How to speak with flowers
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.