Bachelor button - Celibacy

Bachelor button meanings: Anticipation, celibacy, single blessedness

Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower, Bachelor's button, Bluebottle, Boutonniere flower, Hurtsickle, Cyani flower) is a small annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. "Cornflower" is also erroneously used for chicory, and more correctly for a few other Centaurea species; to distinguish C. cyanus from these it is sometimes called Common Cornflower. It may also be referred to as basketflower, though the term properly refers to the Plectocephalus group of Centaurea, which is probably a distinct genus.

It is an annual plant growing to 16-35 inches tall, with grey-green branched stems. The leaves are lanceolate, 1–4 cm long. The flowers are most commonly an intense blue colour, produced in flowerheads (capitula) 1.5–3 cm diameter, with a ring of a few large, spreading ray florets surrounding a central cluster of disc florets. The blue pigment is protocyanin, which in roses is red.

In the past it often grew as a weed in crop fields, hence its name (fields growing grains such as wheat, barley, rye, or oats are sometimes known as corn fields in the UK). It is now endangered in its native habitat by agricultural intensification, particularly over-use of herbicides, destroying its habitat; in the United Kingdom it has declined from 264 sites to just 3 sites in the last 50 years. In reaction to this, the conservation charity Plantlife named it as one of 101 species it would actively work to bring 'Back from the Brink'. It is also, however, through introduction as an ornamental plant in gardens and a seed contaminant in crop seeds, now naturalized in many other parts of the world, including North America and parts of Australia.

It is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, where several cultivars have been selected with varying pastel colours, including pink and purple. Centaurea is also grown for the cutflower industry in Canada for use by florists. The most common colour variety for this use is a doubled blue variety such as 'Blue Boy' or 'Blue Diadem'. White, pink, lavender and black (actually a very dark maroon) are also used but less commonly. It is also occasionally used as a culinary ornament. Cornflowers have been used and prized historically for their blue pigment. Cornflowers are often used as an ingredient in some tea blends and herbal teas, and is famous in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings. Wild cornflower floral water is produced in Provence, France. It is obtained by steam distillation which can be used as a natural mild astringent and antiseptic to prevent eye infections as well as an alcohol-free natural toner. A relative, Centaurea montana, is a perennial plant which is also cultivated as a garden plant. Cornflowers germinate quickly after planting.

Light requirements: full sun. Water requirements: high-average water daily. Soil pH requirements: neutral (6.6-7.5) to mildly alkaline (7.6-7.8).

It flowers from June until August. The cornflower is considered a beneficial weed, and its edible flower can be used to add colour to salads.

Folklore and symbolism
In folklore, cornflowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man's love was not returned.

In herbalism, a decoction of cornflower is effective in treating conjunctivitis, and as a wash for tired eyes.

The blue cornflower has been the national flower of Estonia since 1968 and symbolizes daily bread to Estonians. It is also the symbol of the Estonian political party, People's Union, the Finnish political party, National Coalition Party, and the Swedish political party, Liberal People's Party, and has since the dawn of the 20th century been a symbol for social liberalism there. It is the official flower of the Swedish province of Östergötland.

The blue cornflower is also one of the national flowers of Germany. This is partly due to the story that when Queen Louise of Prussia was fleeing Berlin and pursued by Napoleon's forces, she hid her children in a field of cornflowers and kept them quiet by weaving wreaths for them from the flowers. The flower thus became identified with Prussia, not least because it was the same color as the Prussian military uniform. After the unification of Germany in 1871, it went on to become a symbol of the country as a whole. For this reason, in Austria the blue cornflower is a political symbol for pan-German and rightist ideas. Members of the Freedom Party wore it at the opening of the Austrian parliament in 2005.

It was also the favourite flower of Louise's son Kaiser Wilhelm I. Because of its ties to royalty, authors such as Theodor Fontane have used it symbolically, often sarcastically, to comment on the social and political climate of the time.

The cornflower is also often seen as an inspiration for the German Romantic symbol of the Blue Flower. Due to its traditional association with Germany, the cornflower has been made the official symbol of the annual German-American Steuben Parade.

In France the Bleuet de France is the symbol of the 11th November 1918 armistice and, as such, a common symbol for veterans (especially the now defunct poilus of  World War I), similar to the poppies worn in the United Kingdom and in Canada.

The cornflower is also the symbol for motor neurone disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Cornflowers are sometimes worn by Old Harrovians.

It was the favorite flower of John F. Kennedy and was worn by his son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. at his wedding in tribute to his father.

Cornflowers were also used in the funeral wreath made for Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

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Baby's Breath - Innocence

Baby’s breath meanings: Festivity, innocence, pure of heart

Gypsophila commonly known as baby's-breath in the United States and Canada, "soap wort" in the United Kingdom, elsewhere Gypsophila—is a genus of about 100 species of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae, native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. Many species are found on calcium-rich soils, including gypsum, hence the name of the genus. Some species are also sometimes called "baby's breath" or simply, "Gyp", among the floral industry. Its botanical name means "lover of chalk", which is accurate in describing the type of soil in which this plant grows.

Originally from Eastern Europe, its natural habitat is on the Steppes in dry, sandy and stony places, often on calcareous soils (gypsophila = "chalk-loving"). Specimens of this plant were first sent to Linnaeus from St Petersburg by the Swiss-Russian botanist Johann Amman. It is cultivated in Peru corresponding to a large portion of this country's flowers exports. 

They are herbaceous annual and perennial plants growing to 5–120 cm tall. The leaves are opposite, linear to narrow triangular, often falcate (sickle-shaped), 1–7 cm long and 2–8 mm broad. The flowers are produced in large inflorescences, which may be either dense or open and lax; each flower is small, 3–10 mm diameter, with five white or pink petals.

Gypsophilas are often grown as ornamental plants in gardens; they are grown both as garden plants and also valuable as a cut flower in floristry to add as a filler to flower bouquets. The most commonly encountered in gardens are G. paniculata (a perennial species), G. elegans, and G. muralis (both annual species). They are easily propagated from seed, by cuttings, or by root division before growth starts in the spring. Starting as a tiny seed, the annuals and perennials germinate in ten to fifteen days, and can grow rapidly up to 50 cm in height. While they prefer full sun, along with rich, light soil, deficiencies in poor soil constitution can be overcome by adding a general purpose fertilizer, as long as it is well drained.

Gypsophila paniculata is now widely distributed in North America. It is classed as an invasive species in places around the Great Lakes, such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Chicago region, and in the Pacific Northwest. 

In the United States, it is common for young girls, particularly children attending weddings, to have their hair decorated with Baby's Breath.

Gypsophila paniculata has become an invasive species in parts of North America.
Gypsophila rokejeka is used to provide saponins in the production of halva.

Gypsophila species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including three case-bearers of the genus Coleophora which feed on G. fastigiata: C. kyffhusana, C. niveistrigella (both of which feed exclusively on the plant) and C. vicinella.

The root of the Gypsophila repens is used to make the whip cream topping of the Turkish dessert kerebic. Boiling the root over a period of hours produces white bubbles which are collected, mixed with sugar, and mixed until it thickens to a cream.

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Azalea - Passion

Azalea meanings: Abundance, take care, temperance, fragile, passion, Chinese symbols of womanhood

Azaleas are flowering shrubs comprising two of the eight subgenera of the genus Rhododendron, Pentanthera (deciduous) and Tsutsuji (evergreen). Azaleas bloom in spring, their flowers often lasting several weeks. Shade tolerant, they prefer living near or under trees.

Azaleas differ from rhododendrons in being generally smaller and having one blossom per stem rather than blossom clusters.

Plant enthusiasts have selectively bred azaleas for hundreds of years. This human selection has produced over 10,000 different cultivars which are propagated by cuttings. Azalea seeds can also be collected and germinated.

Azaleas are generally slow-growing and do best in well-drained acidic soil (4.5 - 6.0 pH). Fertilizer needs are low; some species need regular pruning. Azaleas are native to several continents including Asia, Europe and North America. They are planted abundantly as ornamentals in the southeastern US.

Cultural significance and symbolism
In Chinese culture, the azalea is known as "thinking of home bush" (siangish shu) and is immortalized in the poetry of Tu Fu and is used to rich effect in contemporary stories such as by Taiwanese author Pai, Hsien-Yung.

The azalea is also one of the symbols of the city of São Paulo, in Brazil.

Azalea festivals
United States: Many cities in the United States have festivals in the spring celebrating the blooms of the azalea, including Norfolk, Virginia; Wilmington, North Carolina (North Carolina Azalea Festival); Valdosta, Georgia; Palatka, Florida (Florida Azalea Festival).

The Azalea Trail is a designated path, planted with azaleas in private gardens, through Mobile, Alabama. The Azalea Trail Run is an annual road running event held there in late March. Mobile, Alabama is also home to the Azalea Trail Maids, fifty women chosen to serve as ambassadors of the city while wearing antebellum dresses, who originally participated in a three-day festival, but now operate throughout the year.

Japan: Motoyama, Kochi also has a flower festival in which the blooming of Tsutsuji is celebrated and Tatebayashi, Gunma is famous for its Azalea Hill Park, Tsutsuji-ga-oka. Nezu Shrine in Bunkyo, Tokyo, holds a Tsutsuji Matsuri from early April until early May.

Korea: Sobaeksan, one of the 12 well-known Sobaek Mountains, lying on the border between Chungbuk Province and Gyeongbuk has a Royal Azalea (Rhododendron schlippenbachii) Festival held on May every year. Sobaeksan has an azalea colony dotted around Biro mountaintop, Gukmang and Yonwha early in May. When Royal azaleas have turned pink in the end of May, it looks like Sobaeksan wears a pink Jeogori (Korean traditional jacket).

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Aster - Symbol of love

Aster meanings: Contentment, symbol of love, daintiness, talisman of love, trusting

Aster (syn. Diplopappus Cass.) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. The genus once contained nearly 600 species in Eurasia and North America, but after morphologic and molecular research on the genus during the 1990s, it was decided that the North American species are better treated in a series of other related genera. After this split there are roughly 180 species within the genus, all but one being confined to Eurasia. The name Aster comes from the Ancient Greek word στήρ (astér), meaning "star", referring to the shape of the flower head. Many species and a variety of hybrids and varieties are popular as garden plants because of their attractive and colourful flowers. Aster species are used as food plants by the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species. Asters can grow in all hardiness zones.

The genus Aster is now generally restricted to the Old World species, with Aster amellus being the type species of the genus, as well as of the family Asteraceae. The New World species have now been reclassified in the genera Almutaster, Canadanthus, Doellingeria, Eucephalus, Eurybia, Ionactis, Oligoneuron, Oreostemma, Sericocarpus and Symphyotrichum, though all are treated within the tribe Astereae. Regardless of the taxonomic change, all are still widely referred to as "asters" in the horticultural trades.

In the UK there are only two native members of the genus: Goldilocks, which is very rare, and Aster tripolium, the Sea aster. Aster alpinus spp. vierhapperi is the only species native to North America.

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Arum - Ardor

Arum meaning: Ardor

Arum is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean region.

They are rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial plants growing to 20-60 cm tall, with sagittate (arrowhead-shaped) leaves 10-55 cm long. The flowers are produced in a spadix, surrounded by a 10-40 cm long, coloured spathe, which may be white, yellow, brown or purple; some species are scented, others not. The fruit is a cluster of bright orange or red berries.

All parts of the plants are poisonous, containing significant amounts of calcium oxalate as raphides.

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Apple blossom - Preference

Apple blossom meanings: Preference, promise

Apple blossom is the Michigan State flower, and also the state flower of Arkansas. There are, probably, nearly 1000 varieties of Apple blossom cultivated in the United States, and all of which are said to be derived from the Wild crab (Pyrus coronaria, Linn).

Apple blossom tree is a well-known tree, growing from 20 to 40 feet high, with rigid, crooked, spreading branches, and a rough, blackish bark. The apple tree is a native of Europe, and the Apple blossoms come from April to June. From the fruit, cider is manufactured, and both the fruit and its cider are much used for domestic and medicinal purposes.

Apple blossoms have Cherry pink and white petals. The Apple blossoms are very fragrant and scent the May landscape. The Apple blossoms are large expanding with the leaves, and borne in subumbellate corymbs. The calyx-tube of the Apple blossoms is urn-shaped, with limb 5-cleft. The pedicels and calyx on the Apple blossoms are villose-tomentose.

Apple blossoms have 5, roundish, or obovate petals, with short claws. The stamens of Apple blossoms are numerous and styles number 5. The Apple blossom's styles are united and villose at base. The fruit is greenish and ripens in September, and is typically 5-8 cm in diameter (rarely up to 15 cm) like a small apple; yellow-green, maturing in late summer.

Facts about Apple Blossoms
Trees under the section Malus are the finest flowering trees are those included, the type of which is the common Crab Apple (M. communis).

World's top apple producers are China, United States, Turkey, Poland and Italy.
Apples have five seed pockets or carpels. Each pocket contains seeds.
The number of seeds per carpel is determined by the vigor and health of the plant.
Different varieties of apples will have different number of seeds.


Angrec - Royalty

The genus Angraecum, abbreviated as Angcm in horticultural trade, common name Angrek (Indonesian and Malay) or Comet Orchid, contains about 220 species, some of them among most magnificent of all orchids. They are quite varied vegetatively and florally and are adapted to dry tropical woodland habitat and have quite fleshy leaves as a consequence. Most are epiphytes, but a few are lithophytes.

Tropical Africa and Madagascar contain the majority of the genus with one outlier found on Sri Lanka, and three species once thought to belong to the genus in Japan and the Philippines. But these orchids can also be found on the Comoros, the Seychelles, and the Mascarenes. They occur between sea level and 2,000m in humid regions.

The long-lasting flowers are racemose and grow from the leaf axils. They are mostly white, but a few are yellow, green or ochre. They all have a long spur at the back of the labellum (lip).

In the case of Angraecum sesquipedale, a species from Madagascar, on observing the 30cm spur in the lip, Charles Darwin made the hypothesis that, since the nectar was at the bottom of the spur, a pollinator must exist with a tongue at least that long. Otherwise the orchid could never be pollinated. At the time, he was not believed. However, in 1903, the predicted pollinator was discovered, a hawk moth then named Xanthopan morganii praedicta ("praedicta" meaning "the predicted one"). It has an appropriately long proboscis. The specific name sesquipedale means "one foot and a half", referring to the length of the spur. This is a perfect example of mutual dependence of an orchid and a specific pollinator.

Many species of Angraecum orchid are considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild and are protected from international trade under CITES. The genus Angraecum is listed as one of the top conservation priorities by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Orchid Specialist Group. Many of the species, such as Angraecum sororium, are endemic to Madagascar and are threatened from over collecting, loss of hawkmoth pollinators, habitat fragmentation, and fire.

Growing Angraecums
Much like all other orchids, Angraecums have no need for special care or attention. Like all other orchids it is best to water in the mornings to avoid fungal rot due to overnight dampness. Feeding as per other orchids and similar light conditions: in humid and hot regions (sub tropical) feed fortnightly during growing season (Summer) with a certified orchid fertilizer following directions on packet, weaker solutions are also okay if you're worried. In summer water weekly or more depending on situation. Angraecums flower best when in a lighter position. Keep out of direct sunlight as this can damage (and eventually kill) the plant. Most Angraecums will have their leaves for a number of years so any sun burn spots are ugly for a significant period and also may expose your plant to disease. In indirect sunlight the Angraecums will reward you with blooms and attractive growth.

Angraecum Veitchii: a very rewarding orchid. In indirect light and watered/fed regularly this plant will produce blooms annually (usually in Late Winter to Spring - for Australia this occurs in August - excellent for those wanting to show their plants at Brisbane's Ekka! You will notice a few lovely specimens there in the Gardening Exhibits). The flowers last a while if kept in a sheltered position and their strong heady fragrance is delightful. They only release their perfume at night. Flowers are large (4 - 9 cm across), waxy, white to greenish cream in colour and borne on stems of seven to ten depending on the faithfulness of your fertilizing, watering, and indirect light provision. The leaves are large, thick straps that alternately fan out from a central (monopodal) stem. Pups (keikis) form at the base of the stem and can either be divided from the parent plant once they have at least three roots of their own or alternatively, left on the plant these will make a stunning specimen as when mature will produce blooms with the parent plant - many award winning angraecum veitchiis are grown as such.

In the right conditions these orchids are healthy and require little attention. As they are epiphites the potting mixture should be loose and free draining. Prolific roots are formed from the base and also amongst the lower half of the foliage. These are attractive although somewhat troublesome when moving plants to and from shows. Once your angraecum is big it is best to pot it in a heavy terracotta pot or place a brick in the bottom of the pot in order to ensure your beauty does not get top heavy and risk snapping when blown over in the wind (especially since they flower during the windier times of the year, this can be very sad). When watering a good soaking with a hose or watering-can is best (not just a misting from a spray gun) as this helps to flush away any salts from fertilizers that may be present in the potting mixture and also thoroughly wets the plant. Make sure the roots halfway up the stem get a soaking too, not just the potted roots. This is a great orchid and will give you years of pleasure. They're slow growing and require little attention. They’re very hard to kill.

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