How to approach hiring a florist for your wedding: Selecting seasonal flowers (Chicago specific)

Hi!

As promised I'm posting about how to select local, seasonal flowers (If you live in or around Chicago). 

The first thing you should do is work with a florist who knows their way around local flowers. Check out Slow Flowers for a list of florists in your area. The second thing you should do is trust their judgement and defer to their recommendations. They are the flower expert, which, after all, is why you're hiring them! 

But, it helps to be able to identify flowers you love or hate in the color scheme you choose, so here is a list of estimated bloom times for IL. I emphasize estimated because there is always variation each year. A peony may bloom in June, but if your wedding is June 1st, you may be a week shy from their bloom time.  It's just something to keep in mind!

Now, before I get into my list of flowers, let's talk briefly about about roses. I am not aware of any local rose growers. The closest rose farm I can find is in TN, but they don't ship here. That leaves two options: California or South America. Californian roses are incredibly beautiful, but if you want them, you need a generous budget. Keep in mind they cost over 3x what south american roses cost. So even though rose do have a season here in Chicago, they aren't available on a commercial level. Beyond that you can get rose from elsewhere all year round. 

So, without further ado my month by month list of flowers:

January:

  • Which hazel
  • Boxwood
  • Evergreen
  • Coral and Green Dogwood
  • Curly Willow
  • Pussy Willow

February:

  • Boxwood
  • Evergreen
  • Coral and Green Dogwood
  • Curly Willow
  • Pussy Willow

March:

  • Hellebore
  • Tulips
  • Crocus
  • Witch Hazel
  • Magnolia
  • Cherry Blossoms
  • Quince

April:

  • Flowering Branches
  • Daphne
  • Guelder Rose
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Anemone
  • Muscari
  • Virginia Bluebells
  • Fritillaria
  • Forsythia

May:

  • Lilac
  • Columbine
  • Tulips
  • Ranunculus
  • Anemone
  • Spirea
  •  Bleeding hearts
  • Roses

June:

  • PEONY
  • Ranunculus
  • Roses
  • Poppy
  • Iris
  • Sweet Pea
  • Astiibe
  • Stock
  • Pansy
  • Strawberry
  • Snapdragons
  • Mock Orange
  • Honey Suckle
  • Eremerus 

July:

  • Poppy
  • Stock
  • Snapdragons
  • Foxglove
  • Phlox
  • Cosmos
  • Forget me not
  • Queen Anne's Lace
  • Dara
  • Yarrow
  • Smoke Bush
  • Hydrangea
  • Hollyhocks
  • Pomegranate Branches
  • Fig Branches
  • Coral Bells
  • Dusty Miller

August:

  • DAHLIA
  • Rose
  • Phlox
  • Queen Anne's Lace
  • Snapdragons
  • Scabiousa
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnia
  • Sunflower
  • Amaranthus
  • Celosia
  • Tomato Vine
  • Oak Berry
  • Marigold
  • Strawflower
  • Shisho
  • Nicotina
  • Lisianthus
  • Snapdragon
  • Peach branches
  • Clematis
  • Geranium
  • Echinacea 
  • Nigella

September:

  • Dahlias
  • Zinnia
  • Amaranthus
  • Cosmos
  • Viburnum
  • Grasses
  • Porcelain Berry
  • Beauty Berry
  • Apple branches
  • Persimmons Branches
  • Cherry Branches
  • Lisianthus
  • Wild Clematis
  • Marigold
  • Eucalyptus
  • Birch
  • Snapdragon
  • Thistle
  • Roses
  • Obedient Plant
  • Tuberrose
  • Mums
  • Anemone
  • Gomphrena
  • Hops

October:

  • Dahlias
  • Mums
  • Gomphrena 
  • Flowering Kale
  • Nine Bark
  • Rose Hips
  • Echinacea Pods
  • Zinnia

November:

  • Rose Hips
  • Boxwood
  • Huckleberry Foliage
  • Dried Cotton
  • Dried Pampas
  • Dried Pomegranite
  • Bittersweet
  • Privet Berry
  • Tallow Berry (dried)
  • Mums

December:

  • Which hazel
  • Boxwood
  • Evergreen
  • Coral and Green Dogwood
  • Curly Willow
  • Pussy Willow

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that is available, check out more here:

http://brightflowerfarm.com/cut-flowers/flower-listing/  

Thanks for reading! I hope it helps you make more informed decisions about your flower selection!

Mary

How to approach hiring a florist for your wedding: Local flowers

Loves, 

I see articles all the time informing brides about how to prepare for their meeting with their florist. These articles range from what flowers to select based on season to good questions to ask to pricing expectations. The tragedy of these well meaning articles is that they are 1) not written by florists and 2) written for a national audience, when the answers are really dependent on where you are located! 

So, I'm going to start a series of articles that address these questions with a focus on the Chicago area. Today, lets talk local, seasonal flowers. 

First of all, not every florist specializes in working with local flowers. You can ask any florist to use local flowers, but at the end of the day, you are one of many event that they are working on and if they aren't already used to working with local farmers, they probably aren't going to make the effort. I recommend finding one in your area through Slow Flowers. This is an online database that connects you to florists and farmers who have pledged to focus on using local and seasonal flowers.

Lets back up a bit, why should you prefer local flowers?

  • You get the freshest and healthiest flowers. Your flowers will have been cut within a few days of your event and will have minimal handling (as opposed to flowers that have been flown from another country and been through multiple processing facilities). 
  • It's the green choice, less shipping means less pollution!
  • The US has regulations on how much pesticide you can use, whereas in other countries, especially our South American friends, have almost no regulation. So when you go to smell your beautiful bouquet, you put your nose into harmful chemicals. 
  • Its not the prettiest thing to talk about, but when flowers aren't local, you can't be sure you aren't supporting a labor force that is being paid or treated fairly.
  • You are supporting your local economy!
  • You are celebrating the season you are getting married in.

So what are some things you should be conscious of when working with local flowers?:

  • You may not be able to get everything you want. Even if you have selected only flowers that bloom in the month you are getting married, some flexibility is still necessary. I'll put up list of Midwestern bloom times in a later article, but the exact timing of this changes every year depending on the weather. Pests are also a factor in whether a crop will be available or not. Selecting a florist that you trust to know your preferences and setting up backup plans is the best way to ensure perfect wedding flowers. 
  • Expect to pay more. When the people growing and picking the flowers are being paid fair wages, it means the product will ultimately cost more. Well worth the cost to me!
  • Expect extraordinary flowers! Depending on how much freedom you give your florists, you may find gorgeous flowers you've never seen even before. If that excites you, tell your florist to get creative. If that terrifies you, let your florist know exactly what you're looking for. 

Congratulations on making it to the end of a long article! In the next few weeks and months, I'll be putting out more articles that cover: What's available locally in Chicago and when, How to find the right florist for you, What to ask a florist in you first meeting, choosing flowers based on meaning, why do florists cost so much?And more!

Stay tuned!

Mary

Local Dahlia

Local Dahlia

MEF Spring Soriee

Hello loves!

In May I had the pleasure of making flowers for the Midtown Education Foundation Spring Soiree and I wanted to share some of the pictures from the event. 

It was such a pleasure to work with their planning committee and add to something so important. Here is a little about MEF from their website:

Midtown Educational Foundation guides low-income urban youth in Chicago along pathways of success. Our proven enrichment programs embrace the dignity of the person by focusing on academic excellence, virtue development, individual attention and parental engagement.

If you are looking for a worthy volunteer opportunity, check them out here!

For their Soiree, I made joyful spring arrangements with the most gorgeous local flowers. The event was at Architectural Artifacts, which is also such a fun venue. 

I market myself to wedding clients because my style is, well, romantic; but I'm always pleased when a corporate or social client hire me. It just goes to show you that beauty is welcome in all spaces! Check out the pictures below by Jane Cane Photo.

 

The value of hiring a florist

Today I'm giving you a behind the scenes look at what goes into an event from my perspective, your florist.

Just last night I was joking with another florist about how we hate when people see us putting things together. I'm always a hot mess when I'm arranging or setting up for an event--literally sweaty, covered in dirt and petals, and standing in a puddle of water. It's not the image we like to project (although to be fair, I love the hard, dirty work of it as much as the beautiful end product). I often hear people say things like "your work is so effortless." I take it as a compliment and I'm pretty certain it is meant that way, but on the inside there is a little voice whimpering "it takes a lot of work to make it look effortless."  But I would never want a client to sniff a hint a stress on the day of their event. I want them to walk into their venue and it to feel like they walked into a wonderland where nothing bad exists.

So what does it look like behind the scenes?

I spend on average 30-60 hours of labor on each event. From client meetings, to sourcing flowers, to making the arrangements. Between 15 and 40 of those hours are put in on the 3 days surrounding and on the day the event, not to mention the clean up afterwards.  I'm not saying this to complain--I LOVE it.  (Ok, I'm not passionate about cleaning buckets and vases, but it's all part of the job.) My point here is to educate clients about where the price tag comes from. I try to be fair when I price an event, fair to the client and fair to myself and anyone I may hire to help with that event.  So let me walk you through my process from beginning to finish. I spend a few hours each morning answering inquiries, updating my social places, and doing whatever tasks need to be done that day, whether it's ordering flowers, sending out a proposal, or doing accounting. In the afternoon if I don't have an event coming up, I spend time with my daughter. When I have an event (lets say on a Saturday), I will spend a day processing the flowers: cleaning, hydrating, and getting them ready to be at their peak on Saturday. The next day I spend making the arrangements, for a large wedding (over 15 tables), I will hire freelance designers. Then Saturday is the big day, I load up the van (with help for large events), and then deliver and install the flowers. After the event either I or a hired strike team will dismantle, clean up your event and return my vases to me. Lastly, I clean my buckets and vases.

Now lets talk briefly about the value of hiring a professional

At the core of the Persephone brand is a desire to create a happy memory for you and your guests. When I work with a couple I want it to be a seamless experience, free of stress for the couple and their family. I believe it's possible for your wedding and the planning leading up to it to be an enjoyable experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. When you hire Persephone, you are ensuring that you will have the freedom to focus on whats really important: enjoying your day surrounded by friends / family / co-workers. I don't take it lightly that I will participating in one of the most important days of your life.  

I have spent years learning about flowers; from how to keep them alive, where to source them, to the mechanics of arranging them. I take great pride in my designs and consider my work an art. Ultimately, my clients value that they will be able to enjoy their day, knowing that they won't have to worry about a thing and trusting that their flowers will be stunning. 

Well thanks for being here, enjoy your weekend!

xoxo,

Mary

 

Anna in the dreamiest boho scene.

Anna in the dreamiest boho scene.

Form Art+Floral

Hello Again!

It has been a while, hasn't it? I wanted to share some pictures of the art exhibit I participated in for those of you who couldn't make it.

FORM is an collaboration of florists matched up with artists to produce work based on a set theme that is showcased in a one day event filled with music, food and beverages. Funds support  Snow City Arts -- an organization that brings professional artists into hospitals to work with children that are receiving long term care.

It was such a fun event, the art was amazing and it was so fun to have the opportunity to turn up my artsy side while working with florals. I took the opportunity to experiment a bit with hanging installations. Hanging installations are both really fun and super stressful. This is because hanging installations have such a big visual impact, but they also could fall on someone if I don't get all the details right. In the past I've relied on a company to hang for me because--YIKES. But at FORM I challenged myself to hang it on my own. And *yay* it didn't fall. 

Now about the art:

I was paired with photographer Noah Vaughn. He photographs dilapidated buildings in Chicago that are about to be demolished. He takes a mundane subject and uses a formal architectural style of photography. In response I created this hanging cloud of floral. I heard a lot of comments at the exhibit like, "how does this relate to the pictures?" Well, let me tell you. I chose to mimic Vaughn's treatment of the subject rather than the way his images looked. I used flowers that are familiar to us, much like the run down buildings we see all the time, but don't stop to notice.  Then I took them out of the typical context we see them in and re-framed them in a new light (hanging rather on the ground or in a vase) in an attempt to mimic Vaughn's formal treatment of a very informal subject. 

SO, enjoy!

xoxo,

Mary

All pictures are courtesy of Spoon Photography and Design:

Source: http://www.spoonphotoanddesign.com/

Changes at Persephone!

I love this picture taken from the very early days of Persephone. Mary and I spent the afternoon making mock ups while our baby daughters gleefully *destroyed* their apartment.  Honestly, not much has changed! I'll miss flowering with you Mary!

Read More

Symbolic Bridal Bouquet

Happy Friday,

Today I am so excited to share my first symbolic bridal bouquet! This is what I am most passionate about bringing to my clients. Each flower was selected for its specific meaning as it relates to marriage. There are many flowers that would work in a bridal bouquet, but I also let season and palette dictate the composition. Arrangements like these can be customized based on the flowers you like and the meaning important to you.

Some qualities, like love, need no explanation, so I won’t go into detail on why I selected those flowers, but others may be more puzzling. Following the picture clockwise, the bouquet contains:

  • Amaranth Globes - Unfading Love (these flowers are also known as Gomphrena)
  • Veronica - Fidelity
  • Sage - Domestic Virtue. I don’t think everyone should be a slave to their home. Just that one of the joys of starting a life together is creating a space to do that in.
  • Agonis - Love
  • Bridal Rose - Happy Love
  • Dahlia - Instability.  This flower meaning brings some realism to an otherwise idealistic bouquet. Marriage is never something your should take for granted, right? In my experience, it takes constant care; otherwise, it doesn’t flourish. I also wanted to include Dahlias since they are such a popular choice for brides.
  • White Majolica Spray Roses - I am worthy of you.  Yes you are!

Echinacea

Echinacea is not only a medicinal herb we drink to soothe a sore throat, but it is also a versatile flower from the daisy family. It is native to Northern America and blooms in late summer, producing cone flowers with purple, yellow, white or pink petals the fade to a caramel in the autumn and eventually fall off exposing a black pincushion center. I really excited and inspired to see florists such as Studio Modine and Amy Osaba use echinacea at all stages of it’s life, even after it’s petals have faded.

It’s the sort of thing many would pass over, but Echinacea, in fact, means “hedgehog” in Greek, referring to its spiky center. It’s cone is what defines it and I appreciate florists bringing out it’s unique beauty. I’ve definitely been looking for ways to incorporate it into my own work.

xoxo,

Persephone

Rose Hip

Today we are talking about another favorite fall accent: the rose hip! It's actually the fruit of the rose; what is left when Autumn roses have dropped their petals. It has a reputation for being difficult to work with (hello thorns!), but rose hips have a lovely wild bramble texture and shape with a bright red or orange bud.  The popular Rosa Rugosa variety are especially known for their rose hips.  Rosa Canina plants are well known for their rose hips as well, as it was believed that rose hips might provide a cure for rabies.  

Rose hips are edible, and you are probably more familiar with rose hip tea or jam than their ornamental use. Rose hips are high in vitamin c and may help with arthritis.  The rose hip has been popular for medicinal use since the Ancient Chinese and Greeks, and remained so until the early 20th century.  In fact, the rose hip was singled out as an excellent source of vitamin C during WWII, and the British used it to make syrups to send to the troops in order to ward off scurvy.  Who knew those little bulbs were so potent!

xoxo,

Persephone

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Pomegranate

Hello friends! It's felt like fall here in Chicago for a few weeks and today we are finally talking about one of our favorite fall accents: the pomegranate. As we have written before, it holds particular significance for us and our namesake Persephone. Read about why here and here. While the Persephone myth is the most popular myth in which we find the pomegranate, this flowering fruit is widespread throughout ancient and Christian mythology.  A symbol of fertility, the pomegranate was attributed to Hera, the Greek goddess of marriage and women, but later we begin to see the pomegranate figure in artistic representations of the Blessed Virgin (Botticelli, Jacopo della Quercia, etc.).  In Paestum there is actually a shrine dedicated to Madonna del Granato! 

Pomegranate branches can be used in flower arrangements both for their flowers in the summer and later in the fall for their fruit. Their flowers mean mature elegance (in case you want to add a little Helen Mirren to your arrangement). But what I'm really excited to write about is pomegranate fruit because immature fruit can be dried and saved forever. AMAZING, great news! Now for the bad news: Pomegranate fruit symbolize foolishness. We know this is because our girl Persephone ate the food of the dead (i.e. Pomegranate seeds) and so was doomed to spend her life in the underworld. I guess she should have just made a decorative wreath with them instead. Whoops!

xoxo,

Persephone

Botticelli, c. 1487, The Madonna of the Pomegranate

Botticelli, c. 1487, The Madonna of the Pomegranate

 

 

Hydrangea

Today we will talk briefly about Hydrangea. Hydrangeas have somehow managed to escape ubiquitousness while being one of the most accessible flowers year round. They flower throughout the summer, but, like the rose and the carnation, are readily available whenever.

Native to North America and Asia, hydrangeas have been growing for far longer than I realized!  There are fossils of hydrangeas that have been discovered in North America that are thought to be from the Late Eocene period (that's millions of years ago!). 

We typically see the huge fluffy globe-shaped cluster, referred to as a “mophead” in the dead of winter (this is the most widely recognized and common type of hydrangeas), but in the summer we get a lot more variety, such as oakleaf hydrangeas, which have conical blossoms, and lacecaps, which have a circle of flowers surrounding buds.

I’ve also found that I prefer working with more delicate varieties of hydrangea, such as the ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ because they are more pliable and “play well with others” unlike the larger varieties. What I mean by that is, large hydrangea tend to take over an arrangement and play a starring role, determining shape, color and texture. It's no wonder they symbolize “heartlessness” and are called “a boaster” by Kate Greenaway.

xoxo, 

Persephone

Prehistoric Hydrangeas, for those who like to nerd out with us. 

Prehistoric Hydrangeas, for those who like to nerd out with us. 

Poppy

This week we are talking about that floaty paper-like summer flower, poppies. There are many varieties of poppies, but the most common we see as cut flowers (as opposed to those used for opium ;D) are the Icelandic, Californian, and the common poppy. Icelandic have been bred to be red, pink, salmon, orange, and yellow, but they are naturally white. Californian poppies are  sunkissed orange and the common poppy is that iconic red poppy with a black center.

The common poppy became the symbol for remembrance after the great war, inspired by the poem “In Flander’s Field,” by John McCray. Here it is:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

While the red poppies recall the blood shed in the war, McCrae may also be bringing in the victorian notion that red poppies symbolize consolation, and/or the Classical idea that the bright scarlet hue symbolizes resurrection after death.

Poppies also are connected to Persephone through her mother, Demeter, who is said to have created the poppy because she could not sleep when she had lost her Persephone. This ties in nicely with Kate Greenaway’s catalog which sites white poppies symbolize “sleep, my bane, my antidote.”

Read more about poppies in ancient cultures here.  

xx,

Persephone

Demeter Relief, 18th Century 

Demeter Relief, 18th Century 

Poppy Field Near Giverny, 1885, Monet

Poppy Field Near Giverny, 1885, Monet

Magnolia

Magnolia trees are a prehistoric flower, suspected to predate the existence of bees. They were pollinated by beetles instead (gross but cool?). Magnolias will always make me think of the South--those gargantuan trees covered with perfect waxy leaves and flowers are the dreamiest. They are the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana, although they grow all over. Here in Chicago, they are among the first signs of spring. You can smell them on the wind--there is nothing like the feeling of hope it gives--hope that winter is almost over. We are so very grateful for the pink, white, and yellow star like blossoms that peak out of their winding branches.

There are too many different varieties of Magnolia to mention, but Greenaway sites two meanings. The generic Magnolia means “Love of nature” and the Swamp Magnolia means “perseverance.”

For your listening pleasure on this cloudy Chicago Friday, here is the song "Magnolia":

xx,

Persephone  

Dahlia

Dahlias need no introduction. If Peonies are the star of Spring, Dahlias are the star of Summer.

Dahlias are native to Mexico and were cultivated by the Aztecs. They were not introduced to Europe until the late 18th century. They were named after the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl in 1791. They are the national flower of Mexico.

Dahlias come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are round like a pompom, others are fluffy and feathered. They can be as small as an apricot or as large as a dinner plate. They come in the most exquisite colors, from soft pinks, to highlighter yellow, to marsala red--Dahlias are anything but average. In 1824, Dahlias inspired Lord Holland to send this complimentary verse to his wife:

"The dahlia you brought to our isle

Your praises for ever shall speak;

Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,

And in colour as bright as your cheek.”

Kate Greenaway writes Dahlias represent Instability.  I think that this characterization is unmerited, but some say it is because the flower did not do well in the European climate and got a reputation for being hard to grow. Having never attempted to grow Dahlias, I have no idea if it’s hard or not, but we sure are grateful to have farmers in our area who grow them. Thanks friends!

xx,
Persephone

Dahlias in an Urn, Eugene Henri Cauchois, Date Unknown

Dahlias in an Urn, Eugene Henri Cauchois, Date Unknown

 

 

Morning Glory

Morning Glories are a flowering vine that's trumpet shaped blooms open in the morning and close in the afternoon. The flowers are typically blue, white, purple, or pink. Because of their sensitivity to light, they don't make good cut flowers, but they are quite easy to take care of as garden plants.  Like many of the other flowers we have talked about on this journal, many varieties of morning glory are native to Asia.  They hold special significance in Japan, where they are regarded as a symbol of summertime.  In the mid 1800's the morning glory was all the rage in Japanese culture, and there were whole books published about the flower.  

They grow wild in Chicago and I spotted them everywhere on my recent trip to England. I saw them growing alongside other wildflowers holding them all together. It brought me back to my childhood when I grew a sunflower house using morning glory vines to twine the giant sunflowers together. It makes perfect sense then, that Morning Glories symbolize affection, that unstoppable force which holds us together (not to get sappy or anything).

If you’re looking for more articles to read on Floral Symbolism, check this out: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-flowerobsessed-victorians-encoded-messages-in-bouquets

xoxo,

Persephone

This print is from a book on morning glories written by Yokoyama Masana in 1854.  The art was created by Hattori Sessai.  

This print is from a book on morning glories written by Yokoyama Masana in 1854.  The art was created by Hattori Sessai.  

 

Sweet Pea

Sweet peas are a subtly fragrant climbing flower which produce (inedible) pea pods if left to fully mature. Greenaway writes that they symbolize “delicate pleasure.” Their soft hooded blossoms and curling tendrils affirms this characterization.

Native to Sicily and Southern Italy, the sweet pea began to be cultivated in the 17th century by a Sicilian monk and botanist named Francisco Cupani.  The seeds were sent to England for study, and where a few more varieties of sweet pea appeared before Harry Eckford, a Scottish gardener and nursery-owner, took the flower into his capable hands.  He expanded the small group of sweet peas, and increased the size and color of the blossoms. Eckford’s sweet peas are the sweet peas we know today.    

Sweet peas come in a variety of colors including white, pink, and purple. Depending on the variety the vine can grow between 3 and 6 feet tall. They bloom in early summer and can be available as early as April and as late as August. They are a popular choice for wedding bouquets and we put one in our logo because we want all our creations to inspire feelings of sweet delight.

xoxo,
Persephone

Our New Logo!

Hello Friends,

You may have noticed we have a new logo! It was designed by our very own studio director, Mary Simmons. She chose specific flowers based on their symbolism to compose the garland.  Here’s what’s in the design:

1. Acanthus Leaves - Fine Arts, Artifice

2. Beech Leaves - Prosperity

3. Pomegranate Blossom - Mature Elegance

4. Cabbage (Rose) - Profit

5. Sweet Pea - Delicate Pleasure

6. Zephyr Flower - Expectation

7. Camellia Japonica - Unpretending Excellence

The symbolism of each blossom in this design holds special meaning us as artists.  Perhaps most importantly, Mary chose the pomegranate flower as a nod towards our namesake, Persephone.  

Wishing you a happy weekend!

xoxo, 

Persephone

 

 

Phlox

Phlox gets its name from the Greek word for flame (φλόξ). They are usually purple (magenta) or pink, although they can be red and white. Phlox typically grow in soft, conical clusters, much like the shape of a torch.  

Unlike many of the other flowers we have discussed thus far, Phlox are native to North America.  In the early 1900’s, phlox was the flower of all the cool kids.  Louise Beebe Wilder, an American gardening author at the turn of the 20th century, wrote that Phlox “is a native, and with true American perspicacity and enterprise has forged his way from magenta obscurity to the most prominent place in the floral world.” (My Garden, Wilder, 1916)  There are now around 800 varieties of phlox.  Phlox are quite easy to propagate from seed or from cuttings.  I have great plans next year of filling garden boxes with these tall beautiful flowers and scattering them about my rooftop patio.  The tricky part will be deciding which which which variety to pick!

According the the Language of Flowers, Phlox symbolizes “unanimity.” I can't help but thinking of the Olympic torch that unifies the all the nations coming together to participate in the games. The flame symbolizes the fire stolen from Hestia by Prometheus. Phlox make a lovely addition to any bouquet, particularly one given after a disagreement. It's the perfect way to say, “we are in agreement.”

xoxo,

Persephone


P.S. Did you know that Sweet William are in fact a variety of Phlox?  I didn't!

David Johnson, Phlox, 1886

David Johnson, Phlox, 1886

Daylily

Daylilies get their name from their short lived blooms which only last about a day. (The botanical name, hemerocallis, comes from two Greek words meaning “beauty” and day”.) For this reason, they symbolize Coquetry. The flower blossoms in clusters one or two at a time, so when one flower fades another takes its place, prolonging its vase life beyond just one day.

Daylilies come in many colors, although the most common is yellow. It is drought and frost tolerant so it can thrive and many different environments.  The Daylily is native to Asia, and a few species are actually edible (unlike last week’s Lily of the Valley!).  These edible species are eaten in China in stir fry and soup (I wonder if their taste is anything akin to squash flowers - if so, get me on that bandwagon ASAP).  

An easy way to differentiate between daylilies and true lilies is by examining the foliage.  Daylilies have long, flat leaves that ground together at the ground.  They also have a tuberous root as opposed to a bulb.  Unlike the multi-leaved daylily, true lilies have one main stem sprouting from a bulb, and the leaves grow up the entirety of the stem in a spiral pattern.  

Tiger Lilies, those bright orange flowers with black spots, while sometimes thought to be a kind of daylily, are in fact, a true lily.  What you may be confusing them for is an orange daylily that is a common wildflower that grows along roads.  Unfortunately the common name for these orange daylilies is “ditch lilies”.  Poor little guys.  

xoxo,

Persephone

Zhao Zhiqian, Hemerocallis, China, 1859.

Zhao Zhiqian, Hemerocallis, China, 1859.

Lily of the Valley

The tiniest flower with the biggest scent is perhaps Lily of the Valley.  These beautiful pure white flowers bloom in late Spring.  Kate Greenaway cites it as meaning, “ return of happiness.”  This make sense to me because Lily of the Valley Bloom in May just as everything is coming back to life. (The species name, convallaria majalis, means “belonging to May”.)  At least here in Chicago, after a long (loooooong) winter, there is nothing like the joy of seeing flowers spring forth!

Lily of the Valley is also know as “Our Lady's Tears.” Legend has it that the tiny white bells sprung up from the fallen tears of the Virgin Mary at Christ’s crucifixion. The Virgin Mary is often depicted with this flower. 

Lily of the valley is a popular choice for spring brides to use in their bouquets and boutonnières. Both Kate Middleton and Grace Kelly had them in their bridal bouquets. Can anyone say classy?

There is a lovely French tradition that on May Day, you give a little bouquet of lily of the valley (Muguet-du-Bois) to friends, family, and colleagues.  Tradition has it that it began in 1561, when King Charles IX of France was given a bouquet of these blooms as sign of prosperity and good fortune in the coming year. 

A few other names for Lily of the Valley are May Lily, May Bells, Ladder-to-Heaven, and Muguet (the French name for these petite blooms).

xx,

Persephone