When taking a rest from my community garden in June, I observed red poppies, green dill and yellow calendula, which drop seed and come back year after year. They give me a spark of joy and quiet meditation, a lovely contrast. I often wondered about the power of flowers and how they provide both beauty and practicality, but it’s much more than that.

Each flower in its color, form and fragrance embodies a particular spiritual quality. Flowers gives rise to a certain experience like mine with poppies, dill and calendula. If you can identify your experience, you can perceive the quality of its vibration.

In Shakespeare’s time people were more aware of the language of flowers and made use of this floral symbolism.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” in Romeo and Juliet. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare inspired the phrase “gilding the lily.” Ophelia, the tragic heroine in Hamlet, drowned herself surrounded by garlands of wildflowers.

It’s odd as I just watched Ophelia from a DVD, picked up at the South Burlington Library.

Shakespeare continues with the words, “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

Eglantine – these Sweet Briar roses are large and sprawling, with single pale pink flowers in late spring and early summer. They are strongly apple-scented, and their hips are popular for use in tea. This rose may be restrained by growing on posts or trellises to control its long, thorny canes. They were grown at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Did you know that woodbine is an old name for honeysuckle, and oxlips are like cowslips, but larger? Cowslip is also called marsh marigold. I call it “Woodchuck” spinach.

If you have ever been in a forest at sunrise, you can feel the flowers and trees awakening to the touch of descending light, twisting and struggling to catch it.

We all know that color is a significant aspect of a flower’s consciousness. Each color represents a certain aspiration and can help us discover unknown parts of our own inner being. Yellow is the color of mental aspiration and thus, the yellow Rose represents “Mental Love for the Divine.” Pink or pale rose are the colors of the psychic as with the redbud bloom. The red Rose represents “Human Passions Turned into Love for the Divine.” The darker blue, violet and red colors denote vibrations of the vital or nervous and physical centers in us. The beautifully scented Narcissus flower, whose story was told by the Latin poet Ovid, represents the “Power of Beauty.”

Daisies are a symbol of innocence and the violets, now withered, mean faithfulness. Rosemary is particularly associated with remembrance of the dead, and pansies get their name from pensées, the French for thoughts.

I forgot to mention watching a hummingbird sucking up nectar from my purple flowered Butterfly Bush in my community garden this morning. By the way, hummingbirds use their aerial agility to supplement their nectar diet with insects, which they snatch from the air. While many birds can do that, they typically have short beaks and wide gapes. Hummingbirds, by contrast, have long flower-probing bills.

I watched the hummingbird for some time and was entranced as I always am with hummingbirds along with the large purple blooms. I would like to end this chapter with an exercise. I would like you to meditate on what you experience with your favorite flowers.

Ron Krupp is the author of the Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening and the Woodchuck Returns to Gardening. He is working on his third Vermont garden books entitled, The Woodchuck’s Guide to Landscape Plants and Ornamentals. You can find his books at local bookstores and garden centers. He lives in South Burlington.

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