The Healing Power of Flowers

As it is spring here in the southern hemisphere, I feel inspired to share with you my passion and practice of healing with flowers.

  • I share some of my photography of the beautiful flowers that grow here in the gardens of TARA as well as some simple flower arranging ideas for your home including creating an altar for a devotional yoga practice.
  • I introduce the healing wisdom of these flowers, the language of flowers and flower psychometry as a way to bring more awareness and healing power to flowers.
  • I describe how to make your own healing posy, as well as simple ritual ideas for you to cultivate your own healing relationship with flowers that you can do in your own home and garden.

First a little background as to how I came to be writing about the healing of flowers

In my transition out of the corporate world I was fortunate to receive career change coaching to assist me in the big changes. When I allowed myself to expand out into ‘blue sky’ dreaming of what I would like to be doing with my time, ‘Florist’ kept popping up, along with my already known passions of teaching, yoga and cultural and social change.

I remember being very surprised by this, as a florist had never been on my career trajectory before. My path up to that point had been a social researcher in health and education and organisational change.  However, as a little girl I remember how I loved growing flowers and herbs and making and creating endless craft items and potions with flowers and herbs.

It did not appeal to me to ‘train’ to be a florist, my desire came purely from my love of growing, picking and arranging flowers.

All my adult life I have enjoyed visiting gardens, particularly flower gardens, and having fresh flowers in the house. For my 40th birthday, just ahead of my health crisis, my husband gave me the beautiful book Fresh Cut Flowers by Gregory Milner, a book which continues to inspire me, my garden and home flower arrangements.

At my mid life crisis, it was my garden and flowers that came back as a core healing for me along with my pathway into feminine yoga. The fresh organic fruit, vegetables and herbs feed me and my family, and the flowers nourish and heal my feminine soul.

“A flower garden is a symbol of the feminine in nature, a specially devised womb for the conception and growth of living forces” McIntyre, 1996

More recently the health researcher in me has become fascinated by the history and practice of healing with flowers.

Flower Healing Modalities

Plants and flowers have long been associated with healing, not just for our physical ills, but also imbalances in the realms of the mind and the spirit that many give rise to bodily symptoms.

There are many forms of healing modalities that use flowers: Homeopathy; Aromatherapy, Flower Essences; Bach Flower and Australian Bush Flower remedies etc. I love these modalities and have drawn on them at different times in my life from wonderful therapists and teachers.

For my own self-care and healing, I enjoy the very simple and natural intuitive healing power of growing and arranging flowers which is readily available to all of us.

As I am sure you know if you are reading this blog, there is something very healing about being with flowers which explains the worldwide love of growing flowers in gardens and displaying flowers in homes, workplaces, hospitals and places of worship.

I recently discovered the term Flower Psychometry. Psychometry, as in the Oxford English Dictionary is the ‘divination of facts about events or people etc. from inanimate objects associated with them’. Making ‘Flower psychometry’ the intuitive resonance and relationship of the person’s ‘psyche’ to a flower.

As many lovers of flowers know, a flower can be a powerful expression of emotional sentiment. There are common emotions, feelings and qualities associated with different flowers which has led to a shared ‘language of flowers’.

Anne McIntyre provides an interesting overview of the history of the language of flowers and how it was a common form of communication in China, Egypt and India and further developed in Turkey and then England in the 18 Century.

Flowers have the ability to express life of the Spirit where they can express the intangible religious/spiritual concepts that are not easily expressed through verbal communication (McIntyre, 1996)

There are many Language of Flower ”catalogues’ easily available online that provide common meanings that have been passed down culturally over time.  Equally, a flower can arouse a very personal response. I enjoy looking at the shared meanings and asking the question “does that meaning resonate with me?”

Personally I have found flowers to be healing on so many levels.  Simply being in the garden and observing flowers with all my senses is a powerful grounding and uplifting practice.  Awakening the sense of smell with the alluring scents; the sense of sight with the vibrant and diverse colours. I love listening to the hum of bees pollinating a plant in flower. Some flowers are edible, so bringing them into the kitchen and our food only deepens this connection through taste and digestion. Flowers can also be a powerful way to awaken the sensual bodily self for example, flower petals floating in a bath.

Growing flowers and bringing them into the home has the important benefit of connecting me to the season. As both Ayurveda and the Five Element Theory have taught me, when we are aligned with the seasons we can more easily achieve greater health and wellbeing.

Flowers are a wonderful symbol of the cycle of life through the different stages of a flowers development: from planting the seed, to growing and developing, to blooming and then eventually withering and dying and lying dormant or seeding for the next years cycle of rebirthing into a new cycle.

My Healing Flower garden

My flower garden here at TARA could be described as wild cottage garden. It is also quickly becoming a collectors garden of healing flowers and herbs. In this blog I focus on flowers. I will be writing more blogs in future on herbs.

We have a range of perennial flowers that emerge again and again year after year, expanding and thereby offering us divisions to extend the garden beds, and to pot up for others to enjoy. Many of the annuals readily self seed offering new creative displays in the garden.

I am continually on the look out for new and interesting flowers that grow well in the extreme climate here in Central Victoria, where we can get summer temperatures as high as 47 degrees celsius, and frosty winters as low as -7 degrees. We grow according  principles of permaculture and companion planting, using the flowers and herbs to benefit all the garden, in particular our food production.

We have distinct seasons and with this a great diversity of flowers so we get to experience the wonders of beautiful floral displays throughout the year.

Below I showcase through photos some of the late winter and spring flowers that are blooming here in the gardens of TARA and I share with you some examples of the ‘Language of Flowers’ and common symbolic meanings of these flowers.  Please see the bibliography at the end of the website for the sources of these meanings.

Pink Camellias 

We have an abundance of beautiful Pink Camellias through the winter and spring.  The Camellia flower speaks to the heart.  Some of the most common meanings of Camellia are: Desire or Passion; Refinement; Perfection & Excellence; Faithfulness & Longevity.

Jonquils and Daffodils

The first sign of Spring comes with the Jonquils. The meaning of Jonquils are many, including ‘Desire for Affection Returned’. For me, the Jonquils and Early Cheer offer the their uplifting visual display and scent of Hope and Joy.

The Jonquils are soon followed (or overlapped) with many varieties of daffodils. While the Daffodil’s primary symbolism is that of new beginnings, rebirth and the coming of spring, it has many others including Creativity and Inspiration; Renewal and Vitality; Awareness and Inner Reflection; Memory; Forgiveness.

Calendula

Calendula flowers readily self sows throughout the vegetable and flower gardens through most of the year. We now have Orange and Yellow single petalled and the wonderful multi petaled orange petal. A wonderful flower in a vase! And this year I have just planted some seeds of a new variety from the Diggers Club, Pacific Apricot, which I look forward to enjoying this summer.

The healing properties of Calendula or marigold has been well known to herbalists for centuries (McIntyre, 1996). The flowers are edible and so it is a great bright colour addition to a salad. See my fresh edible ‘Pot-pourri’ salad recipe ideas.  I also use it to make our own nourishing moisturising cream.

A common flower meaning of calendula is “Despair and Grief and “Prophetic Prediction”. As the flower of the sun, it is a comforter of the heart and spirits.

Healing properties of the Calendula Flower

Orange Calendula Flowers readily self seed and flower throughout the year

The Poppy

Each year through the spring, summer and autumn, we have amazing displays of a variety of poppies, many of which pop up now from seeds from the previous year.

Diverse Poppies in the gardens of TARA 

The symbolism of the Poppy varies greatly from country to country. The opium poppy can be known as ‘the flower of the underworld’.

Some of the most common language of flower meanings include: ‘Restful sleep/Eternal Sleep’; ‘Messages delivered in dreams’; ‘Oblivion’; ‘Imagination’. The Poppy can also symbolise ‘Beauty and Success’/ ‘Extravagance and Luxury’.

The Poppy, particularly the red poppy, can symbolise ‘Consolation’ for a loss or death and is used at Remembrance day celebrations to remember the fallen of various wars and armed conflicts.  Other meanings of the Poppy can be ‘Peace in death’ and ‘Resurrection and eternal life’.

The poppy can be a symbol of the ephemeral pleasures of life… here one minute and gone the next! (McIntyre, 1996)

The Opium Poppy flower essence is used to help find a balance in daily life between activity and rest, the spiritual and the physical, evolution and being (McIntyre, 1996).

As the Opium poppy has potentially addictive qualities, the Californian Poppy offers a non addictive substitute and can be a gentle balancer to the emotions in times of stress.

Crab Apple Blossom

We have two big flowering crab apple trees which give us an incredible show of spring flowers that can be seen from our property for miles.

Whilst the crab apple is not such a good cut flower (as they tend to drop their petals quickly), they are visible through the windows from within the house.

Whilst I could not find a language flower meaning of crab apples, interestingly it is the Bach flower “remedy for cleansing” and was included in the original crisis remedy cream. (The Bach Centre)

The Flowers and the Birds and the Bees 

And finally, it is important to remember that growing flowers is not just healing for us as humans but for the garden and the ecosystem as a whole. Flowers and their seeds are an essential addition to a permaculture garden, as it brings in the birds and beneficial insects for pollination. It is healing in itself to experience the wildlife enjoying the flowers!

Bringing the healing power of flowers into the home.

Below I share with you some of the ways that I bring the flowers from the garden into the home, including the creation of devotional alters; Tussie-mussies or healing posies (including edible posies); and simple flower arranging with the fresh flowers grow in the garden.

I hope that some of these inspire you to pick some flowers and bring them into your life.

Creating a devotional altar

An ‘altar’ is a table, shelf or surface that is used as the focus for a religious or spiritual ritual, especially for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity.

I have numerous altars around the home, including my main altar where I meditate and practice yoga which and is the consistent place for me to go to for my personal devotional yoga practice.

Flowers have become a key part of my home self-care rituals more broadly, not just at the yoga mat. I always have fresh flowers displayed on various shelves and surfaces around the home and often include other symbolic icons including deity statues and or seasonal things I find in the garden. So as I move around my house these devotional altars and flowers bring me great peace, joy and connection to my feminine spirit.

As my students know, I also always bring fresh flowers to create an altar when I teach my yoga classes and workshops. Sometimes selecting a flower that represents a goddess that we are practicing with that week, for example red roses and/or red chrysanthemums for Durga. I love to share the abundance of the diverse spring flowers particularly in the Lakshmi class or in the ‘Second Spring’ self care for menopause workshop. For my Seasonal Yin Workshops I bring in anything from the seasonal garden to help connect us the the seasonal elements.

Tussie-mussie and healing posies

I love the name Tussie-mussie which is the name of a small healing posy.  Tussie-mussies were originally popular in the 16th Century as a bunch of fresh herbs and flowers that were used as a practical way to mask the stench of rubbish and chamber pots emptied on the street!  Tussie-mussies were also used as a form of disinfectant and protection from infectious disease. (Shipard, 2003)

Tussie-mussies now have more general definition and use as a small flower and herb posy that holds a healing intention. You can make a Tussie-mussies from a a specific selection of flowers and herbs to express the unique language of those flowers and herbs.

Tussie-mussie for a lapel

Lapel Tussie-Mussie: White Rose, Granny bonnet and French lavender

Tussie-mussies are a simple and wonderful way to bring healing flowers and herbs into your life and share them with others. They can be a beautiful gifts for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries as well as a get well gift. When I make a Tussie-mussie for a friend, I intuitively tune into the garden and select the flowers and herbs specifically for them.

I love making many little Tussie-mussies for small vases for those narrow shelves, corners, or the bathroom shelf.

Tussie-mussies can also be made up entirely of edible herbs that can then be used when needed in cooking or making a cup of fresh herbal tea. An edible Tussie-mussie can be a wonderful small gift to give a friend not only for the language of the posy, but for them to eat or drink.

Here are two summer Tussie-mussies made with a selection of flowers and herbs. Edible posies such as this, are wonderful placed on a kitchen shelf where you can for example use the spearmint to make cooling drinks through the summer.

Displays of flowers around the home

I love the larger displays of the fresh flowers from the garden through the year.  I find the larger flowers can be very simply displayed oftentimes just one variety to make the seasonal statement!

Camellia’s make a beautiful arrangement floating in a water bowl inside or outside in a garden bird bath.

Jonquils and Daffodils are easy to display and it is a great way to bring spring into the home. I love the large vases full of bunches of amassed Daffodils and mixing the many varieties growing here in the garden. Here are the daffodils we had at our first Spring Open Garden this year.

In the spring/early summer garden we have purple irises which on their own are beautiful.  And I love the buddleia displayed here with rough and random green foliage of scented geranium and lavender stems.

In the late summer garden we have an abundance of the vibrant golden yellow of the Jerusalem Artichokes and in the autumn around Mothers Day, the deep red chrysanthemums, which are classic flower for Mother’s day.

How to create your own Healing Posy

Flower selection and creating a posy can range from a very simple intuitive process to a deeper ritual. I share with you some ideas to get you started.

A very simple healing ritual is to set an intention when picking or selecting the flowers and when putting them together and placing them around the home. This is the main style of flower arranging I do in my home each week which fits more easily around our often busy schedules.

I do it more intentionally on special occasions, including at new and full moons, and when making a posy as a gift for a friend.

Intentional practice can include meditation or a shamanic drum journey, or any practice that essentially takes you away from the rational mind, connects you deeper into your intuitive and creative self, and grounds and connects you to the earth. A meditation that awakens the senses is also beneficial, although I find this naturally happens when connecting with the flowers.

You can simply make the posy, or if you want to deepen the process and ritual, you can them research the language of the flowers in your posy from links below.

Trust the process and Enjoy!

Putting together your posy.

You can either just randomly select flowers in an intuitive order. Or you can be more structured and systematic with the following instructions.

 

  1. Lay the flowers and herbs out by type on the table and, using scissors or your hands, strip all the leaves off the bottom two-thirds of the stem. Flowers will last longer without the leaves fouling the water.
  2. Choose a structural or large flower for the centre of the posy.
  3. Holding your central piece, choose a different and contrasting flower/herb to make the first ring around the centre. Add a piece, turn the posy slightly, add another piece and so on until you have a complete ring.
  4. Choose another flower or herb to repeat this process. Try to choose one that is a different colour, has flowers, or has different-sized leaves to provide contrast.
  5. Some herbs, like lavender, may need more than one ring added to create a bigger impact, so keep adding pieces to get the effect you like.
  6. If you are giving the posy as a gift, you will want to tie up the posy. You could use a rubber band around the top of the stems to hold in place, just where the leaves start. Use a ribbon or rustic string to make more pretty. Get creative with what you can use. You can even try grasses from the garden.
  7. Cut off the bottoms of the stems with secateurs (or scissors if stems are tender) so they have a neat finish.
  8.  You can simple enjoy the healing qualities of your beautiful posy OR
  9. Optional: if you wish to explore the meaning behind the flowers research and reflect on the meaning of the flowers. Start by looking at the ‘Language of Flower’ websites listed below, and reflecting if these meanings resonate with you. See what arises.

This is a beautiful posy my friend made with flowers from TARA last Christmas when we caught up for a drink.  It includes a large red poppy in the centre, with pyrethrum, dried poppy seed heads, lavender, cornflowers, sweet peas, queen annes lace and yarrow.

My Friends Healing Posie

My Friends Healing Posy made with flowers from my garden.

Bibliography

McIntyre, A (1996) The Complete Floral Healer. Gaia Books Limited, London.

Milner, G (2009) Fresh Cut Flowers, JoJo Publishing, Victoria.

Shipard, I (2009) How can I use Herbs in my daily life? 4th Edition. David Stewart, Nambour, Qld.

The Language of Flowers I reference in this blog, come from the following websites:

I invite you to use these to discover the meanings of the posies you make.

The health information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your medical or other health professional. Do not use this information to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider. 

© 2018 Jane Mallick. All rights reserved.