“All the flowers would have very extra special powers” This is a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Flowers have been a symbol of peace and love throughout the ages. From the “Flower Power” movement of the 1960’s, when activist and young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir was photographed planting a flower on the bayonets of guards at the Pentagon during a protest against the Vietnam War on October 21, 1967. A Moment in time that would go on in American culture and heritage to reflect a moment of peace in a time of war, symbolizing a new type of passive resistance, coined by Ginsberg’s 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle. During the late 1800’s a woman rejecting a suitor might send him yellow roses. During world war one a man leaving for a battle overseas might give his girlfriend forget-me-nots. Most people remember that red roses mean “I love you,” but floriography itself has been largely forgotten, a Victorian practice where particular types of flowers meant different things.
In some cases flowers may have a more grim representation such as calla lilies at a funeral. Recently evidence of flowers dating back to the prehistoric period have been discovered through ‘Flower Fossils’. Archaeologists uncovered skeletons of a man, two women and an infant buried together in soil containing pollen of flowers in a cave in Iraq. This association of flowers with the cave dwelling Neanderthals of the Pleistocene epoch is indicative of the role of flowers in burial rituals. Analysis of the sediment pollen concentrated in batches, implied that possible bunches of flowers had been placed on the grave. Closer examination of the flower pollen enabled scientists to identify many flowers that were present, all of which had some therapeutic properties.
That’s right, before we had the local drugstore pharmacy with it’s many colorful cough syrups to aid our aliments we relied on flowers. Flowers like calendula for aches and pains or hyssop for a sore throat. Today you might be able to find Ecanechia at your local pharmacy. Although most of the immunity boosting qualities of this flower comes form it’s roots, it is a healing flower all the same. For the most part healing flowers are a thing of the past. That is of course if you are excluding one of today’s most controversial flowers, the cannabis or marijuana flower. This highly debated flower is said to aid in a number of ailments such as chronic pain, depression and stomach upset, just to name a few. Although some states have legalized cannabis for medical use, it’s distributors and the patients that have come to rely on it’s healing properties are under the constant scrutiny of not only our federal government but the state elected officials whom continue to argue the validity of this flowers power.
Some flowers are just plan good to eat. Take the Squash flower. This bright and brilliant flower carries a buttery flavor of summer. Simply saute lightly and sprinkle a little salt and there you have it. A delicious snack that’s also beautiful. And you you have never had dried blueberries and dark chocolate with fresh and fragrant lavender, then you just don’t know what you’re missing. Dandelions which are commonly referred to as weeds are sweetest with a honey like flavor when they are picked young. Next time you make a salad or rice pilaf try adding some dandelion flowers and greens.
Creating an eye catching edible flower garden is rewarding to all the senses. Flowers as an edible addition, bring lively flavors, colors, and textures to salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes. Eating flowers is not as exotic as it may sound. The use of flowers as food dates back to the Stone Age with archaeological evidence that early man ate such flowers as roses. You may not want to eat flowers if you have asthma, allergies, or hay fever. You’ll want to be sure to only eat flowers that have been grown organically so they have no pesticide residue. I find that it is best to collect flowers in the cooler part of the day like in the early morning after the dew has evaporated, or late afternoon. Some common edible, annual flowers that are easy to grow as well as tasty, include a number of herbs and vegetables that have edible flowers in addition to other edible parts. Calendula/pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) comes in yellow, gold, or orange flowers with a tangy, peppery taste. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) has flowers in shades of white to red, with a watercress and peppery flavor. These flowers are also used for their ability to help protect other plants in your garden from pests. Tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) have white, pink, yellow, red, orange or multicolor flowers with a citrus flavor. Radish (Raphanus sativus) has yellow, spicy-hot flowers very similar to the yellow flowers of bolted mustard greens. If you love the bitterness of arugula then I suggest you try the flowers that pop out at the end of the growing season. These white and brown flowers are a beautiful addition to salads. one of my favorite uses is sprinkled with fresh parsley over roasted mushrooms. Flowers of perennials and herbs offer a broad range of flavors too. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have white, lavender, or purple flowers with a strong onion flavor perfect for floating on soups. Red clover (Trifolium pretense) has sweet-tasting, pink or red flowers.
Violets (Viola odorata) have violet, pink, and white flowers with a sweet to slightly sour flavor which in my opinion makes them a perfect candidate for candying. Here’s how:
In a bowl, beat two egg whites with a wire whisk just until frothy. Place sugar in another bowl. Taking one violet at a time, pick it up by the stem and dip into egg whites, covering all surfaces. Gently dip into the sugar, again being sure all of the petals, top and bottom, are covered. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; snip off stems. Using a toothpick, open petals to original shape. Sprinkle sugar on any uncoated areas. Dry in a 200° oven for 30-40 minutes or until sugar crystallizes. Gently remove violets to wire racks with a spatula. I like to use an ultra thin fish spatula for this. Sprinkle again with sugar if violets appear syrupy. Cool. Store in airtight containers with waxed paper between layers.
Even trees and shrubs produce edible flowers. In the spring as weather starts to get warmer I love to open my bedroom window and fill my room with the sweet smell of orange blossoms. This citrus honey smell can be captured by throwing some fresh flower buds in a jar of sugar. The longer the flowers sit in the sugar the better flavor you will get. Apple trees have these cute little white and/or pink flowers with a floral to slightly sour taste. While plum trees have somewhat similar pink to white flowers but with a mild flavor, like flower nectar. A personal favorite of mine is Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) which features white, yellow, pink, or red flowers with a honey-like flavor. I have only ever seen them red. When I was younger we lived in Arizona for a time. This is where I first discovered these sweet treats. Although I generally wasn’t allowed sweets, these little hidden ruby treasures were a sweet secret worth keeping.
Unfortunately there are some common flowering plants that you should avoid eating like hydrangeas. Although hydrangeas are not edible they are still quite amazing. Hydrangeas have a unique quality. Their beautiful colors are determined directly by the soil you plant them in. That’s right the more acidic the soil is deeper blue your hydrangea will be. Now a true white hydrangea will always remain white. For the most part hydrangeas do not thrive in pots. These bushy flowers have a root system that will usually out grow out of a pot in just one summer. However I have herd that if you put your potted hydrangeas over dirt area the roots will just grow right out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot and straight down into the earth. The first year that the hydrangea is growing in the pot, normal watering is required, as you would any potted plant. But the second year, the roots should begin growing out the drainage holes and into the ground. Don’t move the pot, the better the plant becomes rooted into the ground, the less it needs supplemental watering. If you must move the plant or give it away, just cut the roots off right under the pot, and the hydrangea should transplant very well.
A dramatic front yard flowerbed provides a constant stream of color. Look for flowers that are bright and fragrant. Including vivid hues, like asters, spray mums, alstromeria and Monte casino asters, for example will help attract birds and butterflies and other pollinators to your garden. Add plants that offer vertical growth, such as sun flowers. Remember the rule of three, always try to group three of one plant at a time for visual consistency. Planting one flower in a variety of colors can make quite the visual impact. However if you are a fan of a more minimalistic and clean look, just by simply putting large groups of a similar flower or similar bloom color can offer not only breath taking view but also a more fuss-free garden solution.
Some of us have some more difficult challenges when it comes to space for our gardens. However even if you live in a high rise condominium with little more than a balcony you can still enjoy a potted flower garden. The first step is selecting the right plant for the right pot. This will make all the difference in your container garden. I Look for plants suited to the area the container will be located. For example does the space have full sun or is it under a tree, or in the shade of another building. A porous pot, like clay, allows water to evaporate, and is better suited to a drought-tolerant plant like succulents or ecanechia. Plastic containers obviously retain more water. So in turn they are better suited to flowers that require consistent moister like cardinals. Invasive plants are best planted alone where they can be controlled or as I like to say “free to take over”. Select plants that will share a pot by keeping heights varied to allow each plant a chance at sunlight. Also if your grouping potted flowers choose flowers that will thrive in similar conditions. You can make a dramatic statement, with a container with a single type of plant. Floral shops commonly have blooming azaleas, mums, gloxinias and cyclamen that give a beautiful and brilliant burst of color. You can pot these plants in a variety of containers. Set pots in baskets or a vase to cover the plastic containers they come in. Most floral shop flowers are considered ‘temporary’ because all of their energy has been focused on one big showy bloom. What a waste. Garden annuals, such as geraniums, petunias and begonias provide continuous blooms throughout summer. Remove wilted flowers promptly to encourage reblooming. When garden annuals are planted in a container as a single plant or in a group of the same plant they provide a mass of color. I find that grouping pots together of single plants gives depth, variety and interest. I also enjoy using containers that have an array of colors and shapes. However I have seen in my neighborhood a front porch container garden with different types of green and white flowers all in shiny glazed white pots. The pots are all different sizes as are the plants. I think the over all look is clean and chic. Another smart move is to plan a container garden that will transition from season to season. For instance, start a container garden in late fall by layering bulbs with varied bloom times such as tulip, daffodil and crocus. Nestle a container-friendly perennial in the center like, sunset hyssop or try adding a trailing variety to the edge. Perennial canna, day lily and hibiscus all do well in mixed containers. As the shoots from bulbs emerge in spring you could even add annuals between the shoots. For interest that spills into fall add plants like daylilies. I really like daylilies because they are rugged, adaptable, vigorous perennials that endure in a garden for many years with little or no care. Daylilies adapt to a wide range of soil and light conditions. They establish quickly, grow vigorously, and survive winters with little or no injury.
Flowering Bulbs are an easy way to add splashes of tropical color to your garden. You can get flower bulbs from tall stately Gladiolus to highly fragrant Oriental Lillies. Plant them as a border or in containers. Once they are grown you can even cut a few and create a beautiful and fragrant bouquet for the home or office. Bulbs require little garden space which is one of the reasons they are so great for the urban gardener. Bulbs can be planted in annual or perennial flower beds, among shrubs, under trees, and in practically every area of the landscape. They will even thrive in a pot. With careful scheduling, you could have flowering bulbs in bloom in the earliest parts of spring, and they will last until the first freeze in the late fall. I have found that the best bulbs come from reputable businesses, so I would check your local nursery. You want to be sure to make your selections at local sources as soon as the bulbs are offered for sale. I usually start looking after new years. Select large, firm, plump bulbs or roots. Do not purchase any that are bruised, blemished, or soft. During their dormant season, tulip, narcissus, and most other bulbs with a protective covering of dry scales can be stored for several weeks prior to planting, if necessary. However more fleshy bulbs and roots like lilies need to be planted immediately after purchase.
All this talk of flowers makes me want to get some for the garden right now. Planting flowers in the heat of summer seemed like a good way to end up with a bunch of dead flowers. Until I can across ‘summer flowers’. Flowers that thrive in the warmer summer months. Aster is a loved garden plant. It possess outstanding flower heads and the variety blooms, coming in an abundance of colors. Another fun verity I tend to find here in California is the prehistoric looking Bird of Paradise. Bird of Paradise is known by the individual bloom, resembling a vividly colored flying bird; it is used in landscaping quite frequently in my neighborhood. It is a tall brightly colored eye catcher. Gerbera flower is a dream for almost any gardener. This hearty flower is valued by its bright multiple colorings. This ornamental sunflower would be a welcome addition in any garden as it is the fifth most used cut flower in the world.
I absolutely love fresh cut flowers in the house. They can brighten up a room and perfume the air. Now when I am choosing cut flowers I tend to look for something that will last in jar of water. As you may or may not know cut flowers can be very pricy. I can not tell you how many of my girlfriends have broke the bank getting the flowers they wanted for their weddings. When it comes to a cost conscience flower that will stand the test of time, newly discovered (to me) the Alstroemeria, or Lily of Peru is my new personal favorite. These flowers have an exotic look. Beautifully spotted and marked perennials alstroemeria, are lily-like flowers with deep, thick roots. They grow two to three feet tall on strong, branched stems. Each trumpet-shaped flower is an inch or two in diameter. Flowers come in pink, rose, purple, yellow, cream, orange, and white and are spotted or streaked with contrasting colors. At my local farmers market these flowers are found in the three dollar bucket. With little more than sugar water these flowers have lasted for over a week in my house. But when it comes to fragrance I am a sucker for aster lilies. Although they are generally a little price than Peruvian cousins these aromatic beauties don’t cost near as much as they look like they do. I like to buy them closed so that they will bloom at home. These gorgeous flowers will generally live for about a week. However if we are talking longevity, fragrance and price I have found nothing better than lavender. I love these versatile flowers. They look just as magnificent fresh and alive as they do dry. They have a sort of clean floral smell which is why I suppose you’ll find lavender in soaps, deodorants and potpourri. I also enjoy lavender in some foods as well as teas. I can usually find them at the farmers market come June. Once a year I like to get a fresh bunch for potpourri and use last years dried out ones in cooking. Or put some in an old sock and tuck it away with winter cloths and blanket to keep everything smelling fresh While it is being stored.
Not all flowers for the house need be cut. There are a variety of excellent indoor flowers. My personal favorite is my bromilliad. The hot pink and lavender flower makes it look like it was plucked right out of the fantasy jungles of the Avatar movie. This flower collects it’s water in sort of cup at the center of the plant. The first time it flowers you should get only one flower shooting form the center. When the flower dies you simply cut the whole thing back and another tube like spiral of green will be birthed out for the bottom. Then you will have two blooms and so on. Another common house flower is the African violet. These soft, puffy, little vibrant flowers are a deep violet color. African violets are easy to grow for the beginning gardener, yet offer a wide range of cultivars to satisfy the serious grower. African violets adapt well to typical growing conditions found in the home. Because of their small stature, they also adapt well to limited space gardens such as those in apartments with just a few windowsills. My mother kills most house plants. She typically will look for something that is hearty and low maintenance. The one flower I remember her not killing as a child was a peace lily. This waxy looking flower was a survivor in our household. With that said I just sort of assume if my mom could manage to keep this flower alive for years than anyone could do it. If you want something a littler more challenging I have always loved orchids. I have found that these flowers thrive in the bathroom. They love the steam form your shower. These flowers need special food, soil, pots and much more so I would not suggest these plant for the novice flower gardener, but hey we all got to start somewhere huh. I can say I had no experience when I bought my first orchid in 1998 but everything I learned I learned along the way.
It doesn’t matter if they are in your house or in the yard, in a pot with soil or in mason jar with river rocks and water. Flowers have been a central part of our humanity throughout the ages. A symbol of love, a symbol of peace flowers have played an integral part in our lives and our history. That is why we would like to take a moment to remind you to stop and smell the roses.