Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our lilies of the balcony

There was a great deal of excitement in our home last week. My wife Annie was ecstatic. The potted lily plant in her balcony garden had flowered. She started telephoning/emailing everyone she could think of to break the happy news. Some of the close ones in Chennai came home to see the beauties.

I took a few photographs. Two of them are reproduced below (click to enlarge):

Stunning, aren’t they?

Lily is a fascinating flower. And an ancient one. Images of lilies discovered in Crete date as far back as 1580 B.C. These flowers which grow mostly in temperate and tropical areas have an important place in European mythology. There is a story that lilies of the valley grew from Eve’s tears when she and Adam were banished from Paradise. Lilies are also mentioned in the Songs of Solomon.

The Greeks claimed that lilies sprouted from the spilled breast milk of Hera, the queen of gods. That would have been the white lily, to start with. The Germans agreed with this story with difference that the milk was that of their Goddess Juno. The Roman’s maintained that there was a link between lilies and Goddess Venus.

In Christianity, lilies have a connection with Virgin Mary. Several paintings of the Annunciation (Angel Gabriel informing Virgin Mary about her conception of Christ) show the Angel carrying lilies. Here the flower signifies purity, chastity and virtue. The Egyptians associated lily with fertility. In China lilies are involved in Feng Shui, native medicine and even in cooking.

In ‘saying it with flowers’, lilies have an important role. The ‘flower language’ was developed to a high level during the Victorian era. The etiquette or stringent protocol of that period denied easy expression of feelings and emotions between men and women. To overcome this problem a subtle method of communication through flowers was created. Most of the blossoms commonly available in England and the way they were delivered to the recipient were attributed certain significance.

For instance, sending an orange lily could have meant ‘I burn for you’. Even dreams in which lilies figure are given certain interpretations. Some of the significance attached to lilies (of different colors) includes purity, innocence, wealth, pride, majesty, virginity, chastity, wealth, virtue, sweetness gratitude, beauty, royalty, chivalry, friendship and devotion.

Today, of course, the meanings of flowers have changed from Victorian times. It would be interesting to discuss the subject with a knowledgeable florist.

Lilies have been associated with royalty in the West. The fleur-de-lis which in French means lily flower has been used in many coats of arms and flags in Europe. It was carried by Frenchmen to many parts of the world. This beautiful design of a stylized lily is also used in art work.

Coming back to our lilies of the balcony, we neither know its specific name nor significance. There are many species in the lily (Liliaceae) family. But they were beautiful and we are waiting for more.

Reproduced below are some lily postage stamps of Soviet Union:

Photos: Top two by me. Copyright reserved. Last four images from Wikimedia Commons.

Related posts:

Photos: Lilies that grow in Kerala

Water lilies: here is a picture of nature's perfection, imperfection


Nona said...

Thanks for sharing this information! Saying with flowers was revelation.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Nona, thank you for the comment. I am glad that you liked the post.

Kamini said...

Such beautiful photos, and a very interesting write-up, too. How nice to see such lovely flowers blooming in one's own balcony!

Abraham Tharakan said...

Kamini, thank you very much.


Thank you for the pictures, and the information.

These lovely lilies bloom usually around Easter, and are a joy to behold. Congratulations.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji Muthukrishnan, thank you.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji, thank you.

Sunita said...

Those flowers are gorgeous! I'm sure everyone who came to see them went home feeling they must get one too.
Thanks for all the detailed background information about the lily, I really enjoyed reading that.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Sunita, I am glad that you liked the post.

Joan said...

Okay, you got me excited about my Oriental Lily bulbs planted 6 wks ago and near to flowering. I just wanted to play with bulbs and looked forward to adding fragrance to my balcony.

Thank you for the extra information. Nice photos!