Emotional effect and meaning

“Cute” has to have the courage of its convictions. Merely cute is never enough to bememorable, and may, in fact, be annoying. If your taste leans toward cute, then youmust pursue “cute as a button” and nothing less. The inherent lightheartedness of acute flower arrangement is just one example of the emotional effect you may want tocreate with your garden and the bouquets you generate from it. Others see cute ascloying—those folks are jaded and cynical, the real flower snobs. Serenity, romance,festivity, intrigue are all states of mind evoked with the simplest combinations of flowersand foliage, in the ground or in a vase.An emotional response to cuteness is just one of a legion of emotions we can evokewith flowers, in this case inspired by flowers that are little and lovable. The oppositeend of the spectrum would be the maiming of flowers to evoke anger and hatred. HereI am remembering the unfortunate 1980s fad of sending a newly divorced spouseor ex-companion flowerless thorny rose stems—or, in the same vein, roses that hadpurposefully been left out of water to become limp, well beyond the point of beingrevived, and sprayed black. If one were the recipient of such a bouquet, there wouldbe no mistaking the message.In the back of the book you will find a list of the meanings of flowers, handed downthrough the ages in folklore or created in more modern times by marketing experts.The latter have both concocted meanings for flowers that never had them beforeand changed the significance of flowers that have historically carried a negative message.An example of this is the yellow rose. Traditionally it symbolized jealousy; therecipient was engaging in behavior engendering envy and insecurity in the sender.Sometime in the 1920s we began reading in advertisements that yellow roses werethe symbol of friendship; the sender either wished to become friends with the recipientor to state plainly their relationship. Suddenly yellow roses enjoyed a boost inpopularity.Herbs and cottage garden flowers were sometimes given their meanings based onhow they grew and were used domestically. The “doctrine of signatures” suggestedthat plants that looked like a part of the body would help that part when prepared formedicinal use, and thus certain plants became associated with the heart or anotherorgan that might have been perceived to be the seat of certain emotions.Plants that spread rapidly from seed or were tough and enduring came to symbolizehuman personality attributes—or deficits, as the case may be—in the language offlowers. For instance, alliums, the ornamental and culinary onions, because of theirstrong odor and ability to withstand many types of garden conditions came to symbolizecourage. Common sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), by virtue of the fact thattheir blossoms follow the sun as it makes its high arc over the summer garden, cameto be associated with loyalty.Romantic meanings for flowers gained currency in a time when lovers were oftenthwarted and controlled by the prevailing moral standards. Except with family andin the company of servants (both being situations thought safe from impropriety),young men and women having any social standing were not left alone together. Therewere chaperones abounding, and they could only be circumvented by carefully composednosegays, each flower and leaf fraught with meaning, pressed into the hand ofthe beloved secretly in passing, or delivered through a trail of servants, relatives, andfriends. Flowers delivered proposals and broke off engagements with the precisionof a telephone call and were always beautiful even if the intended message was mostdecidedly not. Only in our modern times have innocently grown flowers been madehideous to unmistakably convey darker meanings.

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