“Say it with flowers” runs the adage, but could you name the five most popular flowers?
The great classics are:
1. The Rose
We all recognise the rose. Look carefully at the flower and you will see a fivefold symetry in the petals. There are over 100 species of rose and thousands of varieties. A breakthrough in rose growing took palce in the early 1800s when perpetual blooming roses were brought back from China. Until that date the rose could only produce one, or perhaps two blooms per season. Most modern varieties contain some of the Chinese stock, allowing perpetual blooms.
The rose is associated with a great deal of symbolism. The ancient Greeks associated the rose with Aphoridite, the goddess of love. The early Christians identified the five petals as the five wounds of Christ.
Today, a bouquet of roses is the traditional Valentine’s Day gift. It is an expression of love.
2. The Tulip
This plant is sold for its natural beauty rather than its symbolism. Bell shaped flowers rise unfold from upright stems. Three petals form each flower. The traditional tulip is a brilliant red, though other colours, such as yellow, pink and purple are possible. Variegated forms, often with swirling patterns of red and yellow, are the product of careful breeding programs. Plants suffering from the Tulip Virus can produce the most fantastic mosaic of motled colour. The tulip is one of the most highly prized of flowers, to the extent that there was a tulip mania in Holland. In February 1637 tulip contracts were selling for ten times the salary of a skilled craftsman. The ultimate goal is to devleop the black tulip. This is possible using stock suffering from the Virus.
Although there are over 150 species within this genus most cultivars are dervied from Tulipa gesneriana. The beautiful tulip originates in Central Asia, in the highlands of the Pamir, in the Hindu Kush and on the steppes of Kazakhstan. No one is clear how it came to Europe. The Spanish Ambassador to the Court of Suleyman the Magnificant commented upon the abundance of tulips in Turkey in 1554. His report may have popularied the flower within Europe. Certainly by 1637 and the time of the Tulip mania Holland was firmly established as the leading distributor in Europe.