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Chrysanthemums are loved all round the world. In Asia they are even honoured. Not so strange really, when you realise that it is a flower with a long rich history and symbolism!
Honoured in China
In the 15th Century BC chrysanthemums were already being grown in China as a flowering herb. They were seen as an honoured plant with exceptional powers. So exceptional that only nobility gained permission to plant them in their gardens. Chrysanthemums are therefore to be found on the best Chinese porcelain, painted in the refined Asian style. The chrysanthemum is also one of the four Junzi's, the favourite plants of the influential poet Tao Qian and is a symbol of nobleness in China. (The other Junzi's are Prunus, Orchid and Bamboo). Last but not least, in China there is a complete city named after the chrysanthemum. Ju-Xian, now better known as Xiaolan, town of Zhongshan City, literally means Chrysanthemum City.
In the eighth century the chrysanthemum was introduced into Japan where it was quickly named as the national symbol of Japan by the emperor and became the inspiration for the royal seal. On the seal the chrysanthemum is pictured as a single flower with sixteen petals. This can be found in many places including the front of the Japanese passport and the 50 yen coin. The highest knighthood the emperor can bestow even has the name 'Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum'. The chrysanthemum is the only flower in the world to be connected to such a high appointment.
Long life and happiness
The chrysanthemum in Japan is not just seen as a royal symbol but also as a sign of 'long life and happiness'. Each year the Japanese celebrate the 'Festival of Happiness' when they honour the chrysanthemum. The people used to honour the emperors by covering their seats with chrysanthemums. That is also why the Japanese throne is also known as the Chrysanthemum throne.
In 1689 Jacob Breynius described the chrysanthemum in Europe for the first time. The flower was made famous by Carolus Linnaeus by taking the Greek word 'chrys' which means 'gold coloured' and indicated the original colour of the chrysanthemum and adding 'anthemon' which means flower. The name chrysanthemum also relates to a particular type of firework which creates a pattern which looks a lot like the long petals of the chrysanthemum.
In the Far East chrysanthemum flowers are boiled into a sweet tea, known in China as J├║ hu ch├í. It is meant to have a cooling effect and is used on warm days and to treat fevers and is used as a quick healing method after a flu episode. The green leaves of among others, the Chrysanthemum Coronarium (the Garland Chrysanthemum) are often wokked with garlic and chilli pepper. Be careful, Dutch chrysanthemums are only meant for decorative use and (sadly) cannot be eaten.
The growing of chrysanthemums in the Netherlands probably began around 1900. These early chrysanthemums only flowered in the autumn. Through technological developments, growers in the 60's discovered how they could get chrysanthemums to flower all year round. For 50 years now the chrysanthemum has been available all year round in a whole range of beautiful types and colours, an admirable golden jubilee!