As winter eases up on its seasonal duties and we stand poised at the cusp of spring, The Fresh Cut Flower of the Month Club dives into the spirit of things by bringing you flowers that epitomize the magnificent sunsets and cool breezes of those picturesque days to come. Our bouquet this month will help bring the spring in with a beautiful assortment of chrysanthemums with roses.
With so many varieties of Chrysanthemums, it was hard to choose just a couple to share with you – so we chose five! In your bouquet, you have Yellow Football Mums, White Spider Mums, White Button Mums, Pink Cremon Mums, and Purple Pom Mums.
Chrysanthemums are commonly referred to as ‘mums’ and were first cultivated in China as early as the 15th century B.C. as a flowering herb; the flower was thought to have the power of life. According to legend, boiled roots were used to cure headaches, leaves were brewed for tea, and the flower and sprouts were eaten in salads. The ancient Chinese named the Chrysanthemum ("ju hua"), to be their official flower for October, and it was the official badge of the Old Chinese Army. Mums were considered one of the four Chinese noble plants… along with bamboo, the plum, and the orchid, and therefore the lower class Chinese were not permitted to grow them in their gardens. Visiting Buddhist monks brought the chrysanthemum to Japan in AD 400. Japanese emperors so loved this flower that they sat upon “kiku” (chrysanthemum in Japanese) thrones, and they were featured on the Imperial Crest of Japan.
Looking at your bouquet, you can probably recognize that many of the mums have daisy like qualities and that’s due to all chrysanthemums, regardless of type, belonging to the Compositae (daisy) family. Chrysanthemum petals are actually florets, which are small individual flowers that are usually part of a dense cluster, such as the disk or ray flowers of a composite plant, the most common example being a daisy. All chrysanthemums have both types of florets: the disk florets (the dense center of the flowers) and ray flowers (the petals of the plant). Most ancient chrysanthemums resembled yellow daisies, but today growers have created a variety of styles and colors. The chrysanthemum was first brought to the western world in 1753 by a renowned Swedish botanist, Karl Linnaeus and he derived the name from the Greek words chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower).
Even today, the chrysanthemum is a symbol of the sun for the Japanese, and the orderly unfolding of the mum's petals denotes perfection. One of their traditions is to put a single chrysanthemum petal on the bottom of a wine glass to sustain a long and healthy life. In Italy, chrysanthemums are associated with death, so don’t give an Italian girlfriend a bouquet of chrysanthemums!
This month we take pride in sending you a truly regal flower, the Rose. Most of us prize certain rose varieties for their color or combinations of colors, their fragrances (although some have no fragrance), the shape and size of the bloom, and their hardiness.
According to All About Roses, Ortho Publishing Co., species of the genus Rosa have been identified almost everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, as far north as Alaska and Norway, and as far south as North Africa and Mexico. Fossilized plants over thirty million years old have been linked to modern rose species. Molecular biologists, who use DNA molecules to estimate age, can trace roses back some 200 million years!
As civilization began to develop, many legends took root. It is written that Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, was the first to crown the rose as Queen of all Flowers. Aphrodite presented a rose to her son Eros, the god of love, and the rose became a symbol of love and desire.
The first cultivated roses appeared in Asian gardens more than 5,000 years ago. In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians brought "vines, figs and rose trees" back from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris. Let's put this into perspective: that was over two thousand years before Christianity began! And we thought rose trees were a new thing!
Roses were introduced to Rome by the Greeks, around the dawn of Christianity. During feasts, young men and women in Athens adorned themselves with crowns of roses and danced naked around the temple of Hymen to symbolize the innocence of the Golden Age.
It’s not often we feel compelled to talk much about the greens that we choose for your bouquets, but in the case of the rather fascinating Israeli Ruscus we’ll make an exception. Formerly classified in the huge Liliaceae family (which includes lilies, among thousands of other species), ruscus is now considered part of the family Asparagaceae, and is actually related to plants like asparagus, hyacinth, and, more distantly, aloe. Native to southern Europe and northern Africa, Israeli Ruscus, known to botanists as Ruscus hypophyllum, is a very popular green for floral bouquets due to its color, structure, and long vase life. In fact, long vase life is an understatement – when clean water is maintained it’s not uncommon for Israeli Ruscus to last well over a month (or even two)!
Strangely, the “leaves” you see are not leaves at all! They’re actually modified stems that have branched off the main stem and flattened into the shape of a leaf. These “phylloclades” as they’re known to botanists, perform the photosynthetic duties for the plant, while the actual, true leaves are tiny structures found near the flowers. When Israeli Ruscus blooms, the flowers erupt from the distinctive tooth or spur in the center of each phylloclade. There are both male and female plants, and it is the female of the species that will, on rare occasions, produce fruit. The red berries that dangle from the center of each “leaf” give Israeli Ruscus a character not unlike holly, which makes the species an excellent Christmas green - if you can catch it while it's fruiting!
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