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Flowers have totally mesmerized people for ages with their awesome colors, shapes, and smells. We're totally obsessed with them, and they've been a huge part of our cultures, traditions, and personal bonds for as long as we can remember. In this episode, we're going to talk about the history of flowers with a celebrated garden writer, Noel Kingsbury. We'll explore the history and meanings behind flowers, how they've evolved alongside pollinators, and the special relationships we have with these amazing plants.


In this episode, we learn:

  • [05:22] When did Noel’s passion for plants and flowers start?
  • [07:41] Noel shares his earliest plant memory
  • [08:47] The inspiration behind Noel's book “​​The Story of Flowers”?
  • [11:19] What is cultivation and how has it changed throughout the centuries?
  • [12:43] Similarities and differences observed in the various human civilizations
  • [15:37] Difference between high and low culture in plant profiles
    [16:32] Why is dahlia considered a low-brow flower in old British history?
  • [18:36] Where can you find handcrafted wind chimes perfect for wedding and housewarming gifts?
  • [20:13] Where can you find all your potting mix, planting soil, and fertilizer needs for gardening?
  • [22:18] Are orchids considered high-class flowers?
  • [23:54] What is the significance of flowers' affordability and accessibility throughout history?
  • [25:30] Symbolism of the Iris flower in different cultures and civilizations
  • [28:16] How flowers create a sense of identification and long-term connections with people
  • [31:08] Why flowers and pollinators are in a lockstep co-evolutionary relationship.
  • [33:47] What fact surprised Noel the most in his research about flowers?
  • [36:17] Interesting facts about common flowers found in your garden
  • [39:15] What brought Noel to Portugal? 
  • [39:29] Opium poppies have a complicated history with varying legalities
  • [40:48] What lotus flowers symbolize
  • [42:06] What is Noel’s favorite flower?
  • [43:25] Where can you find Noel on social media?


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Defining Cultivation

Growing plants on purpose—that's cultivation, plant friends! It's been happening for thousands of years since ancient times. They were already cultivating cereals, peas, and lentils in the Middle East though growing flowers began a bit later. 

The Greeks and Romans were the ones who first thought of growing flowers for ornamental purposes, and they got the idea from Persia. China was way ahead of us in this area as they had been cultivating flowers for decorative purposes for about a thousand years before it caught on in the West.


Co-Evolution of Flowers and Pollinators

Flowers and pollinators have evolved together over millions of years. Noel explained that flowers have learned how to attract specific pollinators, and in turn, pollinators have adapted to feed on those specific flowers.

This relationship is mutually beneficial, as both flowers and pollinators benefit from each other. Orchids are a good example of this relationship with their intricate shapes and nectar tubes accessible only to specific moths.


Cultivated Flowers and Human Influence

Cultivated flowers have changed over time due to human preferences and practices, as Noel emphasized. He gave examples like maize, which changed because of early farming practices, and dahlias, which became symbols of Czech nationalism during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

This co-evolution between humans and flowers shows how plants adapt to live in different surroundings and meet our aesthetic and cultural preferences!


Flowers: A Source of Inspiration

Flowers have the amazing ability to make us feel better, bring out different emotions, and encourage us to be creative. We looked at how flowers can change how we feel and help us connect with the natural world.

Noel's stories showed us how even just a small bunch of flowers or a nice garden can make us happy, help us focus, and remind us how wonderful nature is.

Fun facts about flowers:

  1. Dahlias: Grown by the Aztecs and popular in Europe. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, dahlias symbolized resistance against the ruling powers.
  2. Peonies: Symbolize wealth and good fortune. Highly prized by the Chinese elite throughout history.
  3. Zinnias:  Native to Mexico and Central America. Easy to grow and come in a wide range of vibrant colors.
  4. Daffodils: Incredibly resilient flowers associated with Wales, Cornwall, and the western British Isles. Widely spread by British colonists.
  5. Opium Poppies: Have both medicinal and illegal drug use associations. These come in a variety of cultivars but may be restricted in some areas.
  6. Lotus: Historic flower with important cultural significance in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Edible, with different parts used in cooking.
  7. Cyclamen Coum: A hardy cyclamen species that flowers early and exhibits a range of colors. Resilient and thrives in harsh winter conditions.

Note: If you want to learn more about flowers and have fun exploring, you should check out online platforms like Garden Masterclass. They have lots of great stuff to help you with gardening and learning about plants!


Flowers are beautiful and have a special relationship with pollinators. They show the connection between nature and human culture, make us feel emotional, inspire us, and create personal connections.

You can enjoy flowers by caring for a garden, giving a bouquet, or looking at a single bloom. Every flower has a story, and learning about them shows us their wisdom and beauty.


Mentioned in our conversation:


Thank you to our episode sponsors:

Wind River Chimes

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Visit and use code GROWINGJOY to receive free engraving on all Corinthian Bells wind chimes.

Espoma Organic

Grow an abundance of flowers with the right products! Espoma Organic is dedicated to making safe indoor and outdoor gardening products for people, pets, and the planet. They have an amazing variety of high-quality, organic potting mixes, garden soil, fertilizers, and pest control products that are organic and eco-friendly. To top it all off, they have a huge sustainability commitment with a 100% solar powered plant, zero waste manufacturing and eco-friendly packaging.

Visit to find your local Espoma dealer or check my Amazon storefront.


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