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Helen, the Chrysanthemum, and Other Flower Names

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After launching a thousand ships and starting a ten-year war, the fair Helen of Troy (initially of Mycenae) settled and began raising a flower garden, though little known to history at large. The writers of the great epics of course disagreed with such an anticlimactic ending and wrote all sorts of fanciful episodes into her life. Ultimately, though, Helen really just cared about different types of flowers. Menelaus had some, Paris others, and Helen’s flowers all reflected the care she put into her relationships and desires. Carefully pruned and selectively chosen, each of her types of flowers reflected exactly what she wanted in a man—and a garden.

Well, more or less. Perhaps Helen really was not very horticulturally oriented. If she were, though, her flower of choice might have been the chrysanthemum. The wild spray of bright yellow petals makes it one of the boldest of all flower types. These flowers bear a Latin-derived name—“chrysanthemum”—that actually is based on a Greek root. (Hence the Helen connection.) Of all the names of flowers that are out there, chrysanthemum is actually pretty practical. It means “corn-flower” or “corn-bloom,” an obvious allusion to the color—but wait! Maize, or the usual yellow corn-on-the-cob that comes to mind with “corn,” was a Mesoamerican crop. Grown among the mighty Mayans, corn never would have graced the dining table of Helen, no matter how fine the Trojan cuisine.

How, then, could the chrysanthemum have been named for sweet, golden corn? Beginning in humanity’s beginnings and spreading through the known world, wheat, barley, rye, and assorted other grains grew and fed the people. The name “corn” actually used to encompass all of these. Picture a sweeping field of glistening golden grains—that is what the ancients meant by “corn-blossom.” That sweeping fertility poured deeply but succinctly into the single bursting beauty of one chrysanthemum bloom captured this one of many flower names. The names of all flowers carry a special significance. Each flower shines with personality, revealing hidden histories and deep desires. As chrysanthemums are Greek and bear a special name, so did Helen, the fair flower of Mycenae. And maybe she did grow a garden.

Types of flowers vary in their meanings and history. If Helen were to have chronicled her love in a garden of chrysanthemums, it would have gotten old. Other flowers would be needed to light up the full complexity of the history of her loves and losses. So it goes today, too; no flower stands alone in beauty and ability to carry every meaning of every situation. It takes all types of flowers to make a bouquet, just like how it takes all types of stories make an epic. And maybe that’s how it really happened. On her knees among blooms and weeds, Helen might have knelt at the war’s end, plucking, planting, and tending. The face that launched a thousand ships then would have smiled down at sprouts and seedlings, bringing beauty to a barren, war-beaten land.


This article has been prepared for you by www.Flower-Dictionary.com, the source for your information on types of flowers, names, and meanings.

 
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