Of the millions of different types, colours and families of flowers, there is bound to be favourites among the gardeners and flower buyers all across the United Kingdom. This list details the top ten flowers that consumers, biologists and horticulturists consider as the best flowers in the country.
Name: Botanical name Rosa
Origin: China and now cultivated from America to Africa and from Eastern Europe to the Far East.
Colour: Available in every colour except blue and true black.
Availability: All year round and probably the best known and best-loved flower in the world.
Varieties: For extra scented roses, look for 'Sterling Star' (lilac), 'Jacaranda' (blue-pink), 'Osiana' (peach-cream), 'Sterling Silver' (lilac) and 'Extase' (deep red).
Care Tips: Limp roses can be revived by standing up to their necks in lukewarm water in a cool room. Do not bash the stems as this prevents them taking up water effectively. Don't remove thorns unless for a hand-held posy, as these can cause wounds where bacteria can enter. They have a vase life of around a week but can last even longer.
Facts: In the 19th century old scented roses were used to make jelly. The red rose is the symbol of England and is worn on St George's Day. It is also the symbol of love and is hugely popular on St Valentine's Day, when roses make up the largest proportion of the £22 million spent on flowers in the UK on this day.
Medicinal: The crusaders when defeated by Saladin in Jerusalem returned to the west with rose plants which were then cultivated by monks in their monastery gardens for their medicinal properties. Rose water was successfully used to cure all kinds of ailments, such as trembling, constipation, drunkenness, skin and throat infections and insomnia. There is some truth in this as we now know Rosa rugosa hips contain high levels of Vitamin C. Indeed, rose-hip tea is often recommended in pregnancy. Rose oil can reduce high cholesterol levels. Roses are used in face toners and perfume and are one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients.
History: Not surprisingly the Rose has always featured strongly throughout history.
Name: Lilium candidum was the most significant flower symbol for Christians and suggested purity. As a symbol of purity associated with virgins it became known as the Madonna Lily.
Origin: One of the first descriptions of the Lily dates from the Chinese Middle Ages "the plant flowers until late autumn and there are three types, red, yellow and purple".
Colour: Some forms (Lilium longiflorum, L. candidum, oriental lilies) are highly perfumed but white only; others (asiatic lilies) are highly coloured but scent-free.
Availability: All year.
Care Tips: Remove the pollen stamens by pinching them together and pulling them up out of the flower. This prolongs the flower's life as well. Use sellotape to remove pollen, not water which will fix the stain.
Facts: Lilies have been cultivated for over 3000 years. Feng Shui believers hold the Lily as an emblem of summer and abundance; to the Chinese, lily means "Forever in love". The lily was the holy flower of the ancient Assyrians. Until the 16th century the Madonna lily was the only garden variety known, because of this the "lilies of the field" as mentioned in the bible are thought to be this specific lily. A lily has adorned the coat of arms of the Kings of France since 1179. King Chlodwig I allegedly received this 'fleur de lys', as it is called in heraldic language, from an angel. But in actual fact his flower wasn't a lily, as the name implies, but an iris. Via Louis XI the motif made its way to the coat of arms of the Medici family and from there on to the arms of Florence and Tuscany. Interestingly, only the Florentine 'fleur de lys' has stamens like a lily.
Mythology: In Greek poetry, the lily stood for tenderness. It was also referred to as the voice of cicadas or of the muses. There is a Greek myth that tells us how the lily was born from the milk of the goddess Hera. The lily still symbolises pure, virginal love in the Christian world.
Medicinal: In the past, various flowers were used to prepare remedies in popular medicine. In China some served as lucky charms, while others were thought to be capable of averting the evil eye. In another historical account we read that people were interested in lilies for their anti-toxic powers and their capacity of curing depressions. In Europe, too, lilies were used as a remedy against a wide range of diseases and ailments right up to the beginning of the last century.
Name: After Dr Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese, a German physician.
Facts: Freesias are among the most popular and widely grown cut flowers in the world, with over 110 million stems sold in the UK each year. In a recent F & PA survey over half the respondents rated them as one of their favourite flowers.
Availability: Although available all year their peak period is spring.
Origin: South Africa, first imported to Europe at the end of the 19th century.
Colour: Wide range including yellows, red, pinks and white.
Varieties:One of the nicest varieties is "Ballerina", which look like elegant dancers.
Family: Freesia belong to the Iridaceae family, including iris.
Care Tips: Buy them with at least one flower open on the stem. Make sure they have plenty of water and never let the stem ends dry out. Pinch out the topmost buds and remove the old flowerheads to encourage new ones to open. Keep away from fruit, vegetables and excess heat, as they are very sensitive to the ethylene gas produced.
Facts: Unlike most other flowers, where the white forms smell most strongly, if you want highly scented freesia look for pink and red varieties.
History: Almost unknown until the 1950's it is now one of the UK's favourite flowers.
Name: From the Turkish for turban, after its rounded form. Botanical name Tulipa.
Colours: Everything except blue and true black.
Availability: November to May (January to April for British tulips)
Origin: Middle East
Care Tips: Tulips continue to grow in water and will curve towards the light. Make allowances for this when putting them in a vase or wrap the stems tightly in newspaper and stand them in water directly beneath a light for a few hours. Tulips have a vase life of just over a week and buy flowers in bud but with colour showing.
Facts: Tulips are the third-biggest selling flower in Holland and are also very popular in the UK where many are also grown. The painter David Hockney displays them in his studio in Los Angeles and so they appear in many of his autobiographical paintings and for a long time were seen as his trademark.
Language of Flowers: In the Victorian language of flowers red tulips are a declaration of love, making them ideal gifts for Valentine's Day.
History: In the middle ages tulip-mania saw bulbs change hands for the equivalent of £4million pounds a bulb!
Sweet Pea Flower
Name: Botanical name is Lathyrus odoratus - odoratus means scented.
Colour: Purples, pinks, creams and salmons.
Availability: March to November
Care Tips: Keep cool, always in water and away from ripening fruit. Commercial sweet peas are treated after cutting to prolong their life; garden-cut ones may only last one or two days but florists' peas can last over a week.
Language of Flowers: Sweet peas mean "delicate pleasures". Breeders are trying to develop a scented yellow sweet pea. The Lathyrus family has a naturally occurring yellow pea but it has no fragrance.
Name: Named after Traugott Gerber, a German doctor. Usually pronounced JUR-bra. Infrequently called Transvaal Daisy or Barberton Daisy.
Origin: South Africa (Transvaal and Cape Province)
Colour: Gerberas offer an incredibly wide range of colours with every colour except blue represented (including fashionable shades of buff and maroon).
Availability: All year round.
Family: Miniature gerbera (germinis) are available, as well as the standard size and large headed types (bigger than your palm).
Varieties: There are over 200 varieties of gerbera and breeders have developed many variants from serrated or frilly petals to double flowers and extra wide petals. A new developement is the mini-gerbera or 'germini' which have the same wide choice of colours but are smaller and more appropriate for smaller flower arrangements.
Care Tips: Need warmth and bright light. Treat gerbera as long-lived bouquets rather than long-term plants - once flowering has finished, don't be afraid to throw the plant away. You can plant it outside if temperatures are over 5 degrees. Likes warm water; keep it very clean.
Zodiac: Associated with the star sign Leo
History: Little-known 20 years ago, but now extremely popular and fashionable. Gerbera were first imported to Europe in the 19th century.
Name: From the Greek "orchis" meaning testicle, because of the shape of the bulbous roots.
Origin: Indigenous to tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world such as Asia, South and Central America. Some are native to the UK.
Colour: Everything except blue - there are even black and green orchids.
Family: Orchids are the largest family of the plant kingdom with over 25,000 naturally occurring species in the world, as well as all the specially-developed hybrids! Most houseplant orchids are either Phalaenopsis (fa-le-NOP-sis) (moth orchid), dendrobium, vanda, paphiopedilum (paff-eeo-PEDDY-lum) (slipper orchid) or cymbidium (sim-BIDDY-um).
Care Tips: Orchids can last 2 or 3 weeks cut and over a month on the plant. They like regular misting. Some, like Phalaenopsis adapt to central heating better than others.
Facts: The world's largest orchid can grow to 20 metres long.
History: Confucius acknowledged orchids saying, "the association with a superior person is like entering a hall of orchids". In 1595 a Chinese flower-arranging book "A Treatise of Vase Flowers" by Chang Ch'ien -te said orchids were in the top ranking of desirability.
Name: Dianthus, its botanical name, means divine flower. Carnation was the flesh-pink colour Elizabethan portrait painters used as a background wash.
Description: The carnation is available as a standard carnation - one large flower per stem or a spray carnation with lots of smaller flowers.
Colour: Available in a huge range of colours, almost all except blue. A mauve carnation with a blue tinge has been developed by Florigene in Australia. But they look best in hot Latin shades of red, pink and orange.
Availability: All year round.
Varieties: New varieties have been bred which look like old-fashioned garden pinks, but in bright colours. They have daintier relatives, the fantastically fragrant Sweet Williams and Pinks.
Care Tips: Carnations can last up to three weeks but should be kept away from ripening fruit and vegetables because of ethylene gas.
Facts: Carnations are the UK's best-selling cut flower, by miles. They are an excellent cut-flower, great value and very long-lasting. Since the 1950's they have been frowned upon by the style gurus, but are now making a comeback.
Folklore: Used on Mothering Sunday. In Canada you wear a red flower if your mother is alive or a white flower if your mother has died.
Language of Flowers: Red carnation for "alas for my poor heart", striped for refusal, yellow for disdain, pink for a woman's love.
Name: The botanical name is Helianthus. The Greek word "helios" means sun and "anthos" means flower.
Origin: South and West of the USA.
Colour: Most sunflowers are bright yellow with dark brown centres, but varieties are appearing now which have tan, orange, maroon or striped petals, and green-yellow centres. Some are even without the central disc, but are fully covered in petals instead.
Facts: Sunflower stems were used to fill lifejackets before the advent of modern materials.
Low-pollen sunflowers have been developed in recent years which not only helps asthma sufferers, but extend the flower's life.
Language of Flowers: The dwarf sunflower means "adulation".
Medicinal: The sunflower is grown for the seeds and oil it produces.Each mature flower yields 40% of its weight as oil.
History: The flower was cultivated by North American Indians for many years as a food crop. The nutritional value is still the main reason for growing it in many parts of the world. Only recently have we begun to grow sunflowers for decorative reasons.
Name: Comes from "anemos", the greek word for wind. Sometimes called the windflower. Pronounced a-NEM-o-nee
Description: The outsize anemones, which growers have managed to produce in the last few years, are remarkable, and perfect for placing singly in display vases, to show off their fragile beauty. Their ferny leaves make a perfect frame for the flower heads.
Origin: Eastern part of Mediterranean area and Asia Minor.They are now grown across Europe, particularly Italy and Israel.
Colour: Vibrant shades of red, purple and pink, with jet black hearts ringed with white. The all-white anemone is rare, it has a yellow-green heart.
Availability: Main season September to May
Family: Anemones belong to the buttercup family.. The best cut flower varieties are "Mona Lisa" forms, which have large flowers and long, strong stems.
Care Tips: Anemones do not like being out of water for any length of time and take water in quickly, so water levels should be checked regularly. However they should not be placed in water that is too deep
Mythology: It is said that the goddess Flora was jealous of her husband's attentions towards the nymph Anemone and so transformed her into the wind flower and left her at the mercy of the North Wind.
Medicinal: Used for cramping pains, menstrual problems and emotional distress.