ASTERACEAE, The Aster family
These were my secret surprises- well, I knew about my Christmas shirt, but the matching flowers were a sweet surprise. The mums are mixed with pink peonies (From where this time of year? New Zealand apparently,) incense cedar covered in pollen cones and a few stems of Lysimachia clethroides (Gooseneck loosestrife.) These mums are of the ‘Incurve’ type of florists’ chrysanthemums, C. x morifolium. There are about a bazillion varieties, but these may be ‘Sarah Louise’ or ‘Egret’.
In addition to being immensely popular in arrangements and gardens, mums are used in cooking and industry. The boiled flowers are used to make a tea that is tasty and is used in easing flu symptoms. Chrysanthemum coronarium is the edible mum. Its greens are eaten in stir-fry or tempura. Mums are also the source of pyrethrum, a natural (but not non-toxic obviously) insecticide that is used in agriculture and to treat parasites.
The symbolism of Mums varies from place to place. White mums signify truth, while red simply say ‘I love you’. Mums are associated with funerals in Italy and sometimes the United States and Japan, but also with happiness, pleasure, leisure and the sun.
I think I remember Eireann telling me that like camellias, they are not worn in Japan by young women because they do not age gracefully, while ephemeral plum blossoms are considered appropriate.
In China Chrysanthemums signify longevity, and as elsewhere are associated with autumn. In Buddhist tradition, mums are a common offering or gift, thought to bring good luck by attracting yang energy. As an autumn flower, they represent the beginning of a period of rest after harvest.