Saturday, 1 November 2014

Chrysanthemum: the flower for November

As it's the first day of November, I thought I'd make amends with a flower that I've unfairly maligned in the past. I'm sorry, chrysanthemums (or xanths when I can't be bothered to write out the full thirteen/fourteen letters). You aren't just mass-market filler flowers to be picked up at petrol stations. And you aren't just the base of funeral arrangements...but having said that, it's good that you are happy to be the base.

You let the other flowers sing the melody, while you provide the harmony.

There are different flowers to symbolise each month. I did a sign for the flower cart at the Garden Museum for October's flower: the marigold or calendula. It can symbolise grief or creativity, and while the name marigold comes from Christianity, the flowers are often used in celebration garlands at Hindu weddings.

November's flower is the chrysanthemum. And I need to be prouder of it, as it's my birth flower. In the language of flowers it represents cheerfulness in adversity. But, like roses and carnations, there are specific meanings for certain colours. Red means "I love you", white means purity, and yellow means slighted love.

I think the spray chrysanthemums that you usually see serve a purpose - as long-lasting, filler flowers (I just don't recommend giving a lone bunch of spray chrysanthemums as a gift; far better to give a big, single rose from the florist or a posy of flowers you've cut from a garden!). But I do love the huge, squashy, marshmallowy "blooms". They are proper showstopper flowers. The red-orange ones below are called "Tom Pearce" and perfectly indicate the autumn: the time of year when British chrysanthemums are at their best.

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