Saturday, April 11, 2009

Flowers Have Special Meaning

As a child, flowers were a big part of my life. My mother, grandmother, and neighbors always had flowers planted in every spare spot, they could find, in their yards. So in Spring and Summer, my childhood was awash in vibrant color. Flowers grew in abundance, bees buzzed, June Bugs hummed, and beautiful birds, of every color, sang in this virtual Garden of Eden.

Each Spring, my family and I, would make our annual pilgrimage to Knoxville to join a host of other flower enthusiasts at the Iris Gardens. We would walk along pebble paths to gaze at the large variety of colors and jot down the names of new ones. One summer we even traveled into North Carolina to the majestic Biltmore Estate and Gardens to view their gorgeous dahlias.

My first self-employment venture was the job of selling fresh cut flowers in front of our house. I don't remember, now, the variety of flowers I sold, but I do remember the joy of sitting up a little flower stand and making money from my grandmother's flower garden--with her permission, of course.

My grandmother was an expert gardener and grew every flower, tree, and vegetable she could get her hands on. Gardening was her love and hobby, as it was with many housewives of her time.

We wore flowers on important occasions. I remember the ladies in my family wearing big corsages of orange chrysanthemums to the University of Tennessee football games. We would dress up for games back then. Women wore fur coats, hats, high heels, and gloves. Men would wear nice slacks, a wool sports coat or overcoat, a wool/felt fedora hat, and leather gloves. It was always a very special event.

On Easter, we ladies (young and old) wore beautiful, big white or purple orchids to church, pinned to our finest outfit. And on Mother's Day, we wore carnations or roses--red if your mother was alive or white if she had passed away. Each flower had meaning in those days: the white or pink petals of the dogwoods represented the Crucifixion of Christ and the white Easter Lily represented the Resurrection; the daisy denoted innocence and a lover's promise of "I'll never tell"; the orchid sent the message of refinement and was the most beautiful of all exotic flowers; dark red roses stood for mourning; rosebuds signified youth and were given as gifts to young girls or sent as gifts to the mothers of new-born babies; wearing a striped carnation said "I am missing you" and of course, the common four leaf clover meant good luck. Black roses should NEVER be touched or given, because they signaled death. They were also very rare.

When I was young, a woman was not only judged by how white her washing was, as it hung on the clothes line in the yard, but also by her ability to grow beautiful flowers and vegetables. I think it must have represented (to her neighbors, anyway) her feminine nurturing abilities.

Flowers have long been associated with various holidays and the colors of flowers with emotion and messages. Below I've mentioned flower colors and their meanings.

Yellow - Happiness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Jealousy, Treachery, Pride, Success and Luxury

Orange - Satisfaction of attaining success and strengthened love

Violet - Hope, Generosity, Faithfulness, Modesty, Passion, Humility

Red - Passion, Love, Admiration, Courage, Desire, Constancy, Youth, Respect

Green - Feeling of joy and optimism

White - Pious, Purity, Heavenly, Sincere feeling, Innocence, Silence

Lavender - Feminism, Grace, elegance

Pink - Delicate, Grace, Gentle, Confidence, Admiration

~Do you have a "childhood" memory of flowers?


Lesley said...

I really enjoyed this post Barbara, as it's a subject that greatly interests me... the symbolism of flowers.

I smiled at the thought of the young entrepeneur selling Grandma's flowers. How lovely!

My parents always relish re-telling the story of how I ate my great-uncle's tulip flowers when I was two years old, but I can't remember it.... just as well it wasn't the bulbs. I dread to think of the outcome!

The earliest thing I can remember was being given part of our garden for me to look after, and I spent many enjoyable hours growing vegetables from seeds in that little plot. :)

Barbara said...

Lesley- How nice that you had your own little garden spot. I think every child should be given the chance to "garden" if they are inclined to do so. My husband was one of those children who loved to grow things and still is.

Linda said...

Wow! You're so lucky to have all those memories!! I have memories of your and dad's huge vegetable gardens--in Las Vegas--and Lewiston--and eating raw vegetables from them.

Lately, I too, have become very interested in learning the secret language of flowers and bringing it into my children's lives. I'm looking forward to walking through Manito Gardens this Spring with the family--like you did with yours years ago.

Nice post!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh! If you ever come back to Biltmore, you must let me know so we can meet - I live not far from the Biltmore...aren't the gardens gorgeous!

What a beautiful post.....

Barbara said...

Linda- I think it's important to expose children and grandchildren to the wonder of plants and nature and what better place to do it, than in a wonderful garden?

I was very fortunate (although, I didn't realize it at the time) to be introduced to so many elements of culture and beauty. I have many marvelous memories from my childhood, provided by a family who appreciated the wonders which surrounded them.

Barbara said...

Kathryn- You are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful area of the country. And I CERTAINLY WILL look you up if I'm ever back your way!

I wish I could take my entire family to the Biltmore. It's magical!

Lea and her Mustangs said...

Oh Barbara, you brought some wonderful memories. At the time I thought it was punishment but it wasn't and it instilled in me a love of flowers. I don't always to well with flowers in my yard, but I do love them and are envious of people who do. We had a huge vegetable garden - the better part of an acre and I had to weed and how ect. I look back now and I still love to dig in the dirt. My mother had beautiful Dahlias and Gladiolas. Stunning.

Hope you had a wonderful blessed Easter.

Barbara said...

Lea- I had forgotten about the Gladiolas until you mentioned them in your comment. My grandmother called them "Glads"-- they were so pretty.

It makes me happy to hear you liked the post!

Happy Easter!

Dani said...

Wonderful memories! Growing up, we had two lilac trees in our backyard- one purple and one white. I loved picking them and bringing them into our house. It made the whole house smell like spring! Unfortunately lilac tress only bloom for a short time.

Happy Easter! I wish we all still dressed up in our "Sunday Best" at church in our Easter bonnets. :)

Barbara said...

Dani- I love the fragrance of lilacs. I have one very close to my dining room window where I can smell it when a breeze comes by.

Happy Easter!

Kerry said...

Barbara~ Your serene and lovely blog spot is an oasis of calm and beauty.
My observations on life are a garden, too - one filled with humor, light, love and sharing.
I can't recall ever be more impressed
with a blog - than yours.
Thank you for the gift of beauty
Kerryon - Mill Valley

Barbara said...

Kerry- Thank you for your beautiful thoughts. Please come by often. Blessings.

Becca said...

What a beautiful post! I love flowers of any kind! I don't have any early memories of flowers, but now that we are looking for a home, we are looking for one with enough room for flowers of all sorts!

Barbara said...

Becca- You are going to have so much fun planting around your new home!

LdyRoxx said...

A great entry...Biltmore is beautiful in April!! Almost went there last weekend! Love the information on flowers. I remember my Papa always made sure that I had an orchid to wear for Easter!

Barbara said...

LdyRoxx- I wish I was headed for the Biltmore this month, but I live too far away at this time. I know it must be gorgeous now.

How wonderful that your Papa gave you orchids! It indicates you were much loved.

Anonymous said...

Flowers are so beautiful and not to mention each is full of its own meaning. God sure did create beautiful flowers!

Barbara said...

Rachelle- God's spiritual universe is so wonderful. And we get to live within it. It's all around us. What joy!!!

Amy said...

What a lovely post! Flowers have always been important to me too, Last year I grew Dinnerplate Dahlias for the first time and boy was I proud of myself lol. I love your story about how women used to be judged by their gardens. I have never heard that before. How interesting! Thanks for the great stories.

Barbara said...

Amy- Dinnerplate Dahlias!! I would love to grow them. Are they difficult?

Amy said...

No they are very easy, they grow from tubers which you can get at Home Depot or any place like that. Just pop them in a nice sunny place.The nice thing is they bloom in August and into fall, when not much else is in bloom.

Barbara said...

Amy- I ordered some a couple of days ago and can't wait to plant them. Thanks so much for the great idea!