29¢ Summer Garden Flowers
Issue Date: April 28, 1994
City: Cincinnati, OH
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
Perforations: 11.9 vertically
Since ancient times, mankind has cultivated beautiful flowers. The five flowers pictured on the Summer Garden Flowers stamps - the Lily, Zinnia, Rose, Gladiolus, and Marigold, are favorites with gardeners around the world.
One of the world’s most beautiful flowers, the lily is also one of the oldest plants known to man. It is mentioned in history for the first time on a tablet inscribed nearly 5,000 years ago in Sumer. The tablet tells of a Persian city surrounded by fields of lilies. That ancient city was called Susa, which means lily.
From Persia the lily spread to Crete, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It is believed caravans of nomads took the edible bulbs along as food for their long journeys. Occasionally a bulb would drop and take root. Eventually the lily even made it to northern Europe and England, most likely in the baggage of homesick Roman soldiers.
But wherever it went, the lily was usually regarded as a sacred flower. The Minoans, Greeks, and Romans associated it with their goddesses. In fact, Greek mythology claimed the flower had sprung from the milk of Hera, Zeus’ wife. Closely intertwined with Christian history, the white lily was used for centuries to symbolize the purity of the Virgin Mary and her role as Queen of the Angels.
Today there are more than 12,000 species offering a multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes. Popular varieties include the tiger lily, Easter lily, and Japanese lily.
Since earliest times, flowers have been prized for their beautiful colors and delightful fragrances. Found growing from the cold wastelands of the Arctic to the jungles of the tropics, all flowers were originally wild. In time, people learned how to grow plants from seeds and began raising the prettiest and sweetest-smelling flowers in gardens. By 3000 B.C. the Egyptians had begun to cultivate a variety of flowers, including jasmine, poppies, and water lilies. Today garden flowers are cultivated throughout the world.
Invariably the last flower in alphabetical listings, zinnias often come first in preference among gardeners. Like marigolds, they are easy to grow and their brilliant blossoms make an eye-catching addition to any garden.
Native to the southwestern U.S. and Central and South America, zinnias are also cultivated in Europe. Interestingly, its blossoms are actually made up of two types of flowers - small, tube-shaped disk flowers in the center and petal-like ray flowers around the edge. Although they are often seen in reds, yellows, and oranges, this handsome flower comes in a variety of colors, including apricot, cream, violet, and even green. Some varieties are multicolored or striped.
Throughout their colorful history, flower bulbs have been used for flavorings and medicines, traded for exorbitant prices, and emblazoned on the banners of royalty. But for thousands of years they have been grown, above all, for their beauty in gardens. A billion dollar business, bulbs account for $300 million in sales a year. Although tulips are the most popular worldwide, the gladiolus is still the best-selling bulb in the U.S.
Often called the sword lily, the gladiolus most likely gets its name from its long sword-like leaves. In fact its name in Latin means “little dagger.” Large, silky flowers grow above one another in clusters along one side of the stem. The lower blossoms open first, and if a spike is cut when only the lower flowers are in bloom, the buds above them will continue to open. For this reason gladioluses are a favorite cut flower. A mainstay of the florist trade, more land in the United States (over 20,000 acres) is devoted to raising them commercially than to any other bulb.
This stately flower ranges from one foot to over five feet tall in height and comes in every color of the rainbow - including a blue gladiolus that is grown mainly in South Africa. The most popular colors though, are red, orange, and white.
Marigolds are among the most popular flowers in American gardens. Exceedingly easy to grow, they reward gardeners with immense quantities of color, creating natural borders for walkways and gardens. They range in color from near white through vivid yellows and oranges to reddish browns and generally grow from twelve inches to over three feet in height.
Marigolds descended from a wild Mexican species and were brought to Europe in the 1500’s by Spanish explorers. Through the years they have been hybridized and developed to produce four different types - African or Aztec marigolds, French marigolds, African-French hybrids, and dwarf marigolds.
Massed alone or mixed with other flowers, marigolds show off their vivid beauty in beds, borders, and terrace pots. And their bright colors and long life make them ideal as cut flowers. But their versatility goes beyond the garden. In Mexico, acres of marigolds are grown for chicken feed. When the blossoms are fed to hens, they produce eggs with the dark yellow yolks Mexican housewives demand. And because of the pungent oil they produce, many gardeners use marigolds as a natural repellent against nematodes, small parasitic worms that live on plant roots.
With its delicate blossoms and sweet fragrance, the rose is often thought of as a flower that requires a great deal of attention. But like all garden flowers, at one time it was found growing wild. Originating in central Asia, the rose spread to the Northern Hemisphere and could be found growing from the arctic cold of Alaska and Siberia to the desert heat of India and South America. Fossil roses, found in Colorado and Oregon, date as far back as 40 million years. Today roses continue to grow wild in all fifty states.
The Chinese were the first to cultivate wild roses. By the time of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C. - A.D. 220), rose gardens had become so popular that huge parks were devoted to these beautiful flowers. When land needed for agriculture was set aside to grow roses, food production became threatened, forcing the Emperor to destroy many of the elaborate parks.
The Egyptians did a thriving business growing roses for the Romans. So enamored with roses were the Romans, that they would often spend thousands of dollars on roses for one feast. In fact one order from Emperor Nero ran up a bill totaling almost $100,000! Even today the rose is still the world’s best known and most popular flower.