During the holiday season, you have probably sent flowers of some variety to a friend or loved one. But did you ever stop to find out the meaning behind those blooms? Over the years, I’ve become fascinated with the language of flowers, and what I’ve discovered is that they are more than just a pretty gift but also a wonderful way to express the true meaning of the season.
When I was growing up, Poinsettias seemed to be the most popular holiday plant. You saw them everywhere—on Christmas cards, sewn onto sweaters, decorating wrapping paper. The Poinsettia was synonymous with the holiday season. And don’t get me wrong, they are still loved today. However, Amaryllis have taken over the role of “the quintessential holiday bloom.” And it’s not just because they’re so beautiful, offering a huge variety of brilliant, festive colors, but they’re also unbelievably easy to grow.
Chances are you’ve grown an Amaryllis, or at the very least, seen one adorning a kitchen counter or dining table of a friend. But there’s a good chance you don’t know much about their history or meaning. There is a legend that the Amaryllis was originally a shy little nymph who fell in love with Alteo, a shepherd who displayed the strength of Hercules and the beauty of Apollo. Unfortunately for Amaryllis, Alteo did not return her feelings. Determined to win his affections, Amaryllis sought the help of the oracle of Delphi, who gave her instructions on how to give Alteo what he desired: a flower of such unique beauty that it had never before existed. The oracle told her to go to the shepherd’s door every night for 30 nights and pierce her heart with a golden arrow. When Alteo at last opened the door, there was a stunning crimson flower, which was sprung from the blood of Amaryllis’s heart. This tragically romantic tale is what led to the meaning of the Amaryllis bloom today: pride, determination, and radiant beauty.
The previous-mentioned Poinsettia, also known as the Christmas Star and Christmas Flower, is believed to have its holiday associations in a Mexican legend. The story tells of a child who gathered humble weeds from the side of the road on Christmas Eve, having no money for anything more spectacular, and took them to the church alter. As the congregation looked on, the weeds were transformed in brilliant green and red flowers!
Poinsettias get their name from the first United States Ambassador to Mexico and amateur botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced it to the US in 1825. It was prized by the ancient Aztecs, symbolizing purity. Today, this popular plant represents good cheer and success and is believed to bring mirth and celebration—all wonderful ideas and feelings for the holiday season! Poinsettias are now as much a symbol of Christmas as mistletoe and Christmas trees!
When you think of the Gardenia, you probably think of the summer garden and the unmistakable fragrance that practically explodes from each bloom. You probably haven’t thought about the origin of the name or what it means to give someone a Gardenia plant or a bouquet of these beautiful, deliciously aromatic blossoms. It happens to be one of my favorite scents in the world, and every summer, I eagerly look forward to our Gardenia bursting into bloom. The fact that it’s such a pretty shrub just adds to its appeal. But when I started researching the meanings of our most popular holiday gift plants, I was happy to find out a bit more about one of my favorite plants.