November Flowers

29 November 2023

Chrysanthemum is the flower designated for those born in November.  Its name, like so many others, comes from the Greek for chrysos and anthemon, or gold flower and is part of the Asteraceae family.

This plant, originally cultivated in China, is one of the most recognizable flowers.  They are one of the “four plants” (bamboo, orchids, and plum blossoms make up the other three) and have been depicted for centuries in Asian art forms.  It is thought this group embodies all the human virtues.  In the case of the chrysanthemum, it represents tenacity and the ability to overcome adversity.  Mao Tse Tung replaced the golden flower on the country’s flag with a red one to represent the new republic.

In Japan, they have a Festival of Happiness (September 9) that is dedicated to this bloom.  Not surprising since it is the country’s national flower, the emblem of the imperial family, a symbol for the sun, and is the seal on all Japanese passports.  Arranged correctly, the petals signify perfection. Confucius felt it should be used for meditation purposes.

In the United States it is sometime called the “Queen of Fall Flowers”.  In Australia it is the official flower for Mother’s Day, because of its nickname.

An interesting fact is that it is edible.  Brewed as a tea it is an herbal treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, headaches, and inflammation.

Found in a number of colors and sizes, these pops of brightness cheer up otherwise gloomy days as winter approaches.  They make great house plants or to fill in blank spaces in a floral bouquet.

Commonly referred to as mums, they represent long life and joy in Asian lore but some Europeans view them as symbols of mourning or demise.  In the “language” of flowers, they can indicate a friendship all the way to a secret crush or just general cheeriness.  Each color has its own meanings often depicting the duality described earlier:

  • Red – Love and passion
  • Yellow – Joy ahead or unreturned love
  • White – Truth and honesty or pain following a breakup or parting
  • Green – Good luck
  • Orange – Gentle love
  • Blue – End of love
  • Purple – Kindness or the unbearable thought of losing a loved one
  • Pink – Affection or a fragile love

It is the traditional flower for a 13th wedding anniversary.

Like so many flowers there are some legends associated with it.  Since the original sources for chrysanthemums were China and Japan, it is appropriate that we look at those:

  • In China there was an aging emperor who heard of a magic herb that would bestow eternal life. It was supposed to grow on Dragonfly Island but could only be harvested by someone who was young.  The emperor sent 24 children on the trek that became very hazardous.  When these young people finally reached the destination, the children found no special herb, just a golden flower.
  • From Japan, heaven was becoming too crowded so two of its residents were sent to earth. Godess Iznami created wind, mountains, and sea, but was killed in her attempt to make fire.  The god Izanagi, in trying to find Iznami, followed her but landed in “Black Night”.  He just caught a glimpse of Iznami but was immediately pursued by an old witch.  He fled back to earth and began to cleanse himself in the river.  As he dropped his clothing, each piece became one of the twelve gods.  His jewels became flowers: the bracelet was turned into the iris, another bracelet into a lotus, and his necklace became a golden chrysanthemum.

If you want to plant these flowers from seed, start in the early spring.  If you have young plants, again start after the last frost and get them into your beds.  If you go with a potted plant that you buy at a nursery or even the grocery store, get them into the ground as soon as they are available for sale.  Choose a place that is well drained, the soil is rich, and a sunny spot.  Why should you be concerned about getting them planted so soon?  They need deep roots to be able to withstand the winter and to resume growing in subsequent years.  If you wait until October, they won’t have enough time to establish a firm footing to withstand harsh weather.

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