.

The forget-me-not is one of the more restrained flowers in the garden. It draw attention to itself only when it grows in larger clumps and forms a colorful blue backcloth for tulips and lily of the valley.

Associated with loving remembrance and true love, the Forget-Me-Not legend concerns a knight in armor and his lady. Seeing some flowers growing at the edge of the water the fair maiden asked good knight to pick them. As the knight stretched out his hand for them, he slipped and fell into the river. Wearing heavy armor and unable to swim, he was carried away down stream. But before he disappeared he threw the flowers unto the bank for her. "Forget-Me-Not!" he cried as he drifted away. The maiden never forgot her knight and named the flower Forget-Me-Not in his memory.

Another legend of the origin of the flower is that after the earth was created God went to each plant and animal and gave each a name. As God finished and was getting ready to leave, He heard a little voice at His feet saying "what about Me?" God bent down and picked up the little plant whom He had forgotten, and said, "Because I forgot once, I shall never forget you again, and that shall be your name."

Another suggestion as to the origin of the name is that the leaves taste so bad, once you have eaten them, you will never forget them.

Egyptain healers believed that if you place the leaves of this plant over your eyes during certain times of the year, you would have visions. The flower was considered sacred to he Egyptian god Thoth, god of wisdom.

In the Victorian language of flowers, forget-me-not means friendship, loving remembrance, and fidelity.

Forget-Me-Not is the Alaskan state flower.

Sunday, May 17, 2009



Lilium candidum


And the stately lilies stand
Fair in silvery light
Like saintly vestals, pale in prayer;
Their pure breath sanctifies the air,
As its fragrance fills the night.

Found painted on the walls of ancient Greek palaces, the lily has always been regarded as one of the oldest flowers in the world.

Legend has it that the first lily sprang up from the tears dropped by Eve when she left the Garden of Eden.

Emily's Lily 2007

Emily's Lily 2008

On account of their strong fragrance, lilies were favored long ago as flowers for the dead. It was claimed that on the third day after a burial they would begin to grow of their own accord if the deceased had been an innocent person. Not until the era of Dutch still lives did painters dare to portray lilies in a more worldly way and to include them in elaborate floral arrangements.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis

Return of Happiness

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,---
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
Ode To A Nightingale, John Keats 1795-1821

Native to most European countries, lily of the valley is a favorite of people everywhere. It is the national flower of Finland. Often carried in bridal bouquets, lily of the valley is considered the "fifth thing" that a bride should carry (right after something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue).

This flower with its dainty white bells and unmistakable green scent is the symbol of May Day. Known as Our Lady's Tears because it grew from the tears shed by the Virgin Mary at the Cross.

Monks of northern Europe named the flower expressing its usual habitat on hillsides and in valleys as well as quoting the first lines of verse two of the Song of Songs: "I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley."

Lily of the valley has been used extensively for medicine. Several elaborate recipes exist for creating concoctions from the plant. One recipe can be found in the first chapter of Robert Lewis Stevenson's Kidnapped.

Despite its reputed powers, the stalk of the flower and the berries of this attractive appearing plant can cause severe poisoning.

Saturday, May 16, 2009





Thou art the Iris, fair mong the fairest,
Who armed with golden rod
And winged with the celestial azure, bearest
The message of some God.

Thou art the Muse, who far from crowded cities
Hauntest the sylvan streams
Playing on the pipes of reed the artless ditties
That come to us as dreams

O flower-de-luce, bloom on, and let the river
Linger to kiss thy feet!
O flower of song, bloom on, and make for ever
The world more fair and sweet.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882

Iris was the messenger of the ancient Greek gods and she appeared to the mortals on earth in the form of a rainbow. There are as many different shades of iris as there are colors of the rainbow.

The oldest story about the iris is from 1479 B.C., when an Egytian king, Thutmose III, returned home after conquering Syria. To commemorate his conquests he had pictures of irises and other flowers from his conquered lands drawn on the walls of a temple.

From the New Kingdom of Egypt to the present, the iris has always been a symbol of authority and religious belief.

Among iris admirers were the kings of France who used the iris as their royal emblem and called it the Fleur-de-Lis.

Amulets carved from the iris rootstock were said to protect people and animals from evil spirits and magic.

Today the single greatest use of iris (other than for its beauty in the garden) is in the manufacturing of cosmetics. In Mexico, iris is grown extensively for this purpose and many tons of the root are shipped to France annually.