“March winds and April showers, bring forth May flowers.” – old English proverb
One of the sights that most lifts our spirits as Spring arrives is to begin to see the early flowers in bloom. In most places these are crocus, daffodils, and snowdrops, followed by flowering shrubs and trees like forsythia, spirea, redbuds. dogwoods, and then creeping phlox, grape hyacinths and wildflowers galore in the mountains. …As May arrives in Tennessee, the yards and trees are rich green, with more flowers arriving daily. Ever since I was a girl, I have loved watching for the different flowers as they bloom around the yards and fields, woods and mountains. My parents were great gardeners of vegetables, flowers, and even fruit trees and grapevines… so with their tutelage—and joy in growing things—I grew up close to the earth, with a deep appreciation for growing things.
I saw firsthand the connection between flowers and how they impact feelings, health and emotions—giving people a lift in their spirits as each new flower blooms and brightens the world. Now, as a psychologist, I can tell you a large body of research has shown that flowers are deeply connected to good health and positive feelings. They make us feel good for their beauty and for our positive memories associated with them. Flowers trigger sensory engagement, create feelings of happiness, joy, and satisfaction. They invite, by their color and beauty, for us to come close to observe, admire, touch, and smell. Flowers literally make us feel happier and improve our moods.
Here as May arrives, more and more flowers will bloom where I live, with spring in full swing and the warm, sunny days of summer soon coming… So for my blog, I wanted to celebrate the flowers we’ll soon see blooming, share a few memories of each, and tell you some fun facts you might not have known.
ROSES are one of the oldest known flowers. Cultivation of the rose began about 5,000 years ago and fossil evidence, found in Colorado, dates the rose back 35 million years. The Rose is also the U.S. national flower and the White House has a beautiful Rose Garden, first established in 1913. Roses come in a multitude of varieties and colors, and many are used in perfumes and are sweetly fragrant. There are 50 types of roses from shrub varieties to climbers and ground covers. The oldest known rose, now 1000 years old, is in a cathedral garden in Germany.
AZALEAS are another old flower, first grown in English gardens and usually in the gardens of the wealthy. It is thought that azaleas were first cultivated by monks in monasteries, and they are known as “The Royalty of the Garden.” Azaleas are a type of rhododendron, can be evergreen or deciduous, and come in 1000 varieties and a multitude of vivid colors. Once well established, azaleas can spread and grow to large sizes and live up to a century. In America there are 26 species of Azaleas and in many areas of the country Azalea festivals and celebrations are held.
IRIS will soon be blooming in wide array as May arrives. They are perennials that grow from bulbs, and they can multiply on their own or be divided to multiply. The flower name “iris” comes from the Greek word “rainbow,’ named such for all the colors of the rainbow the iris comes in. Many iris are multi-colored and they can be “bearded” or “non-bearded”, with or without a fuzzy patch on the petals. My Grandmother called her iris “flags” and iris have been in cultivation since 1400 BC in ancient Greece.
PANSIES, also called heartsease, have always been one of my favorite garden flowers. The most popular pansy varieties have flower faces and as a girl I used to give names to the pansies in my mother’s flower bed. Called “The Flower with the Face,” most varieties show distinctive face designs. An old legend says that all pansies were once “white” until struck by Cupid’s arrow, but now pansies come in an incredible array of happy colors and patterns. The word “pansy” comes from the French word pensée (or thought) and pansies stand for thoughtfulness and remembrance. Pansies are also edible and taste a little like baby lettuce with a sweet flavor.
LILIES will soon decorate the flowerbeds and garden borders, too, as May enters in. Lilies are a hardy perennial that grow from bulbs, and like the iris, can multiply on their own. The lily’s blooms, with six petals and six stamens, are large, showy, and fragrant and come in a multitude of colors and types. Lilies, communal by nature, like to grow in groups of three to five –and are used in churches at Easter and in funerals because of their symbolism of purity, hope, and rebirth. Lilies are an old plant, its bulbs once used for medicinal purposes, and in China the iris symbolizes good luck and long-lasting life.
ZINNIAS, a happy and colorful flower, was a favorite of my mother’s because they made such lovely cut flowers for her many bouquets and arrangements. Zinnias, named for the German botanist, Johann Zinn, are easy to grow from seed, bloom early summer to fall, will usually reseed themselves, and are beloved by bees. Zinnias, in the aster family with daisies and sunflowers, come in 20 species and a multitude of bright colors and sizes. The more you cut zinnia flowers for decoration and pleasure, the more they reward you with more flowers.
MORNING GLORIES are a surprisingly hardy plant, and once established, can live 50 years or more. There are 700 species of morning glories, in white, red, orange, pink, purple, blue, and yellow, that bloom from June to September. However, each trumpet-shaped morning glory blooms only ONCE, opening in the early morning, the blossom closing and dying the same afternoon. I always thought this sad—but the plant produces new flowers in replacement every single day. Morning glories love to climb, so plant them by a fence, trellis, arbor, or mailbox.
BLACK-EYED SUSANS, a happy summer flower, is called the “pioneer plant” (by some a weed) because it is often one of the first flowers to spring up wild, carried by seed, into an area damaged by fire or disaster. The name probably came from an old ballad about a young girl, called black-eyed Susan, who had to board a ship and sadly tell her sailor love farewell. Like the daisy and the coneflower, Black-Eyed Susans are in the aster family and all asters are loved by butterflies, bees, and songbirds. As a plus, Black-Eyed Susans also repel mosquitoes and bugs!
All of these flowers and more—like Sweet William, Chrysanthemums, Gladiolas, Peonies, and Phlox —grew in my mother’s garden beds and flower borders in our yard and property in rural South Knoxville. I played happily among them as a child. However, the flowers I loved the most were the wild field-flowers that grew in the woods and fields around our home. These included Bachelor’s Buttons, or cornflowers, wild daisies, red and white clover, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, and yellow buttercups. These I could pick freely—without asking! With these I could make daisy and clover chains, decorate my playhouses, or pick all I wished for bouquets to carry home and enjoy. Flowers were more than beauty to me as a child—they were friends. Flowers were the music of the ground and each seemed to have heart and soul. In a way, my child’s heart was tuned to the flowers—and it still is today. They call to me as I walk by, and I always marvel at those who do not see or love them.
“To me flowers are happiness.” – Stefano Gabbara
Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act