There will be gifts: Flowers

I'll be off line until Friday, and will respond to your comments then.

My f
riend Susan sent me a lush bouquet recently, to thank me for a favour. I noticed that she selected some of my my favourites (snapdragons, hydrangeas) to complement the palette of the house.

Giving flowers requires little thought, but giving flowers that delight takes "gift-thought" like hers.

People do have tastes in flowers, as individual as those for food. My friend Vicky once asked me, "What kind of flowers don't you like?" I responded immediately, "An all-yellow arrangement." I was grateful that she asked.

I made the mistake of giving a client a fragrant bouquet that caused respiratory distress the moment she opened the box.

Though people often bring flowers to the host of a dinner party, I prefer to send them ahead, or have delivered after as a thank-you. If you do bring them, choose blooms that can be easily arranged in a vase, like a bouquet of parrot tulips.

Taking the time to shop at a florist's sends you miles ahead of corner-store bucket arrangements. Five green Fuji mums are far more elegant than armful of spongy roses, bloomed-out asters and embalmed greens. Not that I have to tell you, but someone buys this stuff.

A relationship with a florist gets you the tulips that will unfurl over a week rather than those that last two days. Like a great hairdresser, she can make the most of the material at hand and rise to any occasion.

If you don't know what to choose, a florist, hearing "wears lots of turquoise, very informal, has a gold-and-white living room", can nail it.

You don't have to spend big. Your florist will suggest what's in season and can work wonders with a few perfect blossoms. A bud vase of spring's first anemones has more cachet than a bland box of stiff roses. And if you have a flower garden, what a resource! A bouquet of home-grown peonies is one of the most sensuous pleasures I can think of.

If you can't get to the shop, a call to discuss what's fresh will result in a better bouquet than clicking on an product icon. I have sometimes told florists, "I don't want that FTD look" and they know what I mean.

beyond cut flowers. An orchid or pot of cyclamen lasts for many weeks, and can bloom again. If you shop flea markets or jumble sales, pick up some simple glass vases, stow till you need them, and make your own arrangement to present to a hostess.

Explore the language of flowers

The Victorians knew that flowers, singly or in an arrangement, carried a message.
You might enjoy 'encoding' the bouquet you present. Today, little more than the "I love you" of the red rose remains well-known; here are a few more petaled signals:

Anemone- Unfading love
Azalea- Take care of yourself for me; fragile passion

Begonia- Beware

Camellia- Admiration; perfection; good luck gift to a man

Carnation (red)- My heart aches for you; admiration
Carnation (solid color)- Yes

Carnation (striped)- No; refusal; sorry I can't be with you; wish I could be with you

Carnation (white)- Sweet and lovely; innocence; pure love; woman's good luck gift

Carnation (yellow)- Rejection; disdain

Chrysanthemum (red)- I love
Chrysanthemum (white)- Truth

Chrysanthemum (yellow)- Slighted love

Daffodil- Respect
Daisy- Innocence

Gardenia- You're lovely; secret love

Gladiolus- Love at first sight

Hyacinth (purple)- I'm sorry; please forgive me; sorrow

Lily (calla)- Beauty

Lily (day)- Coquetry

Lily (tiger)- Wealth; pride

Lily (white)- Virginity; purity; majesty; it's heavenly to be with you

Lily (yellow)- I'm walking on air; false and gay
Rose (red)- Love; I love you

Rose (white)- Eternal Love; innocence; heavenly; secrecy and silence
Rose (pink)- Perfect happiness; please believe me

Rose (yellow)- Friendship; jealousy; try to care

Rose (red and white)- Together; unity
Rose (single, full bloom)- I love you; I still love you

and you can find more here.

Flowers are one of the few gifts that engage all the senses. Yes, the gift is temporary (unless you give a succulent or a dried arrangement, which is a bit too practical), but it's such a graceful gesture.

Well-chosen flowers are unforgettable; I recall the heirloom roses on
our sons' birth, a glamorous orchid given by friends for my 60th birthday, the tangerine double hibiscus brought for our garden planter.

I'd enjoy hearing of some of your memorable flower gifts, and any ideas you have for gifts of this kind.


Chrysanthemums are for funerals in many European cultures, and carnations can also be a flower of mourning. I think mums are lucky and happy in many Asian cultures though - unless they are funerary white. This Sunday is both Valentine's and Lunar New Year (Year of the Tiger!)

One thing I love in Amsterdam is the cheap flowers available at markets - of course there are lovely expensive ones too for gifts, at specific floral markets and at florist's shops. The cheap flowers are nice and fresh, not sad as Duchesse describes (like the horrible half-dead roses people go around selling at cafés). Often they are a bit crooked; "rejects" of the international floral trade, i.e. just like the flowers we grow in our own gardens. It is fun to flower your room for a couple of €, even if you are only staying for a few days.

The lovely showy flowers are a constant gift, for speakers, conference participants and performers, not just lovers and bosom friends. Very charming.
mette said…
I like wild flowers. I like to see them grow untouched. I do prefer cut flowers to the ones in pots. I have grown tired of dried flowers. A h u g e bunch of champagne colored lilies, I received delivered to my home, the day my father died back in 1986, from the employer of my husband, nearly a family friend, was so touching, so unexpected, that even as writing about it now, years later, brings tears to my eyes..
Mardel said…
I don't like the FTD look, I don't like greenery unless it makes a statement or is an integral part of the design.

It amazes me how many people just buy flowers with no thought to the tastes of the recipient.

One of my most treasured gifts of flowers was a small hand thrown pot with a small carry handle, shaped like a basket, only 5 inches or so in diameter filled to overflowing with three large king proteas and a few pieces of eucalyptus. The flowers overwhelmed the pot and yet the arrangement was just perfect for our house and style, rough and exotic at the same time.

I adore yellow roses, but the good ones require forethought and must be ordered, too many times I have received bouquets of small sickly roses that die before they ever bloom And the only color arrangement I dislike out of hand is an all red arrangement.

Living in a city where there are nice flower markets would be such a joy. I would be very tempted to indulge.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Yes, in Europe I often see women conference speakers wearing corsages, which you do not see here in business. In France I love bouquets of Toulouse violets, which are never available here.

metscan: What a beautiful bouquet, simple yet so stately. An elegant dried flower arrangement is nearly an oxymoron.

mardel: Unique- sounds like the giver knows you well. And the King Protea lasts a long time. We just had a very affordable flower shop open within walking distance,; before, I had to cross the city. Very tempting.
Mardel, if you ever visit Amsterdam (or anywhere in Netherlands) with all the flowers growing in greenhouses and fields - tulips and many others - you will certainly want flowers wherever you are staying, as the most humble bouquets are beautifully fresh.

I do like red though, especially red tulips. Probably because with their bright green leaves, the red doesn't look too gaudy or "red-light district".

It surprises many people that I've never set foot in that particular neighbourhood. though there is also the beautiful Old Church there with lovely concerts - I just haven't happened to go there, and have no other interest in the area.

Duchesse, whenever we were working at a conference, the organisers had beautiful bouquets for each of us. So thoughtful.

Metscan, how kind of your father's employer.
Glennis said…
I like getting a flowering plant better than cut flowers, myself, although there are some cut flowers that are absolutely wonderful - you mentioned peonies; lilacs are great too. Big bold sunflowers are fun, too.

I remember when we spent some time in Norway, it seemed there was a florist on almost every corner. In the US, it's an improvement from the past that you can get flowers in a supermarket - but you have to be pretty choosy.
Flowers said…
Nice blog with nice picture of flowers. It was nice going through your blog. Keep on posting.
Glennis said…
turns out my husband sent a big bouquet of tulips to my workplace today. How sweet of him!
lady jicky said…
I have always told my husband not to give me flowers - honestly for the money I would rather have Perfume anyday!!!! :)
M said…
Thanks for another well-researched, file-worthy post!
Anonymous said…
First I must tell you how much I love your blog. Always informative and I find it calming and restorative in the midst of daily life.
Secondly, would you please direct me to the post which refers to the person who repairs costume jewelry? I believe you said he was in Philadelphia.
Duchesse said…
Anonymous: Thank you! The repair info is
Vincenzo Taormina Studio
Att: Repairs
1416 W Porter Street 3rd fl.
Philadelphia, PA, 19145
Phone 1 (267) 230-7921

lady jicky: I would rather have perfume too, especially on Valentine's when flower prices can be inflated.

g: Original, a promise of spring- and a romantic pun!
Rose said…
Nice blog. Like the information on petaled signals. I love red rose that is a symbol of love. It was nice going through your blog.
What bouquet will we offer Duchesse and Le Duc for Valentine-Tiger? (St. Valentine's Day and the Lunar New Year: Year of the Tiger)!

Red roses of course, but we need a flower more typical of celebrations in East and Southeast Asia... Not white, as that not happy in those cultures. They find red auspicious too, but I don't want to do an all-red bouquet...

So Happy Valentine Tiger to you both , your sons and your cat (the tiger part). In Toronto you don't have to make lucky dumplings - there are lots of shops and restaurants where you can find them. Here too.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Gung how fat choy to you, too! I'd therefore choose tiger lilies for a bouquet. The remaining Toronto son, Le Duc and I will go for dim sum. Thank you for your wishes.
And (no surprise) Etienne is absolutely loving Montreal!
Duchesse said…
rose: Welcome, I'm glad you enjoy. And what an apt name for your signature.
sallymandy said…
Beautifully said. During the years I worked as a floral designer, I decided on lilies as my hands-down favorite. They're a great value, last long, smell fabulous. Only have to remember to pinch off the pollen-y stamens.

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