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The history of giving flowers Act I

Roger Boddaert

Special to the Village News

Whether you spend $5 or hundreds of dollars on giving flowers, do you know what they mean and how the tradition of flower-giving first began? Let's take a little stroll down the flower trail together.

Hundreds of thousands of flowers vary in size, shape, color, and fragrance worldwide; how they became such a significant part of our culture is truly unique.

Each flower type carries different meanings, depending on the color, history, and arrangement of a floral bouquet.

Our ancestors used flowers long ago to express sentiment and meaning, and the French and English discovered an entire language of flowers, called floriography, in the 1700s.

In ancient Greek mythology, the gift of flowers was bestowed upon heroes from the gladiators in the coliseum to floral offerings in ancient temples.

During the open Roman games, the roads leading to Rome were ladened with rose petals, and it is said that Cleopatra laid rose petals at the feet of Mark Anthony as a form of her affection.

Pharaohs used to decorate their carts with flowers before heading into battle. The Egyptians would sing the song of the Lotus flower and hold feasts to celebrate the tall-stemmed flowering Lotus. The Lotus grows along the riverbanks of the Nile; it opens in the morning and closes at night, and the Egyptians saw this as an image of rebirth and regeneration.

Instead of speaking their emotions, the Victorians would give flowers to express their feelings, and the flowery floral language grew, for each flower had individual characteristics and significant meanings. People began to build bouquets based on what they wanted to express in their giving. Over time, flowers developed meanings and reasons, becoming symbolic gestures to bestow to one another.

The Victorian period introduced the Tussie-Mussie bouquets which were a way for those who did not like to bathe regularly to camouflage their body odor. Fragrant flowers were used in these tiny handheld bouquets and were carried by an elite group of men and women to emit the fragrances of flowers and herbs. Nowadays, the Tussie-Mussie is used as a petite bridal bouquet or as a lovely floral gesture to those you love.

This flower language was not easy to understand, so they wrote volumes of books and guides on the meanings of flowers and floral arrangements. Today, individuals spend hundreds of dollars expressing their love and sentiment through the simple gesture of giving flowers on various occasions.

The U.S. eventually adopted this Victorian tradition of floriography, and the giving of flowers grew locally and beyond with the imports of flowers from around the globe.

It is now common to give a potted flower as a gift or send a flower arrangement to a loved one or family member throughout the calendar year, especially with the upcoming holiday seasons.

Floral wreaths can adorn front doors, and students exchange corsages and boutonnieres during proms. Individuals send flowers to celebrate life, or mourn death, and also to express romantic feelings.

Human civilizations have held the rose near to their souls, and the rose is known to have flourished millions of years ago, and the rose hips (seed pods) have been discovered in frozen wreaths in Europe and uncovered from ancient Egyptian tombs.

Flowers have bloomed in the hearts of humans throughout history and present a lasting wellspring of color and splash in our everyday life. Flowers are an image of cheerful feeling and can pass along messages of strength, love, gratitude, enthusiasm, cheer, and prayer.

Researchers say that more than 270,000 types of flowers have been archived in the 21st century.

The language of flowers continues to have an essential role in today's relationships, and the flower world has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide.

Flowers have become an international commodity, and new technology has become an intricate component in the art of growing flowers.

San Diego county is one of the leading floral hubs in producing a broad spectrum of flowers, and potted plants are sold locally and shipped across the country, via truck or by air.

I hope this little botanical introduction has peaked your interest in the art of giving flowers, for they truly have a language all their own.

So, stay tuned to learn how the floral industry in California began in 1800 with immigrants coming into our state to grow flowers and find a livelihood.

The slogan "Say it with flowers" was born from the Society of Florists and there is no better way to send your floral message to those you care for.

Today flowers are wired and sent via floral services all over the world. With the upcoming holiday season, please give a little thought and appreciate the bounty of the flower kingdom and "Say it with flowers."

Roger Boddaert, a horticulturist/flower grower, landscape designer/ certified arborist can be contacted at 760-728-4297.


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