5 Common Flowers with Incredible Histories
The history of flower arranging is almost 5,000 years old. These are the stories of 5 favourite blooms.
Going back over 4,500 years, ancient Egyptians were the first recorded use of flowers as decorations as early as 2,500 BCE. As is often the case today, flowers were chosen not only for their beauty, but for their symbolism, with flowers being tied to different emotions and gods.
Given this multi-millenia-spanning history of flower arranging, many flowers - including those stocked and sold by Hidden Botanics, have accrued intriguing histories and associations.
These beautiful flowers have always had divine implications. The latin name “Dianthus” translating to “flower of the gods” and the name carnation is suspected to have come from the word “incarnacyon” which refers to the incarnation of god made flesh. In christian legend, the first carnations are thought to have bloomed where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell after she watched her son Jesus during the crucifixion. Carnations are also associated with the Virgin Mary through the Leonardo Da Vinci painting “Madonna of the Carnation” which depicts her holding both a carnation and the baby Jesus, and is thought to have been painted between 1478 and 1480.
Classified as an edible flower, carnation petals have been used in Chartreuse, the french liquor, since the 17th century. It was also common for those watching William Shakespeare’s plays to drink rose water and cordials made from white carnations.
The daisy - which is thought to come in roughly 20,000 different varieties - is a flower believed to be over 4,000 years old, with evidence that ancient Egyptian temple gardens had grown them as far back as 2,200 BCE and that they had been used in herbal medicines at the time. Ceramics made in ancient Egypt have been found bearing the images of daisies, and while excavating a Minoan palace on Crete, the largest of the Greek isles, gold hairpins with daisy-like ornaments at the end were found. The daisy is still commonly found growing on Crete.
The flower has a history in British literature, being mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Poem “The Legend of Good Women”, in Hamlet during Ophelia’s death scene, and in another Shakespeare plays, Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Within Greek mythology the lily is tied to Hera, the wife of Zeus and the goddess of women, marriage, and childbirth. Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, was believed to be so envious of the beauty and loveliness of the lily that she caused the flower to grow a large and long pistil from its centre, believing this would make it less pretty.
Like the carnation, the lily has been linked to the Virgin Mary, appearing between Mary and the archangel Gabriel in numerous paintings, and is mentioned in both the old and new testaments of the christian bible. Also like the carnation, the lily’s origin story within christian legend is tied to tears: it is said to have sprouted where Eve’s tears fell as she was expelled from Eden.
Even beloved as the rose is today, you would be hard pressed to find someone who adored it as much as an emperor of China written about by Confucious, who was claimed by Confucious to have over 600 different books on the cultivation of roses.
According to fossil evidence, the rose is roughly 35 million years old, and there are currently 30,000 different varieties.
Ever the symbol of love, Cleopatra is believed to have strewn rose petals at Mark Antony’s feet and covered her living quarters with the petals so that whenever Antony saw or smelt a rose he would think of her.
Then there is the infamous symbol the red and white Tudor Rose, an emblem of England that has its origins in the uniting of the House of Lancaster and the House of York, who used a red rose and a white rose as their emblem respectively, following the war of the roses.
The peony has two Greek myths which are used as an origin: It is most commonly thought to have got its name from Paeon who served as the physician to the gods, and was the apprentice of Asclepius, god of medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of Paeon, and intended to kill him, but Zeus saw fit to protect Paeon from his teacher’s wrath by turning him into a flower.
The other story has the peony coming from Paeonia, a beautiful nymph that the goddess of love, Aphrodite, caught flirting with Apollo, the god of the sun. Aphrodite, in a fit of jealousy, turned the nymph into a peony flower.
With floristry having such a long history, it only makes sense that some flowers would have accrued such curious histories in that time. It adds just that little bit more to plants already so beautiful and scented. All the flowers that have been talked about above are available at Hidden Botanics’ store as gorgeous dried floral bouquets and arrangements. Our dried flowers keep their scent and colour wonderfully, and we hope that if you purchase any of them, you will have found these associated histories interesting, and think of them!
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