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How We Use Flowers

In everyday life

Flowers are beloved for their various fragrances

In modern times, people have sought ways to cultivate, buy, wear, or just be around flowers and blooming plants, partly because of their agreeable smell. Around the world, people use flowers for a wide range of events and functions that, cumulatively, encompass one's lifetime:

  • For new births or Christenings
  • As a corsage or boutonniere to be worn at social functions or for holidays
  • For wedding flowers for the bridal party, and decorations for the hall
  • As brightening decorations within the home
  • As a gift of remembrance for bon voyage parties, welcome home parties, and "thinking of you" gifts
  • For funeral flowers and expressions of sympathy for the grieving

People therefore grow flowers around their homes, dedicate entire parts of their living space to flower gardens, pick wildflowers, or buy flowers from florists who depend on an entire network of commercial growers and shippers to support their trade.

Symbolism

Lilies are often used to denote life or resurrection

Many flowers have important symbolic meanings in Western culture. The practice of assigning meanings to flowers is known as floriography. Some of the more common examples include:

  • Red roses are given as a symbol of love, beauty, and passion.
  • Poppies are a symbol of consolation in time of death. In the UK, Australia and Canada, red poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in times of war.
  • Irises/Lily are used in burials as a symbol referring to "resurrection/life". It is also associated with stars (sun) and its petals blooming/shining.
  • Daisies are a symbol of innocence.

Flowers within art are also representative of the female genitalia, as seen in the works of artists such as Georgia O'Keefe, Imogen Cunningham, Veronica Ruiz de Velasco, and Judy Chicago, and in fact in Asian and western classical art.

Edible flowers

Flowers provide less food than other major plants parts (seeds, fruits, roots, stems and leaves) but they provide several important foods and spices. Flower vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower and artichoke. The most expensive spice, saffron, consists of dried stigmas of a crocus. Other flower spices are cloves and capers. Hops flowers are used to flavor beer. Marigold flowers are fed to chickens to give their egg yolks a golden yellow color, which consumers find more desirable. Dandelion flowers are often made into wine. Bee Pollen, pollen collected from bees, is considered a health food by some people. Honey consists of bee-processed flower nectar and is often named for the type of flower, e.g. orange blossom honey, clover honey and tupelo honey.

Hundreds of fresh flowers are edible but few are widely marketed as food. They are often used to add color and flavor to salads. Squash flowers are dipped in breadcrumbs and fried. Edible flowers include nasturtium, chrysanthemum, carnation, cattail, honeysuckle, chicory, cornflower, Canna, and sunflower. Some edible flowers are sometimes candied such as daisy and rose (you may also come across a candied pansy).

In the arts

Flowers are common subjects of still lifes, such as this one by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder

The great variety of delicate and beautiful flowers has inspired the works of numerous poets, especially from the 18th-19th century Romantic era. Famous examples include William Wordsworth's I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and William Blake's Ah! Sun-Flower.

Because of their varied and colorful appearance, flowers have long been a favorite subject of visual artists as well. Some of the most celebrated paintings from well-known painters are of flowers, such as Van Gogh's sunflowers series or Monet's water lilies.

Flowers are also dried, freeze dried and pressed in order to create permanent, three-dimensional pieces of flower art.

Mythology

The Roman goddess of flowers, gardens, and the season of Spring is Flora. The Greek goddess of spring, flowers and nature is Chloris.

Chinese Jade ornament with flower design, Jin Dynasty (1115-1234 AD), Shanghai Museum.

In Hindu mythology, flowers have a significant status. Vishnu, one of the three major gods in the Hindu system, is often depicted standing straight on a lotus flower.[10] Apart from the association with Vishnu, the Hindu tradition also considers the lotus to have spiritual significance.[11] For example, it figures in the Hindu stories of creation.