Give The Man a Bloom!

Words by
Amber Creswell Bell
| October 23, 2013

One of my favourite things to do is to chat with the old-man plant seller at my local growers market. There is something relaxing about chatting to him on the seasons, the weather, plants and tips for growing A1 flowers. His nails are full of dirt, and his life seems so uncomplicated, as he is not hurried by the frantic, relentless noise of social media or popular culture.

However, one day he did say something to me in passing that has stayed with me: “men only get flowers at their funeral”. How awful that this lovely man who loved flowers enough to devote his career to them had a sad hankering to be gifted them. Now I know there are exceptions, and there are men out there who are happily on the receiving end of floral gestures – but we must admit that is the exception, not the rule. Why is it that women get flowers at formals and balls, first dates, anniversaries, when they leave jobs, or host a dinner party, and when they give birth. And flowers are certainly an integral part of the wedding day kit for brides to be, right?

So, why are flowers at funerals for men suddenly the business, after a long life of cut-flower abstinence? And why do we offer flowers to the deceased at all? Why do we not offer them cakes, or paintings, or trinkets or mix tapes?

My mum does not like mauve roses – as she says they remind her of funerals. I have not witnessed the purple-rose-themed funeral phenomenon myself, but I take her word for it. And then I always remember my sister, stopping roadside on a country drive to gather up a beautiful bouquet of wild-growing lilies for her boyfriend’s mother – only to have her burst into tears upon receiving them. They too reminded her of death, and being German – the holocaust.

Likely this all has its roots in floriography, which was all the rage back in the 17th and 18th century. Floriography, or ‘the secret language of flowers’ was the associating of flowers with symbolic definitions – and usually cryptic at the time. Acacia meant secret love, Hydrangea implied frigidness, Columbines denoted faithlessness, red roses spoke of true love while a light pink rose meant joy. Who knew Mint was the hallmark of suspicion; while everyone’s favourite, the Peony, meant shame and bashfulness? There are of course many that are mainstream now like Rosemary for remembrance, Olive for peace and Narcissus for self-centeredness.

And what is the point of all this? Possibly just that despite their meaning – men do like to receive flowers before they croak. Just saying.