Flowery Words.

“My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.”—Mitch Hedburg

So I was walking along and I noticed this attached to a lamp post:

That’s nice, I thought. Someone had a fake flower for some reason and rather than just throw it away they decided to share it with the world, or at least with anyone who happened to be walking down that particular street. I assumed it was an accident until I got to the next one.

And the one after that.

There’s an extensive world of flower symbolism that varies widely across cultures, although most people don’t think about it. The Victorians had a whole language of flowers, but then the Victorians were terrified of ever saying what they meant out loud so they had all sorts of subtle codes for everything and could turn your standard grocery store flower arrangement into a novel. Now most of that flower symbolism is forgotten. Roses—specifically red roses—are still understood to mean love, and every once in a long while I hear someone referred to as a “shrinking violet” or a “pansy”, but for the most part if flowers mean anything it’s usually “I have feelings for you” or “I have some flowers for you”.

Was there a message being conveyed on the lamp posts? Probably not. Part of the problem with flower symbolism is you have to recognize the specific flowers before you can know the meaning, and aside from a couple of handfuls of popular ones I couldn’t tell a dahlia from a delphinium, although I do enjoy reading Skye Ent’s adventures in gardening.

I know some people feel the world we live in now lacks subtlety, that there’s too much sharing, too much openness. They complain that some things should be left unexpressed, and I wish they’d shut up about it.

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6 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    Yesterday, I grabbed an artificial red rose off somebody’s desk to hold when I thought I was going to be in a photo for “Wear Red Day” for heart health awareness. It turned out I couldn’t be in that photo because I needed to see a patient, so I returned the rose, thinking about the rose in “An American in Paris.”

    Thanks for all the flowery prose in your blog today, my friend.
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2631: Attempts to be superMy Profile

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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That final scene of “An American In Paris” really is lovely, although my favorite line about roses is Gertude Stein’s “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” Ophelia’s speech from Hamlet has some great floral references:-) I’m also astounded by the sheer volume of staples on that one pole–it looks like a medieval torture device!
    mydangblog recently posted…Terms Of EndearmentMy Profile

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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I thought about Ophelia’s speech which really is lovely, but until you quoted it I’d forgotten that she mentions pansies. Go figure. I think it’s interesting that “pansy” is often used as an insult when they’re really tough little flowers–I see them blooming when it’s well below zero.
      And Nashville, being Music City, has a lot of live music, most of which gets advertised on light poles, so they get heavily stapled.

      Reply
  3. Kristine Laco

    I just think of The Bachelor when I see roses. Simple reference for my simple mind. Oh, and I’m not shutting up about it… even though he’s a horrible Bachelor, I can talk about his poor decisions all day. Try me 🙂
    Kristine Laco recently posted…My Mocha Whip Introduction to Writing HumourMy Profile

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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Do I dare ask if The Bachelor gets worse with each new season? And I’m sure you could say a lot about his poor decisions, starting with his decision to be on The Bachelor in the first place, although I guess that also implicates the women who are vying for his affections too.

      Reply

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