The Meaning Of Flowers

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01Sunflower20160912

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with flowers is explored.

The sunflower is a shaggy giant of a plant that we harvest in industrial quantities worldwide. Humanity has used sunflowers in food, craft, art and literature for centuries. The sunflower was first domesticated around 1000 BC, but far from being a workhorse, the sunflower was once the flower of kings, prized by many royal houses as the emblem of their superiority. Sunflowers were also a significant symbol in the Holocaust.

Sunflowers are in fact not single flowers. Each sunflower head is built of up to 2000 flowers of two types - the black seed flowers which have no petals and the yellow ray flowers that do not form seeds. Sunflowers are distributed worldwide in 67 species, with sunflower seeds being eaten raw, cooked, roasted, or dried and ground for use in bread and cakes. Yellow dyes have been made from the petal "ray" flowers. The sunflower is destined to continue its economic importance as it is developed as a key crop for developing countries as a source of food, business and bio-fuel. Sunflowers have so many more hidden depths still to uncover.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

02Lily20160913

02Lily20160913

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Lilies have contradictorily represented death and purity, peace and weaponry, salvation and crucifixion. Nowadays there are thousands of varieties of lilies, and global dominance in this internationally lucrative industry has over the centuries moved from Japan to the USA. Many flowers we call lilies are not in fact lilies at all, including waterlilies and also lily of the valley, which is more closely related to asparagus. Our most popular lilies in the UK are a fatal danger to cats from their pollen.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

02Lily20160913

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Lilies have contradictorily represented death and purity, peace and weaponry, salvation and crucifixion. Nowadays there are thousands of varieties of lilies, and global dominance in this internationally lucrative industry has over the centuries moved from Japan to the USA. Many flowers we call lilies are not in fact lilies at all, including waterlilies and also lily of the valley, which is more closely related to asparagus. Our most popular lilies in the UK are a fatal danger to cats from their pollen.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

03Rose20160914

03Rose20160914

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Roses have been important to humankind since the beginning of human consciousness and are arguably the world's favourite flower. Their reputation for being the love flower has a chemical basis as roses contain a compound that slows down the decay of beta-endorphins, chemicals produced by people in love. We like to think of roses as quintessentially English, but actually the French lead the way in modern rose cultivation in the 19th century and the British, determined not to be outdone then started taking rose breeding very seriously indeed. From wild roses taken as the emblem of Elizabeth I, to the England rugby team's logo, to the white rose of the Jacobite cause, roses are woven into British history. Rose oil, which takes two thousand kilos of petals to produce one kilo of oil, is so valuable it saved Bulgaria after the first world war, paying for essential supplies from the USA when the government commandeered the entire national rose crop.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

03Rose20160914

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Roses have been important to humankind since the beginning of human consciousness and are arguably the world's favourite flower. Their reputation for being the love flower has a chemical basis as roses contain a compound that slows down the decay of beta-endorphins, chemicals produced by people in love. We like to think of roses as quintessentially English, but actually the French lead the way in modern rose cultivation in the 19th century and the British, determined not to be outdone then started taking rose breeding very seriously indeed. From wild roses taken as the emblem of Elizabeth I, to the England rugby team's logo, to the white rose of the Jacobite cause, roses are woven into British history. Rose oil, which takes two thousand kilos of petals to produce one kilo of oil, is so valuable it saved Bulgaria after the first world war, paying for essential supplies from the USA when the government commandeered the entire national rose crop.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

04Magnolia20160915

04Magnolia20160915

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Magnolias are amongst the oldest plants in the world. They evolved before bees or butterflies, hence they are pollinated by beetles and close at night to hold them inside to ensure pollination. A two-thousand-year-old seed was found in Japan and when planted it grew into an ancient magnolia. Other surprises include that they are used for food: the Chinese eat pickled magnolia, the whole flower buds boiled as a vegetable and the leaves as an aromatic flavouring. Medicinal properties of magnolias include having active ingredients that are antiseptic, and that inhibit cholesterol and melanoma. There are almost 1500 magnolia hybrids that come in many more colours from purple to yellow to white, pink or even brown - much more exciting and varied than the decorator's boring magnolia beige. Britain's National Magnolia collection is in Caerhays in Cornwall.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

04Magnolia20160915

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Magnolias are amongst the oldest plants in the world. They evolved before bees or butterflies, hence they are pollinated by beetles and close at night to hold them inside to ensure pollination. A two-thousand-year-old seed was found in Japan and when planted it grew into an ancient magnolia. Other surprises include that they are used for food: the Chinese eat pickled magnolia, the whole flower buds boiled as a vegetable and the leaves as an aromatic flavouring. Medicinal properties of magnolias include having active ingredients that are antiseptic, and that inhibit cholesterol and melanoma. There are almost 1500 magnolia hybrids that come in many more colours from purple to yellow to white, pink or even brown - much more exciting and varied than the decorator's boring magnolia beige. Britain's National Magnolia collection is in Caerhays in Cornwall.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

05Daisy20160916

05Daisy20160916

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Daisies grow almost everywhere on Earth. They are pest-resistant and virtually indestructible, as anyone trying to eradicate them from a lawn knows. But this common little flower has many culinary and medicinal uses. The common daisy is nutritious and is increasingly used in salads, soups and many trendy restaurants. The leaves have for centuries been used in treating wounds, hence its other name, bruise wort. It contains many medicinal compounds, and was regarded as a wonder plant by herbalists in years gone by. Modern discoveries confirm its myriad uses, including a glycosidase inhibitor in the leaves which might have some antiviral agency against HIV. This common, magical flower now comes in many showy varieties, including the South African daisy, the gerbera, which in flower arrangements should have only an inch of water in the vase. If totally submerged, the stems absorb water which causes them to soften and droop.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

05Daisy20160916

A new series of essays written and presented by experienced essayist, Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Following her three popular essay series The Meaning of Trees for BBC Radio 3, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five of the UK's most common flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with some of our best known and loved flowers is explored.

Daisies grow almost everywhere on Earth. They are pest-resistant and virtually indestructible, as anyone trying to eradicate them from a lawn knows. But this common little flower has many culinary and medicinal uses. The common daisy is nutritious and is increasingly used in salads, soups and many trendy restaurants. The leaves have for centuries been used in treating wounds, hence its other name, bruise wort. It contains many medicinal compounds, and was regarded as a wonder plant by herbalists in years gone by. Modern discoveries confirm its myriad uses, including a glycosidase inhibitor in the leaves which might have some antiviral agency against HIV. This common, magical flower now comes in many showy varieties, including the South African daisy, the gerbera, which in flower arrangements should have only an inch of water in the vase. If totally submerged, the stems absorb water which causes them to soften and droop.

Producer - Turan Ali

A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.