Although it is said that ‘Diamonds are forever’ the same cannot be said for flowers. In fact their beauty lies in the fact that they do not last forever but are caught in a brief moment of time at their best. This makes them symbolic of a certain kind of beauty that is transient. As W. B. Yeats put it: ‘All that’s beautiful fades away, like the waters.’
The climax in a plant’s life is its flower. Each annual plant has put its whole life into the production of its flower. In the case of perennials the flowering stage is the culmination of the year’s growth and endeavour. In the English language this is conveyed metaphorically when people refer to a person being, ‘in the bloom of life’.
Quickly enough beauty fades away. The flower is fertilized; its petals droop and drop off or turn into hard shells that protect the seed until it is dispersed. The practical business of regeneration gets underway after the brief flirtation with eternal beauty at the time of flowering.
Each bloom represents what beauty is. The petals with their delicate petals are arranged symmetrically to lead the eye (or the hungry insect) to a centre. The structure unfolds effortlessly into perfect symmetry, unlike a diamond which has to be cut and polished. The bloom has its own facets, honed into perfect shape by evolution.
Like fluttering eyelashes and slanting eyes, flowers too have their gentle ways of encouraging interesting visitors. Foxgloves lay a little pathway of pebble like dots on their petals leading bees and insects into their interiors. Lilies curl back their long petals invitingly with their stamen erect and ovaries waiting for fertilization. The amazing diversity of patterns, colours, textures and shapes in flowering plants is a great part of the charm of life on earth.
Flowers are well aware of the power of perfume. They even go so far as to exude the scent of rotting flesh when flies are their main carriers if pollen, but most prefer scents that remind bees of irresistible sweetness. The fragrance of roses has made them a favourite for human beings too and it is sad that breeders seem intent on eliminating the fragrance of tunnel bred roses.
The beauty of flowers is fragile and transient but their symbolism is powerful. The wreath or posy or red roses that mark human events convey unspoken emotions of joy, or sadness or commiseration or simply love. Somehow a floral gift is an expression of finer feelings. It is a mark of civilized behaviour. A bunch of flowers in a building makes a very strong statement about the people who put it there.
Online facilities facilitate gifts of flowers. They can be sent on the spur of the moment with the touch of a few buttons to mark an occasion or simply express an emotion. Gifts may be sent from any corner to any corner of the world. Thought the flowers themselves may quickly fade the unspoken emotions and thoughts behind them may last forever.