Exotic and historically significant in art and literature, the Orchid is one of the most beautiful and meaningful flowers you can send. One of the oldest flowers, the Orchid’s alluring variety of colours, patterns and shapes has inspired and the exotic plant has made its way around the world in the form of stories and legends.
The orchid has a plethora of varieties, with over 25,000 types being known; with the vast range of orchids, it’s no wonder these plants have established themselves as symbols of a multitude of emotions within religions, cultures and myths from across the world. Orchid Symbolism in India, China and Japan.
Native to Asia and the Mediterranean, the Orchid’s role in China begins with over 2,000 years of cultivation and cultural importance. Depictions of the distinctive flower in art & literature can be found everywhere, with the philosopher Confucius holding the Orchid as a symbol of nobility and strength that should be valued. He likened the wild Orchid, creating beauty and scent within the grasses and woodlands, to the noble artist or philosopher - determined to create even in the face of adversity. Confucius may have seen a little of his own ideals in the flower thus shaping the symbolism of the orchid. The Orchid carries the understanding that, like the flower, even in the face of adversity you will bloom, making the perfect gift for anyone facing a challenge.
Orchids in Greek Mythology
Within the Mediterranean, the orchid inspired a very different set of qualities than those that Confucius bestowed upon the plant.
The Orchid receives its name from the Greek myth, where the Paphiopedilum Orchid - also known as the Lady Slipper - is born of a young minor god, Orchis, who is a little too taken with one of Bacchus’ (The Greek God of wine) priestesses. Predictably, Bacchus has a response for this behaviour, and Orchis is divided across the land, a wild Orchid growing wherever a piece fell.
This legend, retold across Europe as the Greek & Roman cultures collided, gives the Orchid a passionate, fertile status. Indeed, the final piece of Orchis (you can use your imagination as to what that bit was!) landed in the sea, and gave birth to Aphrodite.
Greek women believed that if they that they ate small orchid tubers would give birth to a girl, and if the father of the unborn baby ate large, new orchid tubers she would give birth to a girl.
What was Orchidelirium?
Although Orchids undoubtedly spread across Europe with the Romans and others, the bold explorers of Victorian Britain brought back the orchid back from Asia, and gave it legs to travel beyond the Asian subcontinent in larger numbers, giving rise to the era known as Orchidelirium.
Once the was orchid was introduced to the Western world’s appetite for decadence and imaginations, the Asian Orchid became less of a survivor in adversity, and more of a celebrity. As with many goods from overseas, the Orchid’s rarity in Victorian times gave it an exotic aura and an association with luxury and decadence that filtered throughout popular culture.
Orchidelirium reached extraordinary high levels when collectors of Orchids sent their assistants to far flung corners of Asia to bring back rare and exotic varieties.
As with many Victorian passions, production & profit were blended with scientific endeavour which led to orchid cultivation and preservation in the UK.
The financing of expeditions was provided by income auctioning the rarest specimens for astonishing amounts. Scientific interest ensured seeds and samples became part of Kew Gardens collection and as curation, study and scientific development evolved, it was typical for institutions across Europe to indulge in non-destructive harvest and commercial production of Orchids.
The orchid ignited the imagination of Victorian authors and the orchid was cited commonly in Victorian literature. H G Wells captured the alien quality of the plant in his 1905 work “The Strange Orchid”, he alluded to the mysterious hold they held over humans encountering their scent, whilst also providing a literary who’s who of the Orchid world, explaining the species-specific pollinators and occasional exceptions.
Within our range we have several cards featuring Orchids to precisely suit your message, from the lavish Precious Orchid arrangement with Cymbidium Orchids, ruby Santini and blue Eryngium to the joyful Blackberries & Cream, featuring Dendrobium Orchids as part of a vibrant arrangement. With so many positive meanings and such beautiful flowers, there are few occasions that an Orchid is inappropriate for. However, for one occasion we have created a special arrangement, the Centenary Orchid, perfect for those fortunate enough to celebrate their 100th birthday.