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In the Garden: Flower Folklore

One of my favourite things about going home (aside from seeing family, of course) is sitting in my Grandmother’s garden. Nestled almost secretively behind the family home and I were raised in, it’s a lovely little paradise filled with flora from the Philippines to the Western United States. It’s a place of sweet smells and buzzing bees, vibrant flowers and shady fruit trees. My grandparents have tended to this beautiful sanctuary since I was a child, watering each flower, tree, and berry bush with care, and carefully hanging reflective pie tins to keep the birds away from the fruit 😛

It has continued to grow over the years, and each time I go back home I’m greeted with new faces alongside the old friends…it’s character and personality just continues to evolve, while still remaining familiar and welcoming.

Here are some of my favorite characters that have bloomed this spring, along with some of tales behind them!

Roses

Roses have long been associated with love, passion, and beauty, and different colours of these blooms will carry different symbolic meanings.

In Roman mythology, the goddess of spring created the Rose when one of her dear friends, a nymph, dies. She turns her friend into the beautiful and fragrant flower that graces so many gardens today, immortalizing her as a symbol of love, but also death and rebirth.

Orchids

The orchid is one of the world’s oldest species of flower, and can be found in a dizzying kaleidoscope of different colours and hues. It carries significant symbolism in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures, representing nobility and strength in the face of adversity.

The link to strength was reflected in ancient Aztec traditions as well, who would empower themselves by drinking a mixture of vanilla orchid flowers and, of course, chocolate.

Scottish folklore paints the orchid as a powerful talisman that can bring good luck to the bearer and protect them from the evil eye.

Magnolias

Unsurprisingly, these beautiful but hardy flowers are also seen as symbols of endurance and strength, able to survive extreme weather conditions. Another ancient flower, there are fossils that actually suggest that the Magnolia has been around for millions of years, since Earth’s early history.

This theme of survival, and the fact that it thrives in the warmer climate, makes it a popular tree in the southern United States, and it is referenced in many songs and poems. In a different take on endurance, Chinese emperors would present magnolia flowers to their people as an assurance of mutual trust and the strength of the relationship.

Rhododendron

Rhododendrons are found mainly in Asia, but are also common in the Appalachian region of North America. In an unexpected divergence from its fellows on this page, this flower sends a message of caution and danger, possibly connected to the fact that its leaves contain a natural toxin.

In one North American camping tale, the rhododendron can sometimes give warning of (or attract) malevolent spirits in the woods. So take care if you are camping near these flowers, lest you too find yourself face to face with fearsome beasts that will lunge out at the unsuspecting camper but vanish with the blink of an eye.

Orange Blossoms

Last but not least, the sweet orange blossom, a symbol of good luck, health, and purity. In Chinese, Indian, and Persian customs, orange blossoms are attached to the gowns of a bride on her wedding day to represent these virtues in the same way that much of the world has adopted the white wedding dress.

When it comes to the orange’s appearance in folklore, the stories focus more on the fruit than the flower, believed by some to have been the true origin of the Golden Apples in the garden of the Hesperides. The sun-colored fruit has long been associated with good fortune in east asian stories and wealth in the west, and thus it remains as fitting and symbolic a gift now as it did when Hercules presented it to Zeus in ancient Greece!

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