02 January 2010

A Dozen Roses

 I love to buy flowers. I love to put together a bouquet, selecting an ensemble of shapes, scents, and colors. It can be expensive, but I recommend it--especially for occasions with guests. There's nothing like sharing beauty.

Sometimes I just buy them for myself, and when I do that, I buy roses. To me, they are the paragon of flowers. They have a lovely, sweet, fulsome scent. They unfurl in the most exquisite crescendo--like a soprano opening her arms to her audience or a diver taking the form of a swan. The juxtaposition of the velvety softness of the petals and the rigidity of the thorns has always fascinated me as well.

I've started reading Foucault's trilogy. One of the things he points out about Victorian public society is the muting of the expression of desire in the public sphere. I find it interesting that the Victorians often expressed their feelings through muted media. Flowers had standardized meanings so that one could encode a message within a bouquet. (Kate Greenaway's The Language of Flowers is a popular reference for such meanings.)

The rose has long been associated with love--each color with a different aspect or species. White is for purity. Pink is for affection. Yellow is for friendship. And red is for romantic love. But my favorite is the rose whose petals are light at the base and
darken to the tips. The meaning of this rose is that of long-lasting love.

And so I advocate, now and then, spending a little money on roses, or the flower of your choice. Buy them for yourself. Send them to a friend. For life is too short not to company with and to share


  1. Anonymous9/1/10 05:32

    Hi Anna, we haven't met but you know my brother. I'm enjoying your blog immensely. On flowers, I used to be a rose girl but came to appreciate orchids for their relative longevity. Now (thanks to inspiration from a florist I met) I love arrangements that incorporate orchids, fruit, and/or other relatively exotic accents as well as the classic roses, peonies, etc. Does "The Language of Flowers" give a meaning for this... other than that I have expensive tastes? ;-)

  2. Hi E, thanks for reading! It is interesting that you like the orchid. My experience of orchids is primarily through movies like Adaptation and The Secretary. From this evidence alone, I would conclude that the orchid is the flower of the introverted hobbyist or the black market dealer. I don't know if you cultivate them in strange closets, but it is nice to make contact with a true orchid fan. I don't recollect ever meeting orchids in life, so I'm wondering if you could tell me a little more about why you like them? Longevity is an excellent reason. What do they smell like? I don't have Greenaway's book at hand, but their meaning is "luxury." : )

    Exotic accents aren't something I've played with much, and I'm curious to hear what sorts of things you've tried. I've actually been debating this with my sister recently. She's a graphic designer and they've just put out a new wedding magazine issue. A couple of the arrangements incorporate dry sticks. I am generally not in favor. She is. If you'll indulge me, the magazine is here: http://www.weddingday-online.com/public/current/magazine.html The sticks arrangement on page 46 looks like the sticks and long grasses have been forced in with the flowers of a well-cultivated, mown, sticks-picked-up garden. Now on page 74 I think sticks are used to better effect, creating a magical fairy forest dinner. (I don't suppose you know the name of the bell-shaped orange flowers? They're delicious!)

    I'm not very enthused about the use of fruit in a flower arrangements, although I can see coordinating the flowers with cuisine. (I have a family friend who uses flower petals in his salads--pansies, I believe.) I don't particularly like the idea of using the fruit, but not AS fruit. On page 120 a hollowed-out artichoke is used as a candle-holder. This makes me very sad. The artichoke has so much to offer the eater. : ) As to the meanings of fruits, they are generally associated with "bounty"/"plenty," or with "temptation," of course. A nice website on the mythology of fruit: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Fruit-in-Mythology.html I am interested to know what fruits you have experimented with, and with what flowers and other accents.

    Let's see, orchids, roses, peonies and fruit. Luxury, love, prosperity, and bounty. It sounds like an excellent bouquet! I think the eclecticism speaks well of you too--that you are taking the traditional and mixing it with the more exotic and progressive! : )

  3. Anonymous11/1/10 22:00

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for your response...I really appreciate it. Regarding orchids, despite their delicate appearance they are actually quite durable and easy to care for. They have practically no scent, which may be a disadvantage in some people's books, but for those with allergies it means they can enjoy the flowers free of sniffles;-) I read somewhere that there are hundreds if not thousands of varieties of orchids, and the complexity of the blooms on certain varieties is amazing. Despite my love of flowers I'm awful at caring for them, and orchids are the only plants I've managed to keep alive for longer than two weeks:-)

    As far as the dry sticks go, I understand from my florist friend that they are helpful if you're trying to create a certain silhouette for the arrangement, or as an interesting contrast to the other items in the arrangement. Hopefully this will not upset your sister, but I didn't find either arrangement with the sticks particularly inspirational in the magazine. If you have a chance, please check out www.helenolivia.com/flowers.htm. There is a very striking arrangement that incorporates sticks and orchids and a leaf folded into a trapezoid shape...overall green w/ the magenta in the orchids serving as an accent. I'm pretty sure they also incorporated half a lime in the front bottom corner of the arrangement. The website refers to it as a "contemporary bouquet." While I mostly prefer more classic arrangements, I think this is a great example of how dry sticks and leaves can enhance and/or give an arrangement a completely different feel.

    I participated in a workshop on incorporating fruit into floral arrangements...you can see Marianne's blog entry from Sept 2009 on the Helen Olivia website that describes it more eloquently than I can. I used an apple, a pear, a lime, grapes, and (sorry) an artichoke;-) I have pictures somewhere as I was very proud of my result- I'll try to find them. She also has a couple pictures of arrangements incorporating fruit, including a tall centerpiece w/ green apples in the vase, which I find fun and whimsical.

    I like my bouquet:-) Only flower I forgot to mention is hydrangea, which I absolutely love. We moved into a new house recently and added a dozen or so hydrangea plants which hopefully will grow into big fluffy bushes over time.

    Anyway, thank you again for taking the time and including such wonderful references. I look forward to your future blog entries and continuing our discussion, whether on flowers or another delightful topic like fashion or baking!

  4. Dear E.,

    I've been studying the sticks bouquet for awhile now, and it's growing on me. The shades of green are lovely together. I like the contrast of the sharply bent leaves/grasses, with the more sinuously curving sticks. I like the contrast of the density at the bottom and the space at the top. I love the pop of the orchids' color--which corresponds nicely with the color of the branches--against the greens. The green of the lime is perfect, and I can almost taste it, which adds to the visual experience of the bouquet.

    I was underwhelmed by the calla lily bouquet. It feels like the lilies have nothing in common with the orchids and hydrangeas. And the two sides have very different shapes, which makes it difficult for me to see it as one bouquet.

    Among her more traditional bouquets, the one with white roses, blue hydrangeas, and chrysanthemums? on top is my favorite. I've had fun, more recently, playing with limited color palettes in order to focus more on shape.

    I would love to see pictures of your bouquet incorporating fruit! :)