Friday, April 10, 2009

...biRtH mOnTh fLowErS...

The Carnation is January's Birth Flower

Carnation

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

January: Carnation
Alternate: Snowdrop

The Carnation, whose botanic name is Dianthus caryophyllus, is really a plant that originated in the Near East at least 2000 years ago. It was originally only found in the popular light pink color, however today it has been cultivated into many other colors including red, purple, green and yellow.

Scholars can not agree on WHERE the name came from. Some believe that it came from the Latin word "carnis" which means flesh and refers to the original color of the flower. Religious scholars believe that it comes from the word "incarnation" referring to the incarnation of God made flesh. Still others believe that "carnation" was derived from the word "coronation" and that it was used in early Greek ceremonial crowns.

Because of their low cost, carnations are the flower given most often in a boutonniere or in a corsage for a teenager's high school prom, homecoming or other dance. They are also given to mothers on Mother's Day, and at their children's weddings. Again because of the low cost, they are used in wedding bouquets and as table decorations at parties. This allows for the host to have big assortments without breaking their budget.

The Carnation symbolizes different things in different countries. In Rome it was known as "Jove's Flower", after a beloved Roman God. In Korea, young girls put carnations in their hair, believing the order of the death of the carnations determines the difficulty level and order that they will face in their life. In Portugal it is a symbol of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution that occurred in April of 1974.

Each color of a Carnation has a different meaning. Light red symbolizes admiration, while dark red symbolizes a deep love. White symbolizes both pure love and luck. Striped Carnations symbolize regret. Purple Carnations are said to indicate capriciousness. Green Carnations are used predominantly on St. Patrick's Day. Pink Carnations are said to be a symbol of a mother's undying love, going back to biblical times when Carnations sprang up out of the ground where the Virgin Mary's tears fell as Jesus was carrying the cross.

The scarlet Carnation is the state flower of Ohio, chosen to honor assassinated president William McKinley, who was normally seen wearing it.

Fun and interesting fact: At Oxford University, it is customary to wear a Carnation to an exam. White Carnations are worn to the first exam, red to the last, and pink Carnations to every exam in between.


The Violet is February's Birth Flower

Violet

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

February: Violet
Alternate: Primrose

The Violet, with the botanic name of Viola, is a flowering plant with heart shaped leaves that often has a purple color to it. Violets are generally found and grown in the Northern Hemisphere of the world, but can also be found in Hawaii and the Andes.

The Violet has five petals total. One petal is on the bottom of the Violet, pointing downward, while the other four and positioned two on each side with an upward sweep to them. Different species of violets also have different shapes to their petals, which is one way scientists can tell them apart.

While Violets originated in a purple color, hence their name, they can also be found in a variety of colors including blue, yellow and white. Sometimes you will find multi-colored violets as well. Violet plants s will flower in large amounts throughout the spring and summer.

Most people believe Violets have no scent, however this is not accurate. A major component of the Violets scent is ketone which actually desensitizes the nasal receptors making it temporarily impossible to smell anything.

Fun and interesting fact: Violets are used in many countries and cultures as decorations to go on plates with food. They are also used in stuffing's for poultry and fish. You can actually eat this flower either raw or cooked, and you will often find the flavor of a Violet in a soufflé or desert. In France they still pour hot syrup on Violets and mix them up until the syrup dries and the sugar crystallizes over the Violet. These are used for decorating or as a special treat in an aromatic dessert.


The Daffodil is March's Birth Flower

Daffodil

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

March: Daffodil
Alternate: Jonquil

The Daffodil, with the botanic name of Narcissus, is a mostly spring flowering bulb, however, there are some species of Narcissus which bloom in the fall. The Daffodil is mostly found growing in the Mediterranean but there are a few species found throughout Asia and China.

The Daffodil was originally called an Affodell. No one is sure why the name was changed but there is proof that as early as the 16th Century playful names for the Daffodil like "Daffadown Dilly" or "daffadowndilly" had appeared.

The traditional Daffodil is a ring of light golden petals with a trumpet shaped center of a darker contrasting shade of gold/yellow. Cultivators have changed the flower for some nurseries giving it several layers of petals, instead of the original one, sometimes making the flower look like a little golden ball.

The Daffodil is used prominently for decorating during the Chinese New Year in both China and festivals celebrating this holiday around the world. The Daffodil is also the flower of Wales, where a small area of Tenby grows their own, unique variation. St. David's Day is celebrated in Wales on March 1st and Daffodils are often worn for that holiday.

Fun and interesting fact: Daffodils are poisonous and can be harmful or deadly if eaten, unlike the Violet.


The Daisy is April's Birth Flower

Daisy

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

April: Daisy
Alternate: Sweet Pea

The Daisy whose botanic name is Bellis perennis, is the most common Daisy and is a native of western, eastern and central Europe. Like the Primrose it is also referred to as the Common Daisy or English Daisy. In Latin "Daisy" means pretty.

The Daisy is actually an herb which symbolizes innocence, stability, sympathy and cheerfulness. The most common Daisy's are white but they can also be found in red, yellow, and purple, along with various shades in between. A daisy is generally 2-3cm in diameter from petal to petal and stands 2-10cm high. Rarely you can find them as tall as 15cm.

During the days of knighthood, suitors would wear a Daisy and the women would include a Daisy as part of their mementos to signify availability. After a proposal a ring of Daisies would be worn around the head to signify the woman's response.

Fun and interesting fact: It is believed that the name Daisy came from the phrase "day's eye" because of how the flower opens when the sun comes up and closes at night when the sun is down. Daisy's do not disappear during mowing which makes many people consider them a weed and treat them as such with weed killers.


The Lily of the Valley is May's Birth Flower

Lily of the Valley

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

May: Lily of the Valley
Alternate: Hawthorn

The May flower, Lily of the Valley has the botanical name of Convallaria magalis and originated in Europe. Today it is distributed widely throughout North America and North Asia, but in England it is still found as commonly as wild flowers. It is a small, bell shaped flower that gives off a large scent that attracts not only people, but bee's who like to collect the pollen that the flower produces.

The flowers are normally white, although occasionally you can find some with a pink hue to them. The flower first grows in the spring and creates six little stamens. By September the flower is producing sweet berries in place of the petals that are about 5-7mm in diameter.

The Lily of the Valley has some medicinal qualities to it. For many years the leaves and petals have been used in medicine because they contain cardiac glycosides.

Fun and interesting fact: The Lily of the Valley is also knows as Our Lady's tears because according to the legend the tears that that Mary shed at the cross turned in to Lily of the Valley flowers. Another legend claims that the flower also sprang up from the blood of St. Leonard during his battle with the dragon.


The Rose is June's Birth Flower

Rose

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

June: Rose
Alternate: Honeysuckle

One of the most popular flowers, the rose, is also the flower for those born in June. It is a flowering shrub with more than 100 species that bloom in different sizes and colors, and all of which have different meanings. The most common colors are red, pink, yellow and white, however you can find them in various other colors as well including orange, peach, purple and black.

All species of the Rosa come from the northern hemisphere, and normally form as shrubs or bushes with flowers. There are however some that are considered trailing plants or climbers that will grow up walls and over other plants.

The flowers of all species have five petals with the exception of one species, the Rosa sericea which only has four. Most roses contain hook shaped thorns which are there to aid the plant in hanging over other plants as it grows.

The rose is a beloved flower for its beauty and fragrance with a long history of symbolism and meaning. The ancient Greeks and Romans associated the roses with their goddesses of love Aphrodite and Venus which is probably what has led to the red rose being considered the rose of love in today's modern culture. In Rome a wild rose would also be placed on the doorstep of a room where confidential matters were being discussed, telling others not to enter.

In early Christianity, the five petals are linked to the five wounds of Christ, however the leaders were hesitant to adopt this theory. Instead the red rose was adopted as the symbol of the red blood shed by the Christian martyrs, and later it because associated with the Virgin Mary.

Color Meanings:

  • Red: love
  • Pink: grace, lesser feelings of love
  • Dark Pink: gratitude
  • Light Pink: admiration, sympathy
  • White: innocence, purity, secrecy, friendship, reverence and humility.
  • Yellow: Yellow roses generally mean dying love or platonic love. In German-speaking countries, however, they can mean jealousy and infidelity.
  • Yellow with red tips: Friendship, falling in love
  • Orange: passion
  • Burgundy: beauty
  • Blue: mystery
  • Green: calm
  • Black: slavish devotion (as a true black rose is impossible to produce)
  • Purple: protection (paternal/maternal love)

Fun and interesting fact: The rose is the national flower of both England and the United States, and the state flower of several U.S. states including Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia, New York and Texas. Portland, Oregon holds an annual rose festival to celebrate the rose, and in Southern California there is an annual Rose Parade consisting of floats designed with hundreds of thousands of roses for decorations.


The Larkspur is July's Birth Flower

Larkspur

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

July: Larkspur
Alternate: Water Lily

The Consolida and Delphinium, better known as the Larkspur includes about 40 annual flowering plants that are native to Western Europe through the Mediterranean region east to central Asia. The flowers are open and contain a single follicle of fruit, instead of a cluster.

The flower varies in size from 10cm to up to 2m in the meadowland species. Colors of the flower vary and can include purple, blue, red, yellow and white. The petals grow together forming a spur at the end and giving the flower its name, Larkspur. You will find the plant blooming starting in late spring and continuing through late summer, being pollinated by butterflies and bumble bees.

The Larkspur was called lark's heel by Shakespeare, and has also been referred too as lark's claw and knight's spur. The scientific name of Delphinium refers to the shape of the bud which is thought to look like a fat dolphin.

There are two species of Larkspur that are native to California and are considered to be endangered. These are the Baker's larkspur and the Yellow larkspur.

Larkspurs are generally considered garden plants. They are poisonous however and can cause death if eaten in large amounts. It is a significant cause of death in cattle ranges in higher elevations where it is more likely to be found. In small amount however the Larkspur has been used in medicine. It is believed that drinking the seed could help the sting from a scorpion, and that putting it in your hair can help kill lice and nits.

Fun and interesting fact: Mixing the juice from the Larkspur seed with alum can create a blue ink. Because of the blue color it used to be used in Transylvania on the stables to ward away witches.


The Gladiola is August's Birth Flower

Gladiola

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

August: Gladiolas
Alternate: Poppy

The Gladiola is native to South America but can be found growing in the United States and Europe. There are about 260 separate species. They are also referred to by many as Gladiolus, gladiola, "glads", and "Sword Lily" because of their long sword shaped leaves. However, the Gladiolas is not part of the Lily family. As a flower, the Gladiolas are one of the most popular flowers you will find planted in gardens because of their beauty, fragrance and the easiness of growing.

Gladiolas should be planted in the spring, and will grow and bloom in August. They can be found in several colors and bicolors, including pink to reddish or light purple with white, contrasting markings, or white to cream or orange to red, and blue. The blossoms open from the bottom first, but with harvesting will also open at the top either indoors or outdoors. They like rich, soft soil, plenty of water, and plenty of shade. Make sure the sun hits your Gladiolas during the day, but that your flowers are not drenched in sunlight all day, drying out the soil. Gladiolas can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall.

Gladiolas do not grow from a bulb as most flowers do, but they originate in a corm. The main difference being that a bulb produces new bulbs under the main bulb and the corm produces new corm's above the main corm. This makes it easy to dig up the corm, separate, wash and store the baby corm's till the next season when it is time to plant.

Fun and interesting fact: The Gladiola was adopted by actress Dame Edna Everage and was often seen in pictures and publicity shots for her. Morrissey has done the same since he was with the band The Smith's back in the 1980's.


The Aster is September's Birth Flower

Aster

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

October: Aster
Alternate: Morning Glory

The Aster includes 600 species of star shaped flowering plants. The name is Greek, meaning "star". Most of the species are found in gardens because of their showy flowers and petals. The Aster is unique for its delicate purple color suggesting a manner in which these core aspects of the Self are brought to a very high spiritual level of expression. The Aster can also be found in a variety of other colors including blue and white.

The Aster is known for its well defined physical structure and strong integrative features. Because of this it is thought that the Aster has qualities of strength, immunity and integration. Depending on the exact species, Asters begin growing in the summer and continue growing through the fall.

In order to multiply and continue to grow well, Asters should be transplanted and divided at the room every other year. It is best to do this in early spring, keeping the root wet the day before and after dividing it. Doing this will rejuvenate the plant, help with size control and also give you more of them to add to the garden. Aster's grow best in rich wet soil, and can be grown either in direct sunlight or in the shade.

Fun and interesting fact: Legend has it that burning the Aster leaves will keep away snakes. In French tradition it is said that placing the flowers on the grave of a dead soldier is a tribute to his bravery.


The Calendula is October's Birth Flower

Calendula

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

October: Calendula
Alternate: Cosmos

The Calendula includes 12-20 species of annual plants in the daisy family that are native from Macaronesia east through the Mediterranean region to Iran. It can also be referred to as the "marigold".

Calendula means the first day of the month, referring to the fact that the marigold blooms at the beginning of the month throughout most months of the year.

The Calendula normally has layered petals that are oval in shape and can grow to be 3-7cm across. The colors range through various shades of yellow and orange. It is suggested that you should remove the dying flower heads in order to help maintain even blossom production.

As a herb, the ointment from Calendula's is used to cure many skin problems from burns to acne because of its properties that reduce inflammation, soothes irritated tissue, and controls bleeding. It can be used internally or topically for minor wounds as well as diaper rash and cradle cap in infants.

Fun and interesting fact: In Old World Biblical terms the marigold actually refers to the Virgin Mary.


The Chrysanthemum is November's Birth Flower

Chrysanthemum

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

November: Chrysanthemum
Alternate: None

The Chrysanthemum, which is closely related to the daisy is often referred to by cultivators and gardeners as "mums". It currently includes about 30 species of perineal flowering plants which are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. At one point there were more species of the Chrysanthemum but the species was split.

The Chrysanthemum can grow between 50-150cm tall, has deep leaves and large flower heads with dozens of petals. The Chrysanthemum is most commonly found in shades of white, pink, red and yellow.

In parts of Asia the Chrysanthemum petals are boiled in order to make a sweet drink known as Chrysanthemum tea. It is believed that this tea has many medicinal uses including curing influenza.

The Chrysanthemum resembles a close cousin the mugwort weed which is often called the wild Chrysanthemum. Because of this many florists do not like to use the Chrysanthemum in floral arrangements. In some countries in Europe and in Japan, Chrysanthemum's are the symbol of death and only used in funeral arrangements, while the opposite is true in America where it is seen more as positive and cheerful.

Fun and interesting fact: An ancient Chinese city was named Chu-Hsien, meaning "chrysanthemum city". The flower was introduced into Japan probably in the 8th century CE, and the Emperor adopted the flower as his official seal. There is a "Festival of Happiness" in Japan that celebrates the flower.


The Narcissus is December's Birth Flower

Narcissus

Everyone knows that they have a specific birthstone that is placed in jewelry and trinkets to signify the month they were born in. However, many people don't know that just like the stones, each month has a flower or two as well, which symbolizes birth. Here is the history and meaning behind your birth flower.

December: Narcissus
Alternate: Holly

While most Narcissus's, like the Daffodil bloom in the spring, there are several that bloom in the fall and winter. The Narcissus is mostly native to the Mediterranean region but there are a few found in Asia and China. Because of modifications there are new species being created in nurseries almost every year.

The name Narcissus is from the narcissistic youth of Greek mythology called Narkissos. Technically "Narcissi" is the plural form, The American Daffodil Society prefers the use of "narcissus" for both singular and plural.

Narcissus are often called jonquils in North America, but in reality that name belongs only to the rush-leaved Narcissus jonquilla and cultivars derived from it.

The Narcissus has a trumpet shaped corona that is surrounded by a ring of petals. They are also poisonous and can be fatal if eaten so no parts of the flower should be ingested.

Fun and interesting fact: When comparing the Daffodil, Jonquil, and the "Narcissus", it is important to remember that both the Daffodil and Jonquil are a part of the Narcissus genus. However while the names "Daffodil" and "Narcissus" can be used interchangeably, a Jonquil is a completely different plant down to the shape of the petals and leaves.

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