Even though it just snowed here in Chicago (insert ugly-cry here), we've got all the spring feels because the studio is blanketed with drying flowers. We just designed a new Mother's Ring, in time for Mother's Day, that incorporates birth flowers as inlays. What's a birth flower, you ask? Well, we've compiled a list of flowers from the Old Farmer's Almanac and provided you with some insight into flower meanings and the history of birth flower attributes.
A Short History of Flower Meanings
According to Gertrude Jones, who wrote a book entitled Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols in 1962, the ancient Romans were one of the first to celebrate birthdays and they did so by gifting dedicated flowers. In the 18th century, Lady Mary Wortely Montagu (pictured below), introduced the "language of flowers" to British high-society and, thus, flower meanings took on permanent significance in the west (Loy, 2015).
Carnations symbolize women and love. Different colored carnations indicate different feelings. For example: red means "My heart aches" or intense admiration; white references innocence, pure love, and good luck; pink means "I'll never forget you"; yellow apparently indicates rejection or disappointment.
In Victorian times, carnations were used to send secret messages. A solid color carnation meant "Yes," a striped carnation means "I'm sorry but I can't be with you", and yellow means "No".
The ancient Aztec Indians used carnations in a tea as a diuretic and to treat chest congestion.
It's no surprise that violets are a symbol of delicate love. These velvety flowers are whisper-thin and very fragile. Violets also indicate affection, modesty, faithfulness, dignity, and nobility (purple is a color often associated with royalty).
Violets, in the Christian tradition, represent the Virgin Mary. They are also indicative of symbolic death and resurrection because these flowers were used by the Romans in funeral rites.
Daffodil ~ Narcissus
The etymology of the taxonomic name, narcissus, derives from the greek mythological character who was so in love with his own reflection he drowned in it. It is believed that these beautiful flowers were given this name because they grow naturally on river and stream banks, with their heads bowing to their own reflection. However, in modern times, daffodils are commonly associated with spring and renewal.
The cheery daffodil appears when spring is fast approaching. Daffodils brighten everything around them with their golden, yellow hue. These flowers represent prosperity, bounty, rebirth, renewal, good luck, happiness, clarity, and inspiration.
Following soon after the daffodil, daisies flower when spring has fully arrived. Daisies symbolize innocence and hope, but it is also a flower that indicates discretion between lovers--as in "Can you keep a secret?" In the Victorian era, daisies represented loyalty.
Daisies appear like miniature suns in the grass and, in the evening, tiny stars. These flowers grow all year round and are naturally resistant to pests. The name daisy comes from an Old English word meaning "day's eye" because the flowers open in the day after closing at night. Daisies are apparently around 4,000 years old! These flowers have been painted and used as decoration in Medieval paintings, Egyptian vessels, and Minoan hair accessories.
Lily of the Valley
This fragrant flower symbolizes sweetness, humility, and a return to happiness. It is also said to bring luck in love. Part of the taxonomic name of this flower, majalis, means "of or belonging to mary." In the Christian tradition, this flower is said to have originated from the Virgin Mary's tears. Also, according to old astrological records, this plant has been placed under the ascendancy of Mercury--which passes across the sun in either May or November.
Roses have perhaps the most infamous cultural significance. Like carnations, different colored roses have a different meaning: pink means love, gratitude, appreciation, grace, gentleness, and sympathy; yellow indicates "Get Well", friendship, and joy; lavender symbolizes enchantment, mystery, and love at first sight; white means purity and spirituality--interestingly white roses used to be an indication of true love which is now symbolized by the color red, which has been used throughout history to indicate passion (in politics and religion).
This sweet, edible flower has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Rosehips are often crushed with sugar to create a preserve, rich in vitamin C. The fragrance of this flower is justifiably popular and the flower has a long history of cultivation in gardens.
Larkspur is associated with openheartedness and romance. Like carnations and roses, the colors of larkspur flowers hold different meanings: pink represents fickleness, white signifies a happy-go-lucky nature, and purple represents a sweet disposition.
According to Native American lore, larkspur got its name from a celestial being who sent down a spike of the sky with which to climb down to the earth. The rays of the sun dried the spike and scattered it in the wind--wherever these pieces touched the ground the larkspur flower grows.
The poisonous larkspur flower is used in botanical applications for fragrance in candles and aromatherapy. It is also used by some to dispel ghosts and spirits.
Gladiolus flowers indicate strength of character, infatuation, and "never give up." These flowers are sometimes referred to as sword flowers because of their impressive height and shape. Gladioli, in Roman times, were commonly associated with gladiators. In this way, gladioli signify moral integrity. These flowers can grow up to six feet tall in optimal conditions.
According to FTD.com, it’s said that the aster was created by the tears of the Greek goddess, Astraea. One day, she was so upset by how few stars there were in the dark sky, that she began to cry. As she wept, her tears fell to the ground and turned into star-shaped aster flowers. Thus, the flower was named after her, with aster meaning star.
Another interpretation is that asters were created when Virgo scattered stardust over the Earth. Where the stardust settled, aster flowers bloomed. The aster is also an emblem of Venus, the goddess of love.
Aster flowers are known to be drought resistant, so they are excellent for desert landscaping. The aster is actually made up of many smaller flowers surrounded by another set of larger petals.
In Chinese culture, asters are thought to cure many different ailments and can aid respiratory diseases and problems with circulation.
Again, FTD.com states that the first recorded cultivation of marigolds began with the Aztecs, who believed that the sunny flower possessed magical properties. Spanish conquistadors took these marigolds back with them to Spain where they were grown in monasteries.
From here, marigolds spread throughout Europe, and ultimately the rest of the world. Throughout history, marigolds have been used as dyes and as culinary ingredients, as well as a cure for many health ailments. In Mexico and Latin America, marigolds are used as a primary decoration for All Saints Day, where altars are embellished with these bright orange flowers. Today, the marigold is one of the most popular flowers in the United States.
With a bloom time that spans nearly the entire year, this October flower blooms from spring to fall and are one of the hardiest fall flowers. Avid gardeners plant marigolds due to their ability to repel insects and pests. Additionally, their odor can repel bacterial growth within the soil, keeping it healthy and nutritious for other plants.
Marigolds, or gendu, are widely used in Indian wedding celebrations. Lord Vishnu and his wife Goddess Lakshmi, the ideal couple, are worshipped with marigolds. Hence, using the same at weddings is symbolic of the divine blessings to the newlywed couple for a prosperous life ahead. Marigolds are also considered to be representative of the sun. Thus, they symbolize brightness and positive energy to be bestowed on the couple.
According to Teleflora, chysanthemums are symbol of the sun. The Japanese consider the orderly unfolding of the chrysanthemum's petals to represent perfection, and Confucius once suggested they be used as an object of meditation. It's said that a single petal of this celebrated flower placed at the bottom of a wine glass will encourage a long and healthy life.
Flowermeaning.com suggests that the Chrysanthemum is far more versatile than many other decorative flowers. While they don’t provide a very strong smell when growing, there’s a delicate and sweet aroma released when certain types are used for food. Chinese cooks add the blooms to soups and stir fries that need a hint of floral to balance out more strongly flavored or musky ingredients. The greens are also used for brightening up salads and fried dishes. You can try your hand at making your own sweetly scented Chrysanthemum tea if you have access to flowers that were never treated with pesticides. Speaking of pesticides, organic pyrethins are extracted from this plant to keep bugs away from people, pets, and plants. NASA studies even found potted Chrysanthemums improve air quality.
The Old Farmer's Almanac associates this flower with abundance, cheerfulness, and friendship.
Paperwhites ~ Narcissus
December's birth flower is a variation of March's daffodil. Paperwhites are part of the family of narcissus flowers and thus have the same etymology as daffodils. However, given that paperwhites are often grown indoors from bulbs, these flowers represent resilience, confidence, and sweetness in the darkest points of the year. Paperwhites grow and bloom easily in nothing more than water and proper drainage. White Flower Farm offers tips on how to grow these flowers indoors: place a layer of stones or beach glass at the bottom of a vase, next arrange the paperwhite bulbs in a layer with their roots facing down, leave the tops of the bulbs exposed and fill the vessel with water right up to the base of the bulb (be sure not to let the actual bulb sit in water or they will rot).