Updated: Aug 26
Flowers have been around since life as we know it, and its history is as colorful as its petals. From ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece, flowers were significantly used for religious and medicinal purposes. It was not until the Renaissance era through the Victorian era, when flowers are recognized as symbols of politics and fashion. Check out a short history of flowers. - OXO, Flor Box
(Nefertem Egyptian Art)
Based on evidence of paintings, sculptures, and scriptures, the Egyptians adored flowers. With the many varieties of flowers available along the Mediterranean Sea, the lotus (Nymphaea) reigned supreme within the Egyptian heritage for thousands of years. In detail, the lotus was often used for festive garlands, scared wreaths, floral headdresses, and key ingredients for healing potions. Whether florals were used for health and medicinal purposes or for rituals and religion, flowers served as an essential staple for the Egyptian culture.
Ancient Greece and Rome
The adoration of flowers can also be cited across the Mediterranean Sea in Greece and Rome. Alike ancient Egyptians, ancient Greeks and Romans utilized florals for artistic and religious expression. Floral artistry and religious symbols with flowers can be found in temples and vase paintings, and Goddess sculptures. Amongst the many artistic expressions of floral design, in respect to the garland, the cornucopia became a symbol for the Greeks for centuries. The subtle combination of fruits and vegetables piled into baskets with flowers and garlands twisting and spilling over the table, welcoming guests to indulge in the opulent festivities. This stylized combination is what influenced the popularized custom for flower arrangements within the roman culture. The earliest depiction of the lifestyle use of styled flower arrangements dates back to roman emperor Hadrian in the early 2nd century CE. Nonetheless, flowers, especially garlands and classic floral arrangements were popularized by the Greeks and Romans.
Middle Ages and The Renaissance
During the 12th through the 13th century, flowers were synonymous with religion and romance. For instance, within the church institution, the English Rose symbolized virtue and virginity. Within court, amongst nobility and royalty, the same English Rose represented passionate love and union. Referencing back to the English history of the War of the Roses, dating approximately 1455-1485, each opposing noble family proudly represented a rose for their family crest, one white and one red. This generational struggle later resulted in the consolidated creation of the famous family crest of Henry VIII Tudor (1491-1547) two opposing roses combined into one rose to symbolize unity and prosperity. During the Renaissance period, the 15th and 16th centuries, garlands and floral head crowns became a popular fashion and décor for local pageants and feasts. During this time, flowers were utilized less for medicinal purposes, and more towards political and religious symbolism.
(Jan Davidsz de Heem, Flemish Baroque Painting. 1645)
17th and 18th Century
By the time the 17th century rolled around, flowers were becoming increasingly mainstream for all ceremonial events. Because of worldwide exploration, colonization, and trade, new exotic flowers were being introduced throughout Europe. Horticulture issued in a new era of plant and floral enthusiasts. Artistry and florals have always had a synonymous creative dynamic, so it is no surprise how innovative cultivation of floral arrangements was steadfastly with the study of painted canvases of floral arrangements. For instance, within the Baroque Period (1600-1800) painted canvases featured flowers that were more realistic and three-dimensional. The focal point consisted of twisted stems with exposed flower buds, and reversed leaves. By the 18th century, during the Georgian period, popularity of flowers transcended from artistic paintings displayed on sculptures, canvases, and vases, to fashion statements. The English and Rococo bouquets were notably sourced from paintings to the latest fashion, especially within the French court of Louis XIV’s Versailles palace. For the first time, flowers were featured on clothing, not in relation to religion, politics, or love, but simply for the art of fashion.
19th and 20th Century
With the turn of the 19th century, tried and true garden traditions were greatly improved as a result of advancements in horticulture and botany. The industrial revolution made it possible to enhance the floral industry. From ceramic and glass vases, to the invention of artificial flowers, the cultivation and manufacturing of economically priced florals were mainstreamed on a global scale. During this time, the Victorian period brought about brilliant hues and contrasts in floral colors and characteristics. Foliage such as ferns and myrtle were amongst favorite features. By the 1930s, the rise of the Garden Club movement was in effect. This movement ushered in growing guides and rules for floral arrangements. For instance, within the flower industry in Japan, there were three popularized design rules--the mass, the line, and combination of line and mass. Throughout the floral industry, emphasis was placed on design shapes such a crescent, curvature, and contrasting harmonies. Florals were now on display not just for celebrational purposes but for artistic exhibitions, often interpreted abstract ideas, emotions, and natural environments.
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