There are flowers at funerals and at birthdays.
There are flowers given to winning athletes while outstanding performers stand at the podium garlanded with flowers.
There are flowers at weddings, initiation ceremonies and at celebrations of varying kinds.
We find flowers on dining tables and on graves.
There are flowers just to give a feel good atmosphere and to emphasise the beauty of surroundings.
If women had their way, everyday would be Flower Day, which, in a way, it is, if one considers flowers handled daily by Interflora and those placed in offices and reception areas worldwide.
And women do it under so many circumstances, from Mothers’ Day, Valentine’s Day to birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s Days. They always have an excuse to compel some saps to dole out cash and buy flowers.
But those are days which are plastered on the calendars, and I dare you to forget them.
There are other numerous days that you will not find on calendars or diaries.
Men cheat on their women and, when they get caught, they send them flowers to prop up an apology.
“Of course, I forgive you, Honey,” the woman coos on the phone, as she deliciously eyes an extravagant bouquet of roses on her desk and forgetting how many times before she has caught her man cheating.
Flowers speak louder than words and tend to turn the tide in favour of an offender all the time. Why women never stop to think flowers are bribes is a mystery never meant to be solved.
“Flowers are not bribes. Not at all,” says Rosa Gaborone-Sekoele, proprietor of Brambles Flower Shop at the Kgale View Mall, “Flowers are something next to a woman’s heart and that is why it is said, ‘Say it with flowers.’ Flowers are symbols of love and passion.”
In love and passion, there is no room for hurt but bliss and that, she says, is what is symbolised by flowers.
“It sometimes seems silly to me to pay big bucks just for a bunch of flowers,” says a cynic on Flowers Aren’t Forever, an on-line magazine. “I mean, they are basically dying plants shoved into a vase. They don’t last all that long. I’m not sure there are too many things any of us would buy which would just be tossed in the trash in a day or two.”
But flowers are used to enforce a message and once flowers appear accompanying a message, we tend to take that message much more seriously.
The ridiculous avalanche of flowers at Princess Diana’s funeral was an indication of how unable we are to express feelings without the aid of flowers.
Even politicians, the world’s most egoistic crooks, are often spotted with flowers in their lapels, especially when they are out to lie to constituencies about “the magnificent strides the country has achieved” under their tutelage. They are garlanded with flowers at airports to divert attention from the senseless trip just taken or about to be taken.
Flowers are notoriously neutral but strongest of allies. From the day we are born, we are bombarded with flowers. We meet flowers again at our funerals.
If flowers are synonymous with funerals, they are also the most cherished thing in a patient’s hospital room. And what about dating or flowers as a symbol of our romantic intentions?
“Romance means flowers. They are beautiful creations of nature, colourful, delicate and small works of art,” says a florist. (Why am I not surprised?) “There are few women in this world who do not like receiving flowers and there are fewer still reasons why flowers should not be given throughout the year.”
In sadness and joy, we turn to flowers for help. And nobody needs the assistance of flowers more than a lover who has been caught cheating, and women always fall for it! They accept the flowers in exchange of forgiving.
We guys send these flowers because of one unquestionable law of nature and that is: women just love to get flowers. They especially love to get flowers at their place of work.
“It’s one thing to get a bouquet at home; that’s nice,” continues our cynic. “But to get a bouquet at work, where all her co-workers can ahhhh and ohhhh…that’s the special ticket. I’ve seen it countless times over the years. Women get flowers at work and they are strutting on air for the rest of the week.”
And they quickly forget the infidelity that brought the flowers to them in the first place, at least until the next time.
“Oh, how very romantic,” she repeats to the covertly smiling repeat offender, who is secretly conscious of the floral seduction and is already busy trying to send a clandestine SMS message to the new office secretary.
Remember the ‘Flower Children’ of the 60s, hippies who wore flowers as symbols of peace and love?
One of the most lasting images I have ever seen was a photograph taken in 1967 when people marched on the Pentagon to protest the war in Vietnam. The marchers pushed carnations into barrels of guns carried by national guardsmen and, thus, gave birth to the essence of Flower Power.
Flowers, like the dove, were used to convey good peaceful intentions.
Flower business is nothing to sniff at, though.
Aalsmee is considered to be the world’s largest flower auction, where, every weekday, 21 million cut flowers and plants are sold. Each year, more than five billion flowers from 7,000 nurseries around the world are auctioned off and shipped all over the globe.
“The climate-controlled auction building, nearly 250 acres, is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s largest commercial edifice,” says Elizabeth Pope, author of Let a Billion Flowers Bloom and expert on gardening and travel. “It is the equivalent of 165 soccer fields. It houses auction rooms, a dispatch and loading center, forwarders, customs and plant protection services, banks and restaurants. About 10,000 people work there.” All living off flowers.
Located just outside Amsterdam, Aalsmeer operates 24 hours a day and is a clearinghouse for flowers from Kenya, Israel, Ecuador and Spain, as well as nearby Dutch greenhouses.
Author Amy Stewart, in her book, Flower Confidential, says that the flower business is a $40 billion global industry “devoted to making flowers flawless.” (Stewart explores the relevance of flowers in our lives and in our history, and, in the process, she reveals all that has been gained ÔÇö and lost ÔÇö by tinkering with nature.)
The US alone spends more than $20 billion on flowers.
February 14, popularly known as Valentine’s Day, must rate as the worst for florists around the world as they are bombarded by the same type of order: two dozen red roses for their loved ones.
“Valentine’s Day rates as by far our busiest day of the year in terms of requests for flowers,” says Gaborone-Sekoele. But usually it is the men sending the flowers; does that mean that we, men, do not like to receive flowers too?
“Men do like flowers but they are a little hard-hearted compared to women,” she says. Men view flowers as superfluous, too expensive, a complete waste of cash or simply unnecessary. Most men view flowers as a threat to their masculinity, saying flowers are too feminine.
Evidently, flowers are for all occasions. From Fathers’ Day to Mothers’ Day. From graduations to celebrating achievements. From birthdays to funerals and congratulations.
Whatever language flowers speak, it is a language understood everywhere in the world. Flowers convey feelings of beauty, joy and love.
And that is something the world definitely needs.
Yes, they have a short lifespan but that’s the beauty of it. After all, the good die young.
No excuses, pal; buy that bouquet!