Purple orchid's message: "I respect your uniqueness." Photo credit: Max Pixel
I am a passionate gardener and lifetime student of ethnobotany, the exploration of the relationship between people and plants. What I have learned is that our botanical friends are very happy living their own lives, but they do connect with us and interact with us because we share the same ecosystem. A very positive additional layer to this relationship for us is that we may find personal assistance with healing, emotional support, physical nourishment and connections, which are tied to our spiritual beliefs.
How we can fully benefit from our relationship with nature, and in turn assist her, is by understanding plant meanings. Flowers and plants describe the attributes that they hold through their form, function and behaviour. The way they grow and attract pollinators; the way they look, smell, taste, feel and even sound, are all indications of this. From closely observing these factors, we have an opening into the world of the language of plants.
We humans have been translating this plant language into flower and plant meanings in order to pass the information down to each generation. It benefits us because we learn which plants and flowers can heal, nourish, harm or delight us, and how we may care, in turn, for nature.
Some of the terms we have used for plant language are ‘The Language of Flowers’, ‘The Language of Plants’ and ‘The Doctrine of Signatures’, and there are thousands of verbal histories and folklore traditions the world over containing translation of these meanings.
Sometimes the various meanings seem to contradict each other. This is because everything has a light and shadow and, on occasion, the shadow side is stronger in certain flowers and can manifest as the complete opposite of the more positive meaning it contains. The shadow inclusion is therefore important, but the intention and the meaning you are focused on must be very carefully considered.
Finally, I’m often asked, ‘Does a plant still have the meaning of the flower even if it isn’t in bloom?’ Yes, it does. The meaning is still there but it is tempered a little by the absence of the blossom. A bare rose bush still means ‘love’ but it could also mean that, right now, love is in a different stage than that first flush of petals and whirlwind romance. Perhaps it is a quieter love, steadily growing.
The meanings of flowers are there, you just need to quieten yourself and listen.
When we give flowers, most of us simply choose the blossoms and arrangements that we like rather than stopping and thinking of what the other person may like or, better still, choosing flowers that are fitting for the occasion or moment. Looking at an array of bouquets in a store can be overwhelming, so it is only natural that we tend to gravitate towards what we like as we struggle to make sense of this cornucopia of nature before us. We may, in fact, be drawn to certain flowers because of what they subconsciously mean to us at that time, rather than what they may mean to the recipient.
Combinations of flowers can create wonderful, longer messages and were a favourite pastime of the English and Europeans in the Victorian era. Secret messages conveyed true feelings and elaborate plans between people during this rigid time when sharing such sentiments openly was frowned upon. Today we may delight in the exchange of these bouquets of true meaning as a way of not only bringing our own wishes to another, but of connecting more closely with nature.
Any flowers are a welcome and much-adored gift, but by looking at the meaning of flowers you can create a bouquet, a plant gift, artwork or other floral gifts with greater depth, thoughtfulness, and positive energy to delight the receiver with a personally crafted message. Flowers and plants can even bring elements of healing.
Perhaps you would like to give a plant as a gift. Be assured that even if the plant is not currently flowering, it still contains the same energy and message as if it were in bloom. Dried flowers, perfumes and botanical preparations all hold true to this as well.
Creating a garden to express your hopes, dreams and wishes, and perhaps even impart healing benefits upon those who visit, is so much easier once you understand the meanings of flowers. You may wish to have entire sections of your garden with the same theme and sentiments, or perhaps you could combine various flower meanings to craft a very personal healing and meaningful space suited for a particular purpose.
Other ideas include borders, which provide protection/welcome, trees that speak of the hopes you have for your future, garden beds planted by family and friends that express their personalities and dreams, and your own very special reflection, relaxation or meditation place, perhaps even a secret garden containing the wishes that only you truly know.
Why not create a container garden for a friend that expresses how you feel about them or what you wish for them – a small healing garden of love and hope? I find myself often making sweet fairy gardens for myself and for others, and I love exploring the world of smaller plants and their language for just the right blend of happiness and magic.
Don’t forget vegetables! They, too, hold meaning. Why don’t you try plotting a veggie patch of your intentions for the season this year? I’m always fascinated to see which vegetables go together to say something quite unique, and I’m delighted by the clever and creative explorations of those who share my passion for the language of plants.
How can you bring the power of flowers into your space or even to yourself permanently? Through art of course! The Impressionist painters developed a technique to quickly impart the impression, the emotional heart of the subject, and it is perhaps why so many of them selected flowers as their focus. They knew the change in mood and the familiar connections that flowers instantly bring to people. Many artists throughout history have focused on flowers as a subject.
Those creating floral artworks for clients – like tattoo artists, florists and garden designers – can look up the sentiments and meanings their clients want to express in their designs. They may also wish to share the meanings of the flowers that their clients have selected as possibilities for their floral work.
Whether you are an artist or a crafter or both, imagine painting a picture, creating a sculpture or forming any artwork with flowers that perfectly capture the feelings and hopes that you may wish to bring into a home or space, or that you wish to provide for a person. If you craft, imagine the joy a creation filled with the deep meanings of particular flowers that you made could impart on those who enjoy your work. Card making, scrapbooking, quilting, sewing, textiles – the list goes on.
Consulting flowers for divination is known by various terms, including floramancy, floromancy and flower reading, and has been practised throughout history across most cultures.
The meanings of a flower can indicate something personal for us when we first ask a question and are willing to connect with nature. The flowers, however, are happy doing their own thing; they are not here to be of complete service to us. Their meanings are for their benefit, not ours, but as with any healing outcome, we are very lucky that we can benefit from their energy being around us.
I am sure that you may have asked a blossom the outcome of a romance in the childhood game of ‘he/she loves me/loves me not’, and if a flower blooms unexpectantly or comes into your life with repeated great passion, do you not wonder why that is?
If you are reading for others, ask your client which flowers are their favourites and which keep presenting to them in their lives or those they have found challenging. These flower appearances can provide a very good foundation for a divination reading once you consult with the meanings and correspondences in this book (Flowerpaedia: 1000 Flowers and their Meanings). I have also provided zodiac flowers, days of the week flowers, the month and other correspondences, at the back of this book, to provide even more layers in your readings for yourself or others.
When reading flowers for others, I like to suggest that the person connect with a particular flower in order to manifest the outcome they desire. Once found, you might like to create essences, give the client an image of the flower, or even create a meditation or story for them to enhance their experience and deepen their connection with their flower reading.
While directly ingesting or applying herbal remedies provides healing, simply being in the flowers’ presence also offers support. Healing happens because flowers and plants change an individual’s energy or space and, through this, the healing response begins.
Simply giving someone fresh flowers or bringing them into a space enables the emotional change that leads to healing. By looking at specific flowers and their individual healing qualities, we can also bring focused change.
©2018 by Cheralyn Darcey. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Rockpool Publishing.
Flowerpaedia: 1000 Flowers and their Meanings
by Cheralyn Darcey.
Flowerpaedia is a handy and engaging A-Z reference guide of over 1000 flowers, researched and compiled by botanical explorer Cheralyn Darcey. Readers will delight in understanding what each flower means--emotionally, spiritually, and symbolically--and the dictionary format allows people to search by the feeling or emotion they wish to convey or change. Expertly written with easy-to-understand insights, Flowerpaedia shares how we can work with a myriad of flowers to achieve balance, calm, or healing in our lives, homes, and gardens. Included is an index of each flower's precise botanical name for easy and exact identification.
Cheralyn Darcey is an environmental artist, flower therapist and teacher who has had a lifelong connection with the spiritual and healing properties of plants. For the last 30 years, her art has been featured in workshops, exhibitions, art prizes and publications internationally. She was also a selected Environmental Artist in Residence at the International Environment Convention in 2011 and an Artist in Residence during the Year of Biodiversity, as well as presenting at the Australian Museum. Her other publications include the Australian Wildflower Reading Cards, Flower Reading Cards, Flowers of the Night Oracle Cards , and Florasphere Calm/ Florasphere Inspired coloring books. Visit her website at http://www.cheralyndarcey.com/