Monday, September 29, 2014

Chrysanthemum, The Autumn Flower

It must be autumn as the signs of the season are making themselves apparent. Just as the flowers of summer are on the wane and the trees reveal their sun-burned heads, cloaking themselves in red and gold and brown, it's about this time in early autumn, when chrysanthemums begin to bloom freely in pots at front doors, in kitchen gardens and parterres and even along the roadsides.  This "late-comer" to the garden party will face the coldest days of October and the dreariest days of November with steadfast cheerfulness in their own rainbow of pink and umber and crimson.  

In the language of flowers, the chrysanthemum represents cheerfulness, first and foremost. Long ago and far away in the lands of China and Japan, these happily adorned flowers originated in the color of yellow, with elegant curling petals atop stiff stems wrapped in shapely silver-green leaves.  They have been around for the better part of 3000 years.

Through generations of floral engineering, not only have the colors of chrysanthemums expanded but also their meanings, from cheerfulness to loveliness, even in the face of adversity, bridging together the colors created by the summer sunshine and the strength needed to stand up to the rigors of winter winds. In fact, in the Chinese tradition of flowers, chrysanthemums are compared to men rather than women and, are considered a flower of honor along with plum blossoms, orchids and bamboo as they all represent strength and nobility. 

Chrysanthemums are edible and make a lovely herbal tea with a decidedly spicy twist that is reminiscent of their aroma.  Many Chinese women will choose chrysanthemum tea over coffee any day of the week.  This autumn flower is known to have health benefits such as being a natural coolant to the human body and can boost immunity.   In fact, ancient people believed that this long blooming flower, able to withstand very cold weather, had captured the soul of both the sky and the earth.  When you think of a chrysanthemum in that way, how could it not contribute to anyone's good health?!

The word "chrysanthemum" comes from Greek words meaning "Golden Flower."  Today, countries throughout the world recognize this sturdy yet colorful bloomer for its cheerfulness in the garden as it is a wonderful shield against the adversity of the coming harsh weather by extending the "Golden Days" of autumn just a little longer.

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