Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Fascinating facts

The language of flowers

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

It is an enchanting idea to me that flowers express themselves so clearly that they have become recognised symbols of their own energy. They are, to me, a hopeful representation of the notion that if we could be truly ourselves, without the shroud of our doubts and fears and unobscured by our 'shoulds', that self expression would be effortless and that we would be completely understood.

There is a language, little known, Lovers claim it as their own. Its symbols smile upon the land, Wrought by nature's wondrous hand; And in their silent beauty speak, Of life and joy, to those who seek For Love Divine and sunny hours In the language of the flowers. –The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

We have been attributing meaning to flowers for so very many years that the 'language of flowers' now even has its own  name - floriography.  Victorians sent coded messages using flower arrangements. For example;

  • roses symbolise love

  • daffodils symbolise chivalry

  • lilies symbolise beauty

  • daisies symbolise purity and innocence

  • gerberas symbolise cheerfulness

The colour of the flower conveys meaning too.

  • red - passion and love

  • orange - expansion, growth, and warmth

  • yellow - clarity, truth and intellect

  • green - renewal, growth, hope, health and youth

  • blue - dreams, inspiration, tranquility

  • indigo - emotions, depth, intuition and expressive moods

  • violet - royalty, nobility and spirituality

If you are in the mood to explore the language of flowers a little further, Kate Greenaways' Language of Flowers is available to read online for free here. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has a more modern Flower Dictionary as well as a charming novel, The Language of Flowers.

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series or see the rest of the monthly series in the collection.

Super powers of the mystical lotus flower

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

The lotus is a mystical, ancient flower. It is native to Asia and Australia, and it is no ordinary plant. It seems to have super powers most other plants do not.

For example, the lotus is able to regulate the temperature of its flowers much like warm blooded animals regulate their body temperature.  The lotus plant can live for a thousand years.  The seeds are also remarkable.  A lotus seed that was approximately 1300 years old was successfully germinated in 1994.

It is small wonder that it is a significant spiritual symbol in multiple cultures.  Hindusim, buddhism and the ancient Egyptian civilisation all associate the lotus with purity, beauty and enlightenment. While each draws a slightly varied meaning from the lotus there is much similarity in the fundamentals of the underlying association as Dean Ravenscroft explains in this article.

One of the fascinations of the lotus flower is that no matter how murky the pond in which it grows, it always emerges clean and beautiful. Some ancient scholars believed the lotus closed its petals and sank beneath the water at night to rise from the water in the morning. Accordingly, it is sometimes associated with rebirth.   In reality, the bloom rises from beneath the surface over a period of three days and then blooms in the sunlight.

The roots of the plant are in the pond bed, the leaves float on the surface, and large strong stems raise the blooms several centimetres above the surface of the water. The plant can grow very large - from 1.5 to 5 metres tall and 3 metres wide.  Some lotus flowers can be 20cm in diameter.

The lotus also has more practical uses beyond its symbolic, spiritual value. All of the plant is edible, leaves, flowers, stems, seeds.    In traditional Chinese medicine, eight separate parts of the lotus flower are used for a variety of ailments, especially those relating to fevers, irritability and bleeding.

The lotus appears in different colours. In Buddhism, each colour carries a different symbolic meaning:

  • White - represents spiritual perfection, total mental purity and symbolises awakening
  • Pink - the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. It is considered to be the true lotus of Buddha
  • Red - relates to love, compassion, passion and true purity of heart.
  • Blue - associated with victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge
  • Purple - the mystic lotus associated with esoteric sects. The eight petals of the lotus represent the noble eightfold path (a principal teaching of the Buddha). Following this path is thought to lead to self awakening.

By now, you might be wanting to grow and care for a lotus flower of your own. If so, you will probably want to head over here for some helpful tips. But if that sounds like too much hard work.... you probably just want to look at some photos of beautiful lotus flowers... try this instead.

Explore more of the Flower Faces series or see the rest of the monthly series in the collection.

Gerbera daisies bring more than a little cheer to your day

Fascinating facts, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse

Is there anything more cheerful than a bowl of Gerbera daisies? Daisies can be something of a humble, understated little flower, but the Gerbera is not easily overlooked.  In fact, I think they look a little bit fancy.

They come in a glorious range of bold colours and can be single, double, quilled or crested double. See....? Fancy!

Like me, the Gerbera comes from Africa. It was discovered by a Scotsman, Robert Jameson, near Barberton in South Africa in 1884. My grandmother used to call them Barberton daisies. Now I know why...

Gerberas come in an impressive range of vivid colours. With their beautifully large heads and thick, sturdy stems they are an excellent choice of cut flower, that lasts well in the vase. In the garden they are perennial only in the warmer climes - tough winters are too much for African beauties.

All daisies are associated with innocence and purity.  Gerberas have the added association of cheerfulness. But their benefits go beyond brightening one's day. They are effective at removing some chemicals from the air like the tricholorethylene  that is used in dry cleaning. They also filter out formaldehyde and the benzene that comes with inks. So not only are they merry and bold, but Gerbera daisies may actually be decreasing our risks of cancer, asthma, allergies and auto immune diseases.

We are probably all aware that most plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen during the day. However, unlike some other plants, Gerbera daisies continue to do so at night.  This means that having a Gerbera daisy plant in your room at night can increase the level of oxygen in the room resulting in  a better night's sleep.

Columbia and the Netherlands are currently the largest suppliers of cut Gerberas. The Gerbera daisy is the world's fifth most favoured cut flower.  In case you are now wondering, the four most popular cut flowers in the world are rose, carnation, crysanthemum and tulip, in that order.

So go on, brighten your day, breathe a little easier - get yourself a Gerbera Daisy...


Explore more of the Flower Faces Series and the rest of the monthly series in the Collection.



You don't need to be large or loud to make a significant impact in the world

Fascinating facts, Self Developmentphoenixarttally

You don't need to be large or loud to make a significant impact in the world. The world often feels to me like such a noisy, crowded place.  It seems like you need to have a sizable 'presence' just to be heard. Those that seem to be capable of making a difference appear to be the enormous corporations,  world renowned speakers, or 'celebrities' with gazillions of  social media followers.

But that doesn't mean that the small, quiet ones are not doing important work, without pomp and ceremony. The best symbol of this is the ladybird.

Small, but beautiful. Clear of purpose. Not needing attention to do their good work in the world.

They are quite fascinating little creatures. Did you know...

  • Ladybirds are loved by farmers gardeners because they are nature's pest controllers. They eat aphids and scale insects, managing them more effectively than poisonous chemicals.
  • They can defend themselves by emitting hemolymph from their jointed legs (reflex bleeding). Hemolymph is a bitter-tasting, foul-smelling fluid.  The beautiful red and black markings on the ladybird serve as a warning reminder of this for predators.
  • There are some ladybirds that are able to change colour to blend into the reeds they inhabit. They are beige with black spots until the spring when they turn bright red to warn off those predators.
  • The number of spots of the ladybird varies by species. Some have only two, others seven. You may even come across a ladybird with up to 19 spots.
  • Despite the name, not all ladybirds are girls (obviously...) but it is very hard to tell the males from the females without a microscope (or an entomologist)
  • Ladybirds from Australia were introduced to California in the 1880's to save the citrus trees because of their effectiveness in controlling pests.  This was so successful that more than 100 different species of ladybird were then brought to North America.
  • Ladybirds love cosmos and dill, so if you want to attract more ladybirds to your garden try planting those!

But whatever you do, let every ladybird you see remind you that no matter how small you might feel sometimes, your contribution is important. Like the humble ladybird, persistently doing the work that you were put on earth to do does make a significant impact on the world.

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series here.

Daisy, daisy

Fascinating facts, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse

If you set about drawing flowers, it isn't long before you hit upon a daisy. In fact, a daisy might be the very first flower that comes to mind.

The daisy has been appearing in artwork for quite some time - carvings dating back as far as 3000BC depict our beloved daisy.  And the daisy predates us humans by quite a considerable period. Daisies appeared shortly after the demise of the dinosaurs about 50 to 60 million years ago.

I have to admit, I tend to only think of the yellow centred, white petaled variety as a daisy.  That gave me pause today. I do love white flowers. But today I didn't really want to paint a white flower. I'm not sure why this troubled me at all - I am putting a face on the daisy.... Having made that leap from reality... surely the colour I choose for the petals seems neither here nor there!

However, I did some research and found to my delight that the daisy comes in so very many stunning forms and colours. There are over 4000 species of daisies. Daisies are found everywhere in the world except for Antarctica.  They survive in both wet and dry habitats. Daisies have a biennial life cycle, meaning they last for two years. Some of their relatives include echinacea, arnica, artichokes and endives. If you want to see some wonderful photographs and learn more about the delightful daisy head over to this rather glorious website.

The daisy is said to have been Queen Victoria's favourite flower. Not only has it featured in artwork, it has inspired many a poet.  Euripides, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Shelley, and Wordsworth to name just a very few.

It was Goethe's Marguerite who first pulled the petals from the daisy saying 'he loves me, he loves me not'.   That cute, romantic notion has endured. In 1892, Harry Dacre wrote the song Daisy Bell which we all know....

Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do...

For a humble and commonly found flower, the daisy is certainly an impressively significant and enduring symbol.

Explore more of the Flower Face Series and the rest of the monthly series in this project.