Lest We Forget – ANZAC Floral Traditions

For many young Australians, the long-held traditions of ANZAC Day ceremonies are upheld, without necessarily understanding the reason why they exist.

As our florist team begin preparing traditional wreaths and button holes for ANZAC ceremonies this Friday, we thought it apt to provide an important mini ‘history’ lesson on the floral traditions surrounding the annual ANZAC memorial day.

Laurel Wreaths

ANZAC wreaths are typically woven through with laurel leaves. This is a commemorative symbol from centuries past, when laurel was used by the ancient Romans to crown victors and the brave as a mark of honour. (1)

Anzac Day Wreath with Laurel

Rosemary Buttonholes

Rosemary is also a long-held ANZAC tradition. In literature and folklore, rosemary is an emblem of rememberance. In ancient times, rosemary was supposed to strengthen memory. Greek scholars wore rosemary in their hair to help remember their studies, and the association with remembrance has carried through to modern times.

On ANZAC Day, the wearing of small sprigs of rosemary in the coat lapel, pinned to the breast or held in place by medals is thus synonymous with remembrance and commemoration. (3)

Red Poppies

In Australia, single poppies are usually reserved for wearing on Rememberance Day November 11, while poppy wreaths are laid on ANZAC Day memorials and honour boards due to their association with the Rememberance tradition. (2)

Why red poppies you ask? 

Legend has it that the poppy goes back to the time of the Mogul leader, Genghis Khan, as the flower associated with human sacrifice. However the modern story of the poppy is no legend.

This same red poppy grew profusely in the trenches and craters of the war zone, and also flowers in Turkey in early spring – as it did in April 1915 when the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli.

red poppy

In the years immediately following World War 1, the British Legion was established as a means of coping with the problems of hundreds and thousands of men who had served in battle.

In 1921, a group of widows of French ex-servicemen called on the British Legion Headquarters. They brought with them from France some poppies they had made, and suggested that they might be sold as a means of raising money to aid the distressed among those who were incapacitated as a result of the war.

The first red poppies to come to Australia, in 1921, were made in France. (3)

At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first-aid post, Colonel John McCrae wrote about the poppy on a page torn from his despatch book: (3)

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The Torch: be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.

Lest We Forget.


1. http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/customs/wreaths.asp

2. http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/tff/rosemary.html

3. http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/tff/poppy.html




Before we worked out how to travel to the moon, before the advent of Facebook, before females could vote, and gay couples could openly walk down a street holding hands, we used flowers as a silent means of communication, or ‘floriography’.

Floriography was instigated by the Turks in the 17th century as a way for concubine women who could not read or write communicate to with each other. (1)

Language of Flowers

Then along came Lady Mary Wortley. A rather worldly and well-traveled wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople, Lady Wortley was instrumental in turning this Turkish concubine tradition into a European ‘floriography craze’, penning a letter in 1718 about the ‘Secret Language of Flowers’ she’d been exposed to while travelling in Turkey. (1)

Could Lady Mary Wortley be considered a catalyst for the future development of a billion dollar worldwide florist industry, giving and receiving flowers as a symbol of love, compassion, thanks, and congratulations? 

The First Floral Language Dictionary

The floriography fad well and truly got underway during the Victorian era, with what is believed to have been the first dictionary of the flower language, a small yet highly popular reference book entitled ‘Le Language des Fleurs’, written in 1819 by Louise Cortambert, under the pen name Madame Charlotte de la Tour. (1)

Without the aid of Facebook relationship status updates, floriography enabled ‘Downton Abby-esque’ women (and men) to communicate feelings that the strict propriety of the times would not allow. We can just imagine this tiny little dictionary of secret language being carried in the folds of petticoats by young ladies, its flower meanings memorised from front to back.

violet posies

William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and many others, all used the language of flowers in their writings. (2)

In fact, floriography was so popular and ingrained into society, that the 1884 publication ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Jean Marsh (illustrated by Kate Greenaway), continues to be reprinted to this day. (2)

Language of Flowers Postcard

Nosegays and Tussie-Mussies

Armed with their floral dictionary, Victorians would exchange small “talking bouquets,” called nosegays or tussie-mussies, which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. (2)

However with so many new floral dictionaries being published it was important your loved one used the same dictionary to avoid any ‘misunderstandings’ in your secret communications! It would be ever so embarrassing handing a lady a nosegay of gardenias instead of yellow roses, expressing ‘ecstasy’ instead of ‘friendship’…

Tussie Mussie!


Flower symbolism did not just begin with the Victorian era ‘floriography’ craze. Although flower meanings were often derived from the appearance or behavior of the plant itself (for example, the mimosa, or sensitive plant, represents chastity because the leaves of the mimosa close at night, or when touched), flower meanings can also be traced back to legends from ancient Greek mythology.

For example, the exquisite Anemone flower is tied to a large assortment of symbolism.

Anemone     Anemones

Whilst in floriography the Anemone represents anticipation and unfading love, good luck and protection against evil, the actual origin of the Anemone flower’s name is a perfect example of its place in mythological history. Anemone, or ‘windflower’, is Greek for ‘Daughter of the Wind’.(2)


The red anemone flower in particular, is often associated with the death of Adonis, who was stabbed by the sharp tusks of a wild boar. Aphrodite, the beloved of Adonis, heard his cry and ran to him. She found that, as he died, the anemones around his body turned from a crisp white to a shocking red. She then named these blossoms the windflower – namely because the same wind that gently opens the flower will also blow away the faded petals, thus representing the transitory nature of her lover’s life. (1)

Still other mythology connects the anemone to magical fairies, who were believed to sleep under the petals after they closed at sunset. (4)

Floriography: A Sample of Flower Meanings

Next time you send flowers, check that, a tussie-mussie (!) you might want to play around with some of these century old floriography meanings for a bit of fun…

Aster — Symbol of love
Basil — Best wishes
Bay leaf — “I change but in death”
Bergamot — Irresistible
Bluebell — Constancy
Carnation, pink — I’ll never forget you
Daffodil — Regard
Daisy — Innocence, new-born, “I share your sentiment”
Fennel — Flattery
Fern — Sincerity
Forget-Me-Not — True love
Gardenia — Ecstasy
Geranium — “You are childish”
Hyacinth — I am sorry, Please forgive me
Ivy — Fidelity, friendship, marriage
Jasmine — Grace
Jonquil — “I hope for return of affection”
Lavender — Luck, devotion
Lilac — First love
Lily — Purity, modesty
Orchid — Love, beauty, refinement
Pansy — Loving thoughts
Poppy, red — Consolation
Rose, red — Love
Rose, pink — Grace, beauty
Rose, yellow — Friendship
Rosemary — Remembrance, constancy
Sweet Pea — Departure, tender memory
Violet — Loyalty, modesty, humility

Big bunch of roses

Floriography with roses even extends specifically to the actual number given…. 

Single bloom red Rose – Love at first sight or I still love you
Single Rose, any color – Gratitude or simplicity
2 Roses – Mutual feelings
3 Roses – I love you
7 Roses – I’m infatuated with you
9 Roses – We’ll be together forever
10 Roses – You are perfect
11 Roses – You are my treasured one
12 Roses – Be mine
13 Roses – Friends forever
15 Roses – I’m truly sorry
20 Roses – I’m truly sincere towards you
21 Roses – I’m dedicated to you
24 Roses – Forever yours
25 Roses – Congratulations
50 Roses – Unconditional love
99 Roses – I will love you all the days of my life
108 Roses – Will you marry me?
999 Roses – I love you till the end of time

Hmmm, three guesses how many roses I’d like to be given??!!!


1. http://www.santamonicaflowers.com

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_flowers

3. http://www.santamonicaflowers.com/blogs/news/2496942-anemones-are-your-friends

4. http://www.joysflorist.com/flowersmeaning.html

Time to Plant your Spring Flowering Bulbs!

Who would have thought an ugly onion looking object could grow into something as beautiful as this?

Spring flowering bulbs     Muscari Rosa Alba

Autumn, specifically mid-March to late May, is the ideal time to plant Spring flowering bulbs in Australia. And you don’t need a garden to be able to experience pleasure as the first green tendrils breaking free from the earth at the first signs of Spring.

Bulbs can be planted in pots or vases to brighten up your interior, window boxes or gardens with fully portable displays. Not only are they considered to be low maintenance and easy to grow even for the rookie gardener, watching their foliage and flowers unfold from an odd looking onion into an object of beauty is pure magic.

Sweet little pots of sprouting spring bulbs


Daffodils, Jonquils, Tulips, Amaryllis Lilies, Hyacinth, Bluebells, Snowdrops, Anemones, Freesias, Alliums, Ranunculi, Dutch Iris, Grape Hyacinth, and more…


Step One: Select a deep pot or container with good drainage, preferably at least 3-4 times the depth of the bulbs you are planting.

Step Two: Fill your pot with a commercial potting mix (don’t add manures or compost). A slow release fertilizer can be mixed into the potting mix and applied each year as the bulbs emerge. (1)

Step Three: Plant your bulbs with the pointed side facing upwards (the only exception to this is Anemone and Ranunculi, if you are unsure you can always plant bulbs on their side and they will always grow upwards!). Aim to plant them twice as deep as the height of the bulb and the same distance apart as a general guide. (2)

Step Four:  Sit your pot in the shade until the leaves get to around 10cm, then place in full sun. Once flowers start to open, bring your pot indoors for everyone to enjoy. (3) 

Muscari Armeniacum

Step Five: Pots should be kept moist but not wet throughout the growing season, until the foliage dies off completely, to ensure the bulb is able to generate the energy it requires to produce next year’s flowers. Don’t be tempted to cut off the yellowing foliage!

Step Six: Once dormant, they should be planted in the garden to recover for the next season, protected from summer heat and excess water if possible. They are unlikely to re-flower consecutively each year if left in their pot, unless they are in an extremely large container.(2)

Alliums      Muscari armeniacum 'Valerie Finnis'


Groups of containers planted with a variety of flowering bulbs make a spectacular display. 

According to www.homelife.com.au, Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are all “excellent bulbs for small containers”.

Their website recommends to plant “pansies on top of the bulbs will soften the effect and the bulbs will grow through a carpet of colour”.

“Colour code your pansies to contrast or complement the colour of your bulbs, whatever your colour scheme. I like to plant 7-9 bulbs into each pretty pot; don’t be stingy!” (3)

Flowering pots of spring bulbs


To get the most out of a limited amount of planting space, This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook likes to make a thick “bulb sandwich.” “All you need to do is dig one big hole, then layer in three bulb varieties according to their different bloom times,” says Roger. “Crocuses, tulips, and daffodils are a good trio.”

According to Roger, “Spring will bring sequential waves of flowers in the same spot. As the early-blooming crocuses fade, they will be followed a couple of weeks later by fresh-faced tulips, then, in another few weeks, a raft of daffodils. An added bonus: Each plant’s new growth will help camouflage the wilting flowers and leaves of its predecessors”.

“The hole should be 25cm deep, but can be any size or shape. A 30cm diameter planting area, for example, can accommodate 7 to 9 daffodil bulbs. Follow the earlier instructions for depth of planting and spacing”.

“After covering those deep bulbs with 10 – 13cm of soil, put in 9 to 12 tulips, which do best 12 – 15cm below the surface. Add another 5 – 8cm of soil, and the planting area is ready for 12 to 15 small crocus bulbs. Fill the hole to the top with more soil and soak the area with water. Keep it moist throughout the fall, then leave it dry until spring. The reward is a four- to six-week-long feast of flowers”. (5)

A 'bulb' sandwich


eHow Contributor Erica Roth describes how the likes of narcissus (ie. daffodils and jonquils), amaryllis and hyacinths can all grow from the bulb stage hydroponically (in water, without soil) in a glass vase. To do so, follow her steps below (and let us know how you go!):
Hydroponic bulb growing
Step One: Buy Vase – Knowing how wide a vase you need will depend how large the bulbs are. Line the bottom of the vase with around 5 – 10cm of small pebbles. The rock base serves as a stabilizer for your bulbs.
Step Two: Prepare your flower bulbs by removing any areas of the roots that appear brown and withered, as these parts of the plant are dead. Snip the dead roots off with a scissors and discard.
Step Three: Put the bulbs (root-side down) on top of the pebbles. Add some more pebbles on top of the bulbs to prevent them from floating away.
Step Four: Add water to the glass vase only until the bottom 2.5cm of the bulbs are covered. The entire bulb should not be submerged in water.
Step Five: Keep your vase of flower bulbs in a warm place that reaches at least 21 degrees Celcius, but it should not be placed in direct sunlight. The bulbs need to grow shoots before they can tolerate full sun. This process may take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. Observe your individual bulbs for the right time: when they’ve grown shoots.
Step Six: Water your flower vase as needed when you see the water level going down below the base of the bulbs. You may only need to water a couple times each week when the shoots are young.
Step Seven: Relocate your glass vase to a sunny spot, either indoors or outside once the bulbs have begun to flower. At this time, you can transplant the flowers to an outdoor flower bed if you wish, or you can leave them in the vase (5).
Tulips grown in glass vases         Daffodils growing in jars

1. http://www.daffodilbulbs.com.au/downloads/bulb-planning-guide.pdf

2. http://www.tesselaar.net.au/how-to-plant-and-grow-bulbs

3. http://www.homelife.com.au/gardening/how+to+grow/autumn+bulb+planting+,5042

4. http://www.ehow.com/how_5071158_grow-bulbs-glass-vase.html

5. http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20428384_20852089,00.html?crlt.pid=camp.JEfPN7ejjarN