How to speak with flow­ers

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - HOME & GARDEN - Pam Bax­ter

In or­der for this col­umn to make sense, I have to tell you that Char­lie and I got mar­ried this past Sun­day. And that my won­der­ful friend Heidi put to­gether beau­ti­ful cen­ter­pieces and other flo­ral dec­o­ra­tions for the church, us­ing cheery, bright, sea­sonal sun­flow­ers as the main com­po­nent of the ar­range­ments. That way, you’ll un­der­stand why I was so de­lighted to dis­cover that sun­flow­ers sym­bol­ize ado­ra­tion, loy­alty and longevity. While per­haps not tra­di­tional, this makes these bold daisy-heads the per­fect flow­ers for a wed­ding.

How did the sun­flower be­come as­so­ci­ated with ado­ra­tion and loy­alty? The story has its roots in the myths of the an­cient Ro­mans. Edith Hamil­ton, in her clas­sic “Mythol­ogy,” tells the story of the maiden Clytie, who fell hope­lessly in love with the sun god, Apollo. The fiery god had no in­ter­est in the girl, who “pined away sit­ting on the ground out-of-doors where she could watch him, turn­ing her face and fol­low­ing him with her eyes as he jour­neyed over the sky. So gaz­ing, she was changed for­ever into a flower, the sun­flower, which ever turns to­ward the sun.”

It’s al­most an eerie thing, the way sun­flow­ers track the path of the sun in the phe­nom­e­non that botanists call pho­totropism, al­most as if the large flower-heads are gi­ant eyes. From a 21st Cen­tury per­spec­tive, it’s easy to imag­ine how an­cient peo­ples, not un­der­stand­ing the mech­a­nism, would cre­ate a story to ex­plain it.

The Tele­flora web­site (https:// www.tele­flora.com/ mean­ing-of-flow­ers/sun­flower) talks about the idea of a “lan­guage” of flow­ers, with dif­fer­ent species con­vey­ing dif­fer­ent emo­tions or per­sonal val­ues. For in­stance, roses are as­so­ci­ated with love, daf­fodils with chivalry, and daisies with in­no­cence. In Vic­to­rian Eng­land, where young peo­ple were sup­posed to be re­served in pro­fess­ing their love or af­fec­tion, the lan­guage of flow­ers—dubbed “flo­ri­og­ra­phy”— rose to per­haps its great­est height. A flower lan­guage ex­ists in many places around the world. The Ja­panese call it Hanako­toba. And it was King Charles II of Swe­den who is cred­ited with bring­ing home the con­cept from Per­sia in the sev­en­teenth cen­tury.

Think­ing again about sun­flow­ers, I won­der what you turn your eyes to. What are the things you adore? I think that most of us would share sim­i­lar things on our lists – fam­ily (es­pe­cially our spouses, part­ners, and chil­dren), our dear­est friends, work and creative projects that in­spire and lead us deeper, our gar­dens, pets, and per­haps a place or two that speak to our souls. These things in­vite us to look to the fu­ture and also keep us teth­ered, in the very best way, to the mean­ing of our lives.

Pam Bax­ter is an avid or­ganic veg­etable gar­dener who lives in Kim­ber­ton. Di­rect e-mail to pamelacbax­ter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kim­ber­ton, PA 19442. Share your gar­den­ing sto­ries on Face­book at “Ch­ester County Roots.” And check out Pam’s book for chil­dren and fam­i­lies: Big Life Lessons from Na­ture’s Lit­tle Se­crets. Avail­able at ama­zon.com.

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