October flowers – rich in meaning, easy on the planet

Choosing flowers of the season for your special life event is a great way to get the freshest floral display. It also means staying as eco-friendly as you can – no air-miles, less artificial heating and more natural cultivation methods that are kinder to wildlife.

It’s likely to be kinder on your purse as well.

So what does October have to offer?

Dahlias offer some of the most stunning blooms this month and are rich in symbolism; just choose the right colours for what you want to say.

Blue and green dahlias represent a fresh start and life changes – the perfect flower for events that mark a new life together such as a naming ceremony or a wedding celebration. The cool tones go well with silvery grass heads, which also make their appearance now. If you’re welcoming a new child or getting married in October, and don’t want the more traditional fiery autumnal colours, this could be the way to go.

An alternative for a naming ceremony would be white dahlias, which represent purity.

Going with a different colour palette, dahlias are good for a funeral as well if you choose pink or purple. Both mean kindness and grace, a perfect way to remember and honour a gentle soul.

Meanwhile, if you want to send someone a bouquet to express sympathy, choose red dahlias. They convey strength to someone who receives them as a gift so they are a subtle, meaningful way to show that you are there to support them at a difficult time.

Another big, bold flower of the month is chrysanthemum. These blooms are some of the last of the summer, a joyous explosion of colour and life to keep the oncoming winter at bay.

For wedding celebrations, you could choose red ‘mums’ which symbolise love and deep passion or even white ones for their association with loyalty and honesty.

For funerals or memorial services, white chrysanthemums are connected with grief, particularly the grief associated with the loss of someone especially close. Or choose yellow blooms which mean sorrow.

Chrysanthemums come in an enormous range of sizes and shapes so they give you lots of options for matching the scale of your floral displays.

For something really different and seasonal, increasingly, you’ll find florists turning to vegetables and fruits for displays, particularly at this time of year.

Imagine table arrangements of glowing red apples and golden pears – quite literally, good enough to eat. Apples represent different things to different cultures. There’s a reason why children traditionally give an apple to their teacher; in Scandinavia, they are recognition of wisdom and intellect. Using them at a naming ceremony demonstrates good wishes for the child.

In ancient Greek myths, apples represent love, and what life event doesn’t want to recognise the loving feelings of everyone there?

As for the pear, it too is associated with love in ancient Greek myths. In China, it stands for justice and wisdom and, in Japan, pears are considered able to keep evil at bay.

Big, beautiful flowers for an August wedding

Do you consider yourself an extrovert? Then an August wedding is a fabulous opportunity to include ‘hot’ colours and big blooms in your floral decorations.

The delicate flowers of spring and early summer are over. This is the month for bold chrysanthemums, the brightly-coloured dahlia, the sunny yellow of the sunflower and blousy hydrangea heads.

By the end of the month, things are changing again as autumnal colours and grasses start to take over. But, for the first couple of weeks in August in particular, you can max out on colour and size as much as you like.

More importantly, perhaps, this is a month where your flowers can easily be sourced in the UK, rather than using air-miles to freight them in from elsewhere.

Read on to find out how to design your August flowers so that they reflect your dreams for a long and happy life together.


‘Mums’ might be what your grandad used to grow in the garden but there’s a reason they’re still popular. They come in a huge variety of colours and, as these two pictures show, a remarkable range of flower heads.

Perfect as a wedding choice because they represent fidelity, optimism and long life. However, you might want to avoid yellow mums which symbolise slighted love!

Chrysanthemum Bold Gretchen
Chrysanthemum Vesuvius


The dahlia has long been used as the flower to give as a gift for a couple getting married because it represents eternal love. It’s also known as the birth flower for August. So, if you have a birthday AND you’re getting married this month, it’s a winner.

The striking blooms add body to a bouquet with multi-layered petals.


Gladioli are stately flowers that stand tall at the back of flower beds and they represent strength of character and faithfulness


‘Thank you for understanding’ is one of the messages sent with the hydrangea.

The multi flowered heads bring body and texture to floral decorations.

Hydrangea hortensia


The striking calla lily has the meaning of beauty. They and others come in fabulous colours and would make a wonderful statement flower, perhaps even being used as a single stem. Traditionally, however, lilies have been associated with meanings that you might not want to bring into your wedding. White ones for funerals, for example, and orange ones were once used to express hatred. Be careful which you choose.

Calla Lily Zantedeschia


According to the Victorians, sunflowers represent adoration. The meaning comes from the ancient Greek myth of Clytie, who fell in love with the sun god, Helios. Even when she was buried alive and turned into a flower, (which is often given as the sunflower) Clytie continued to follow her love as he moved across the sky.


Although Zinnias start blooming earlier in the year, they’re still in abundance throughout August. Their longevity means they are often associated with endurance and lasting affection.

Rosemary for Remembrance

April 23rd is the day we commemorate both the birth and the death of the greatest English playwright, William Shakespeare.

If you visit his place of birth, Stratford-upon-Avon, you’ll find sprigs of rosemary dotted around many of the historic places he’s associated with – an acknowledgment of the fact he invoked rosemary at a pivotal point in one of his most famous plays, Hamlet.

I’ve written about the historic connection between rosemary, remembrance and love before and how the herb can bring powerful symbolism to both a funeral and a wedding.

But, as we learn more about how smell can be a remarkable trigger of memory, and on the day when we’re remembering and honouring Shakespeare, it bears revisiting.

The reason that smell plays such an important role in memory is because scent is the only sense that feeds directly into the part of our brain that processes emotion. To smell rosemary at a life event is to fix in our minds forever the feelings of that day.

In the 21st century, we know that through extensive research and experimentation; for Shakespeare, it must have been a cross between old wives’ tales and gut instinct.

In Hamlet, Ophelia tells us ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance’. Shakespeare had studied the classics. That means he probably knew, like us, that ancient Greek scholars wore garlands of rosemary during academic exams, hoping perhaps that a quick turn around the herb garden would replace hours studying.

But rosemary isn’t just associated with aspiring students, it has a deep-seated connection with the passing of loved ones that goes back millennia. Since pre-historic times, our ancestors have used rosemary in burial rites. We know that, as far back as 1000BC, the ancient Egyptians were using rosemary, along with other essential oils, to embalm the bodies of their dead.  

There’s evidence that Romans carried rosemary with them during funeral processions and then left the sprigs with the body. In the early sixteenth century, English statesman and politician, Sir Thomas More, wrote of rosemary: “Whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our burial grounds.” Partly, we think, it’s because, as an evergreen plant, rosemary is associated with eternal life.

Rosemary is also associated with eternal love – and everyone wants to be assured of that at their wedding.

Again from the sixteenth century, the celebrated Doctor of Divinity, Roger Hacket, said in his ‘fruitful sermon on marriage’: “Speaking of the powers of rosemary, it overtoppeth all the flowers in the garden, boasting man’s rule. It helpeth the brain, strengtheneth the memorie, and is very medicinable for the head. Another property of the rosemary is, it affects the heart.”

With the growing popularity of ‘natural’ weddings, the dark green leaf and pretty blue flower of rosemary is the perfect choice for an unusual and sweet smelling bouquet or as an attractive cake decoration. Charlie, from The Natural Wedding Company, has some wonderful ideas in one of her blogs about how to use the herb.

Whether because of its evocative smell or its symbolism, rosemary has played a long and honourable part in celebrating life and love.

To include it in your life event is to follow the customs of our ancestors stretching back thousands of years.