"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us."
I don't suppose you've ever given flowers much thought. Yet, as Iris Murdoch rightly points out, if we lived our lives without such things, the world would certainly be a more sorrowful place. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing colour bursting through green at the height of spring, or hearing the hum of bees as they go about their business. Walking past somebody's well-tendered garden normally warrants a pause and an admiring stare; fields in full bloom are enough to make anybody gasp in delight. Giving somebody flowers is the go-to way to show them you care about them. I know someone whose boyfriend just couldn't get it right when it came to flowers (I guess you could say my friend was...picky) and another friend of mine used to date a guy who didn't believe in giving flowers. He thought it was pointless, because they just die. Needless to say, that relationship also died. But why are flowers such a big deal? Are flowers truly nature's pièce de résistance? Since the pandemic began, people have been going crazy for plants. In fact, I'm pretty sure before we were all locked in, a trend for buying succulents and cacti had already begun. I bought my first plant when I went to university. I called him Boris (and to this day he's still the best Boris around.) Since then, my collection of plants has grown, but I've also become increasingly fixated on flowers. If I had my way I'd be buying flowers every week, but then I'd probably have no money to use for food (got to get our priorities right here. Not sure how I feel about eating flowers at this stage.) They can be expensive - and they die, quite quickly. Nevertheless, there's nothing quite like being handed a bunch of tulips or lilies that aren't quite in bloom, and watching them routinely until one day they suddenly open up like the gates of heaven, leaving you simultaneously in awe and full of glee. Flowers are both beautiful and vital for us as humans. The key purpose of flowers is to attract insects so that they can pollinate other plants. Without this process, plants would not be able to reproduce on a large enough scale to ensure that all of us humans get enough oxygen to survive. In fact, it's not just us humans, but virtually all living things. Now, I know this all seems pretty obvious, and without trying to sound like your Year 8 science teacher, I just want you to take a moment to think about how often you appreciate the way nature does its thing regardless of what's going on in the world. It never stops, right? That's pretty amazing. According to floweraura.com, flowers celebrate all occasions, and symbolise a vast amount of different things. They can help to release tension and anxiety, and it's believed that the presence of plants and flowers around hospitals can cure patients naturally by reducing their stress levels. I'd love to learn more about this through a scientific study or two, but I bet there's something in the idea that the presence of flowers is calming and, perhaps, brings us as layered, complex beings back to our true source: nature. Some flowers have the potential to clear the air, and of course some have potent fragrances, but they can also be used medicinally as well. Again, seeing flowers in this way reminds us that we are both reliant and inextricably linked to the natural world - we need it to survive, and it also contributes to our existence as human beings.
This is all a bit deep and wishy-washy, but I thought I'd go through some common flowers and what they symbolise. It's nice to be able to give someone flowers that represent the celebration or mood of the exchange. The symbolic language of flowers has been recognised for centuries, from Europe to Asia. Even herbs have their own symbolism. Who knew that thyme was associated with courage? Anyway, another name for the language of flowers is floriography. Meanings can vary greatly - one red rose denotes 'love at first sight' whilst a dozen say 'be mine'. The language of flowers is commonly associated with the Victorian era, a time during which people were not able to openly express their feelings. Flowers helped to communicate these feelings. Dahlias Dahlias signify a lasting bond and commitment for two people.
Yellow roses These symbolise friendship and joy. I gave a bunch of these to my friend once. At first she was alarmed (she's got bad hay fever) but I quickly explained to her that roses have denser petals and therefore release less pollen than single flowers. Obviously I had to Google this beforehand, but it made me sound like some sort of plant connoisseur.
Camellias I freaking love camellias, especially white ones. White signifies adoration, whilst pink typically denotes longing for someone who is dearly missed.
Hydrangeas Hydrangeas are perfect for a heartfelt 'thank you'.
White tulips Done something stupid to someone? White tulips are used to seek forgiveness.
Sweet Williams Ok, flowers don't have to be feminine, guys! These are one of the few flowers to symbolise masculinity. Let's see what your boyfriend has to say about that.
Speaking of, let's explore this notion a bit more. Flowers are, without a doubt, seen as feminine. On the surface, it might seem as if this is because both flowers and women are pretty, but if you dig a little deeper you'll find that flowers are associated with, yes, you guessed it... ...female genitalia. I suppose, though, you could see female genitalia in a lot of contexts (sentence number #23294 of things I thought I'd never write...) Another example is fruit. Maybe there is something intrinsically female about flowers as a means for reproduction in nature, and therefore breathing life into their surroundings. I quite like this idea, as it cements the fact that women are powerful and essential for life to carry on. I'm not sure how many people dig this deep, though; I'm pretty sure most cling onto the age-old idea of women as decorative and existing solely for the pleasure of man. It reminds me of women being "deflowered" during sex or having their "cherry popped". As far as I'm concerned, humans seem to need a metaphor for pretty much everything that is messy, but let's remember that metaphors are exactly that - metaphors. I'm sure there are women out there who hate the idea of men sending them flowers, but I'm yet to meet these women. I think flowers are amazing, and not just because they look good. Today I walked through some woods and the sheer amount of bluebells had me starstruck - they had completely taken over, and it was an amazing sight. I know flowers don't last forever, but the main thing is that they keep coming back. They are a symbol of hope, of perseverance - and a reminder that life, even in the darkest of times, can still be beautiful.