09 May 2015

Chrysanthemums for Mother’s Day

Did you buy your mother flowers for Mother’s Day? Crysanths for mum, or ‘mums for mom, as the Americans would say?

Mother’s Day in New Zealand and Australia (and many other parts of the world, but not all) is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, so today’s the day. And just as the red rose is the iconic bloom for Valentine’s Day so the chrysanthemum is the quintessential floral tribute for Mother’s Day. Perhaps it’s because the plant blooms in May (at least, in the southern hemisphere) or maybe it's because its name co-incidentally ends in the letters M U M.

This lovely plant, from the family Asteraceae, originated in Asia and north-eastern Europe but is now cultivated by gardeners around the world. Though most loved for the variety of the size, texture and colour of its flowers, the chrysanthemum also has medicinal, insecticidal and culinary uses.

Not only that but this wonder plant is even good for the environment. The Clean Air Study undertaken by NASA examined which common indoor plants could provide a natural way of reducing toxic agents in the air and showed that the Chrysanthemum morifolium can eliminate benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia from the atmosphere. So, when you buy your mother a chrysanthemum this Mother’s Day, you’ll also be benefitting her health.

Such a gorgeous flower has, naturally, been the inspiration for writers and poets throughout history so I thought I would include here some quotations to accompany my images. My photographs were taken at The Wintergarden at Auckland Domain which currently has a very splendid display of chrysanthemums in celebration of Mother’s Day. If you are in Auckland, I would definitely recommend a visit – the blooms are simply glorious. And here’s wishing a very happy Mother’s Day to mums all around the world!

'When, lo! I mark a little way apart / The sovereign glory of this waning year / That now, alone, unheralded hath come, / In gorgeous robes - alas, my fickle heart / Forgets the dead, and laughs that she is here, / The royal queen of fall, Chrysanthemum.' ~ Albert Bigelow Paine, ‘Chrysanthemum’, from Rhymes by Two Friends, Albert Bigelow Paine & William Allen White, M. L. Izor and Son, Fort Scott, 1893, p.26.

'As we watch the summer days depart / And the painted leaves in silence fall, / And the vines are dead upon the wall; / A dreamy sadness fills each heart, / Our garden seems a dreary place, / No brilliant flowers its borders grace, / Save in a sheltered nook apart, / Where gay beneath the autumn sun / Blooms our own Chrysanthemum. ' ~ Hattie L. Knapp, ‘Chrysanthemum’, from Poets and Poetry of Kansas, edited by Thomas W. Herringshaw, American Publishers' Association, Chicago, 1894, p.116.

'Too late its beauty, lonely thing, / The season's shine is spent, / Nothing remains for it but shivering / In tempests turbulent. /  Had it a reason for delay, / Dreaming in witlessness / That for a bloom so delicately gay / Winter would stay its stress?' ~ Thomas Hardy, ‘The Last Chrysanthemum’, Poems of the Past and Present.

‘It was a day as different from others days as dogs are from cats and both of them from chrysanthemums or tidal waves or scarlet fever.’ ~ John Steinbeck, ‘The Crysanthemums’, a short story from his collection The Long Valley.

Fair gift of Friendship! and her ever bright / And faultless image! welcome now them art, / In thy pure loveliness—thy robes of white, / Speaking a moral to the feeling heart; / Unscattered by heats—by wintry blasts unmoved— / Thy strength thus tested—and thy charms improved. ~ Anna Peyre Dinnies, ‘To a White Chrysanthemum’, reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations, 1922, p.117.

Chrysanthemums from gilded argosy / Unload their gaudy scentless merchandise. ~ Oscar Wilde, ‘Humanitad’, Stanza 11, reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations, 1922, p.117.

‘Why don’t you get a haircut? You look like a chrysanthemum.’ ~ P. G. Woodhouse.

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