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The Botanical room part 18 - Weddings, anniversaries and flowers

Updated: Oct 15, 2022

In my bouquet sit roses,

Ivy woven in and out,

Dark green and tangled.

In my hair are daisies.


Lost amongst the curls

and winding through,

Within this 'flowery' maze,

thread my hopes and dreams with you.

Not everyone is married, likes marriage or wants to talk about it, and I apologise if it's a subject you can't or don't want to read about at all.

I know not all marriages are happy stories.

This blog is more about the subject's traditions and minor things rather than marriage itself.

I am fascinated by the ritual and weightiness of anniversaries. As time passes, one realises what an odd thing it is to be married, but I can also see why it exists. I certainly have appreciated sharing the raising of my boys. I don't underestimate the significance of the fact that we remain married after so many years. It is a surprise, I suppose, that anyone would want to be with me for that long. But let us not talk about that.

I proposed to my husband when he was at the top of a ladder that I was holding for him; I don't think it was a leap year; I just thought it was about time we got hitched having dated for 10 years, yes 10. We were stretched for money back then, so I made my dress, and we decided on just 30 guests.

When I think back, I was chilled about the whole event and based it mainly on making my mum and dad proud and happy. Mum and I bought the fabric together, and she bought me a piece of antique costume jewellery. This necklace inspired the outfit's colour scheme. The rest of the 'dress' process was up to me and my trusty Singer sewing machine.

I think the whole look cost around £90, considerably less than the groom's suit!

My main object with the dress was that it should cover my arms, as I was, and still am pretty weird about showing my bare arms; I know, call the head doctors.


My mum secretly chose the flowers for my bouquet, to be a surprise, which, on the day, turned out to be red and yellow! Not a combination I would have chosen myself, but hey-ho, it seemed unimportant to question it, well, it was a very pale yellow rose and the day went without a hitch or teardrop ( I did cry in fits of laughter at the best man's speech) as 'something borrowed' I wore my mums costume tiara with ivy woven through. We were married in August.

My sweet mum and dad were engaged for a mere three years and married in a church in Sutton, Surrey, back in the 50s. She borrowed her dress from a friend with the exact tiny waist measurement. It was a very traditional British wedding for the time. A reception at the village hall, bridesmaids and everyone waving them off for a British-based honeymoon. They were married for over 60 years. They were a great match.

My ma and pa (Tiara hidden under the veil)

(Looks like mums bouquet was roses and carnations in white)

Obviously, a wedding day is full of symbolism and includes at least one or two traditions; this appears to me to be the norm these days. Wedding bouquets seem to one tradition that has stayed the test of time.

Historically the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians would have scented herbs and spices in the bouquet to ward off bad luck.

A bouquet would commonly include dill as an aphrodisiac, rosemary for loyalty, wheat for fertility, and ivy for an unbreakable bond.

In the Middle ages, flowers were used as a way to mask odours. Let's not go there. I am sure

the couple would have washed before a wedding, even in those days, maybe?

The Elizabethans began the tradition of dressing the bride's hair with flowers. A "Kissing Knot" was popularised at this time; they were decorative spheres of flowers suspended over the bride and groom's seats, beneath which the couple would kiss to seal the deal.

To steal a momento from the bride's outfit was considered a way to secure your future marriage, so the tradition of throwing the bouquet before leaving the wedding evolved as a way to distract and escape the trophy hunters.

The Victorians celebrated the meaning of flowers and created the idea of the bouquet as we know it today. It both compliments the dress and perhaps says more about the style and tastes of the bride-to-be.

Globe de Mariee (The head dress, of wax flowers, sits on the cushion)

In France, in the 18th century, it was the tradition for a newly married couple to have a Globe de Mariee; this is a pretty stand on which to display their wedding souvenirs. The frame was highly decorative and covered by a glass dome, all symbolising their love for each other.

I bought one of these (sadly without the protective dome); it was so pretty that I just couldn't resist the purchase.

Holding on to the items from a wedding day is also a tradition. I find that all to be a little overwhelming, as what does one do with it in the long term? With having sons, they will not thank me for the inherited booty of my Nan's shoes, my mum's headwear, icing cake flowers and cards and my dress and shoes. To think of these things in the bin is a bit upsetting as they are not important enough for a museum or valuable enough to sell. A dressing-up box could be the answer, so to the attic they will probably go. One could bury them in a time box, I suppose?

I love the idea of hidden messages, especially through objects, flowers or symbols. I chose certain things to paint to hide messages in my paintings, some of which will never be revealed.

Messaging through art has long been practised; it helps to add another layer of interest or intrigue to your work. Flowers, with their parallel history with human development, are the perfect conduits.

I went to see the summer show at the Royal Academy of Arts in London the other day. I was thrilled, as my dear friend Suszi Corio (see had a piece accepted, hung and sold at the show. I like to visit most years as it is a beautiful menagerie of different styles and ideas in art. It also seems wonderfully inclusive of the odd floral artist.

At times like this, at a show of contemporary works, I question why I paint plants, particularly flowers. I have a particular shame about my work that it is somehow less important and just illustration (as if there is such a thing as 'just illustration'). This emotion plagues me when I go to galleries; even though I would argue its relevance, I still feel somewhat inferior. It is as though landscapes are more worthy, architecture more important, and sculpture more valuable to the arts. Is a portrait of a flower any less critical than a portrait of a person? Cannot both be valued? But here I go devaluing what I do again, for both are of value,

'if you name it art, then it is so' that is my own quote I like it enough to put it inside quote marks :).

So I recently returned to my easel and looked to identify the meaning of togetherness through flowers to celebrate and capture what is special about relationships and the rituals of life. Perhaps to find more meaning in what I paint as well.

The following are the commonly understood meanings behind flowers but I believe you can invent some new ones for yourself.

The Hydrangea symbolises togetherness, love, unity and family.

Lily of the Valley symbolises sweetness and purity.

The daisy and lilacs symbolise youthful innocence, with white lilac emphasising purity, violet lilac-spirituality and magenta -love and passion.

Gardenias represent family love, trust, hope and clarity.

The sunflower speaks of warm love, adoration, loyalty and longevity.

The alstroemeria or "Peruvian Lily" represent loyalty, devotion, support and survival.

Chrysanthemum suggests friendship, joy, optimism and fidelity, though this can depend on the country. The poor chrysanthemum symbolises death or loss in several European nations, including Belgium, Italy, France and Austria. The only time chrysanthemum flowers are given as gifts in these nations is as a token of comfort or bereavement. But we can say that the gift of flowers at times of grief is quite a beautiful gesture, as their fragility and aura remind us that we are all transient.

Striped and mixed zinnias are to remember friends no longer with you.

Orchids are luxury flowers often representing love, beauty, strength and uniqueness.

Tulips are heavily twinned to represent perfect love.

Red tulips - true love, purple tulips - royalty, yellow tulips - hopeless love but lately an expression of positive thoughts and sunshine. White tulips - worthiness or a message of forgiveness.

Roses symbolise deep romantic love. A burgundy rose will symbolise a love that has yet to be realised.

Lavender can also symbolise love.

The peony is commonly seen in wedding bouquets.

As the official emblem of China, the flower plays a significant role in holidays and traditions, for example, the Chinese New Year. The Chinese name for "most beautiful" translates to peony.

Other gifts can have hidden meanings too. Because parsley is difficult to germinate, so gardeners would traditionally make three sowings, two for the devil and one for the gardener. It is also said to flourish if you swear profusely while planting it. Gifting parsley to a friend is inadvisable, as it may bring bad luck. If a friend really wants your parsley, it is better to just let them remove a section of the herb while you are not looking to prevent any bad luck coming their way.

And finally, for this little blogglet anyway, the Kadupul flower Epiphyllum oxypetalum (princess of the night or queen of the night) is a species of cactus. It's Known for inducing calmness in those lucky to see it, and the angelic Kadupul can also spread an intoxicating

perfume. My dear little mum had this very plant; one night, it bloomed, and we all came to see it and smell the aroma. The look of wonder and pride that the flower had bloomed in her care is the loveliest image that will stay for me forever.

In memory of my mum Beryl November 1930- August 4th 2019

with thanks for the information on floral etiquette researched from -

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Aug 26, 2022

Billy, such a lovely piece and as others have said thanks for sharing your feelings about such personal things. I’m sure you have great arms (after all they are attached to those very talented hands and fingers - so they must be pretty good )!

Aug 26, 2022
Replying to

Haha well they were nice and I didn’t appreciate them at the time , a female burden ! Thanks for your kind reply x


Thank you for sharing such precious memories with us. They are part of the bedrock of your life, a platform on which you will keep evolving as a person and as an artist. I suppose it also takes a bit of a leap of faith to express and post such personal feelings and memories, so I’d like to thank you for the privilege.

Aug 10, 2022
Replying to

You are welcome, I am the sort of gal that likes family centric stories and love seeing other peoples family/holiday pictures, I guess you write about what you like talking about or listening to, I think.


Kate Kay
Kate Kay
Aug 09, 2022

Thank you Billy for the beautiful sensitive blog, I so enjoyed it, and your smile resembles that of your dear Mum. Catherine Kay

Aug 09, 2022
Replying to

Thank you Kate I am so pleased you liked it ❤️


Sherry Lee
Sherry Lee
Aug 08, 2022

Billy, That was just beautiful. You are an exact mesh of your mom and dad. I went to a wedding last weekend and the flowers were extravagant. The brides bouquet was made completely of white orchids. The flowers at the wedding and reception were combinations of hydrangeas, roses, orchids, tulips…all white. The cost was shared with my sister in law which came to $25,000…just for the flowers! I can’t imagine spending that amount although they were so beautiful. I’d love to share pics with you if you’d like.

Aug 08, 2022
Replying to

Yes I would love to see those pictures. It seems incredible to have spent so much on flowers but ours is not to reason why, I hope it brings them good luck in their lives together❤️

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