Flowers—God’s Delightful Gift to Man
WHOSE heart is not gladdened at the sight of a flower? A bouquet of roses can immediately brighten up a day, cheer a gloomy face, lift a depressed heart, even cause friendship to sprout and love to flourish.
In the spring who can pass a body of water, its surface glistening with the beauty of the water lily, without some appreciation of life itself? Or in the fall who can walk through a field decorated with the brilliance of purple asters and gleams of the goldenrod without feeling enriched? What window has not been beautified, or kitchen enhanced, or living room transformed by the presence of lovely, delicate flowers or plants?
Men have referred to them as “the stars of the earth,” “the smiles of God’s goodness,” “an autograph from the hand of God.” “Flowers,” said the English statesman William Wilberforce, “are God’s thoughts of beauty, taking form to gladden mortal gaze;—bright gems of earth, in which, perchance, we see what Eden was—what Paradise may be!” How much less pleasant the earth would be without flowers!
Jesus Christ appreciated the presence of plants and flowers on this earth. He observed them closely and drew meaningful lessons from them. To his disciples he said: “Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith?” (Matt. 6:28-30) To Christ, flowers told of God’s constant care. What do flowers mean to you?
To many men and women flowers are more than creations of decorative beauty. They are delicate living things that excite the imagination. They inspire faith in God and cause thanksgiving and praise to flow to him. The fragile shapes of flowers and infinite colors of perfection reveal a God sensitive to human needs and emotions.
“Think of it,” said a housewife, “we may touch a flower and it may die, still that same flower is sturdy enough to survive a rainstorm unharmed! It’s simply wonderful.” In an interview she spoke of flowers as meaning many things: warm affection, understanding, appreciation and, perhaps most of all, tender love. She liked flowers.
Flowers Through the Ages
Appreciation for flowers is one thing that ancient man and modern man have had in common. The Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Medes and the Persians were ingenious in their decorative use of flowers. Their parks were magnificently designed and their feast and banquet tables were often decorated with awe-inspiring miniature gardens. According to an inscription, King Rameses III of Egypt donated no less than 500 gardens and 19 million bouquets of flowers in honor of the god Amon!
When Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, the ancient art of floral decoration began to show its influence in Rome. In Nero’s courts it was customary to escort the guests inside at great banquets over a carpet of flower petals and offer them a wreath of roses as well, which, when laid upon the head, had a cooling effect.
Some of the most artistic forms of floral decorations have come to modern man from Japan. The ability and skill of the Japanese in this field are closely associated with the deep-seated love they have for the earth.
When flower gardens move indoors, something wonderful happens. They become intimate companions. Windowsills are lined with potted plants and bouquets brighten rooms. Each new shoot becomes important. Every new leaf is watched from earliest infancy. Each flower becomes a personal friend, practically a guest in the home. From small nub to full-blown maturity, hardly a move is missed in this beauty of flower growth.
Some people especially enjoy fragrant flowers. When winter really takes over, how the smell of the outdoors is missed! An indoor garden enables one to enjoy some of that summertime fragrance all year. Flowers are often chosen for the house because of this. Watch them unfold and send their fragrance throughout the house. There are plants the leaves of which, when gently crushed, perfume your fingers with a variety of refreshing odors. What delightful gifts of fragrance!
Creating a flower arrangement is a great art. It means more than thrusting flowers into a vase. The Japanese say that each stem, leaf and blossom is a vital part of a pattern, and that even the space between them can be used to good advantage. Twigs and flowers of various lengths arranged gracefully often combine to make stunning compositions.
A large bouquet is not always necessary for a good effect. A copper can with a few brightly colored zinnias or yellow sunflowers set against a light-colored background can do wonders for a room. The effect is as though the drapes were drawn aside and the sun was allowed to shine in. A few pansies in the kitchen or a little earthenware mug of snowdrops or anemones are an uplift. They make you think that someone is smiling at you all day. And what happy smiles these are!
Long stalks are set off to best advantage when placed in tall vases, but care must be exercised that the bouquet does not become a “broom.” In order to keep the entire arrangement as natural and serene as possible, the stalks must fan out from one central point and not be thrown together in a crisscross pattern.
Design requires a planned relationship between the flowers, the leaves and the container. In a miniature vase, only very small flowers are used. Very large blooms require a container large enough to fit them. A small composition may go on a small desk or table. For a large, heavy table in a spacious room, a massive arrangement in a suitable container is in order. So flower arrangement calls for balance.
By carefully observing the tastefully arranged flowers in flower-shop windows, much can be learned. In a composition of mixed colors, each color may be used in drifts or masses, instead of being spotted about like a Scotch plaid. With few exceptions, blooms are not placed one directly above the other or in ordered steps.
As for containers, in general, neutral colors are best, because these can be used for many different flowers. Gray-green, antique white, and pale gray are well-chosen colors. Forms should be simple and pleasing to the eye.
Flowers for Every Season
Every season has its beauty that can be brought indoors; no single season will let man down. During the winter months, the witch hazel and the blackthorn can be enjoyed to the full. Springtime rejoices us with the ornamental magnolia, the soft-tinted plum, peach and cherry blossoms, alder and willow catkins and the early rhododendron. Summer makes it very easy for us by providing us with a wide variety of blooming shrubs, such as the laburnum, the hawthorn, and the jasmine, while the cut stalks of asters, red barberry, the fire thorn, and the orange sea buckthorn, to name just a few, are in the autumn season especially suitable for creating a rare bit of floral decoration. A simple earthenware tray, with the help of a few berry shrub branches, can be transformed into a fascinating piece of outdoor beauty inside your living room.
In fact, a single, freakishly formed shrub branch, placed in a jar or bottle with a narrow neck, can become a peculiarly artistic creation and a conversation piece in the home. The beautiful fruits or splendidly colored leaves of certain sorts of shrubs provide very fitting decorations that bridge from one season into the next without confusion.
On and on we could go exploring more and more means of bringing God’s delightful gift to man—his beautiful plant creation—within our reach, especially if we normally are not in the position to get out into the open and enjoy the exciting beauty of the outdoors.
What intense joy will be the portion of those who live to see the day when the Creator of the universe will deem it his appointed time to bring his promise of a spiritual paradise also to a physical fulfillment: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing”!—Isa. 35:1, 2, Revised Standard Version.