Saying it with flowers this Valentine’s Day

University student Christine Pu is hoping that she’ll receive flowers from the boy she fancies this Valentine’s Day even though they aren’t in a relationship… yet.

“If he sends me flowers, then maybe we have a shot,” she says, fingers crossed.

Pu thinks that receiving flowers on Valentine’s Day is “romantic” and will make a person feel appreciated or loved.

“I think it’s really romantic to receive flowers from someone you love (on Valentine’s Day) because you don’t usually receive flowers, for no reason, on any other day. When you receive flowers from your partner on Valentine’s Day or any other occasion , you feel like your partner really appreciates the relationship and that he cares so much about you,” says Pu, 22.

The practice of gifting flowers actually has a rich history. The tradition can even be traced back to Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and the Roman Empire but it truly bloomed in the Middle Ages, where floriography or the “language of flowers” started. With floriography every flower carries its own special meaning, ie roses convey the message of love and so on.

This concept caught on fast and today flowers have become a beautiful, non-verbal way to express our feelings. Whether it is an apology, to express love, for remembrance, to offer support or gratitude or just a simple, thoughtful gesture, flowers can work magic in relaying a message.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is the day that the most flowers – especially roses – are sold all around the world. In America, for example, it is estimated that about 250 million roses are produced just for Valentine’s Day (pre-pandemic).


Flowers on Valentine’s Day

Has the commercialization of Valentine’s Day defeated the day’s celebration of love? Not everybody thinks so. Florist Eunice Teo, the principal of Amtrol Flower Designing and floral designer for the Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asiansfeels that Valentine’s Day has actually evolved and is no longer just for lovers.

These days, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by family members who want to show their love and appreciation for one another and even friends.

Teo believes that Valentine’s Day isn’t just a celebration of love between lovers but a way for people to show appreciation for those they care about. Photo: EUNICE TEO

The meaning of the day hasn’t been diluted, she says, but expanded.

Although telling your loved ones how you feel shouldn’t be a once-in-a-year occurrence, Valentine’s Day compels us to pause and value the people in our lives.

Teo, who has been a florist for over 30 years, says that it’s quite common for mothers to send their children their favorite flowers on Valentine’s Day – especially when their children may not have a partner to celebrate the occasion with. Isn’t that just the mum thing to do?

“Although there has been a commercialization of Valentine’s Day, I think it has also added to people’s relationships. People are taking time to express their love for their partner, their elder family members or siblings in this busy world,” says Teo.

Although stereotypically, it is the guy that buys flowers for his love, student Chai Pei Ling has bucked tradition by buying flowers for her boyfriend.

“I give flowers to my boyfriend just to show my appreciation for him. It’s rare for girls to give flowers to guys and I was the first person who gave him flowers! He really appreciated it. He still has the flowers in his room,” says Chai, 23.

Sharmaine Rajah, 34, says that she buys her husband flowers every Valentine’s Day since they began dating 15 years ago.

“I hate cliches but when we first started dating, I found myself waiting for him to give me flowers on Valentine’s Day. I hated being all anxious, wondering if I would get flowers or not. So I decided to stop waiting and go get myself a bunch of flowers instead. And I got him a bunch too. And that’s what I do every year now,” says the accounts executive from Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, sales executive Teea, 49, says that he buys his wife flowers to tell her how much she means to him.

“Sending flowers to my wife on special occasions is to express my undying love for her and to thank her for what she has done for me and our family.

Not only that, but sending flowers is also a blessing, and a wish that she may always be healthy, safe, and happy,” he says.

This year, the couple who have been married for five years, will spend Valentine’s Day at home with their children.

“She’ll cook dinner as I can’t cook well. But I’ve got her flowers and a little something else,” he says, not wanting to ruin the surprise.

Rose, rose I love you

Red roses have been synonymous with love for as long as anyone can remember. But, says Teo, while a red rose is still seen as the ultimate floral symbol of love, traditions have evolved and trends now play a big role in the types of bouquets requested for Valentine’s Day.

Also, she says, the range of flowers available now are so much more than what was available a decade or more ago, especially in the days before the pandemic.

According to Teo, the most popular flowers – aside from the red roses (which are still a top choice) – during Valentine’s Day are:

Eustomas: They look a lot like a rose but come in soft pastel flowers which are a favorite among youngsters. The feminine flowers symbolize a long and happy life, contentment and peace with what you already have.

Peonies: Romantic and lush, peonies are often used in weddings or for proposal bouquets. However, as they are pricey, Teo says she uses them as accents in a bouquet of roses. For example, two peonies combined with three red roses would convey “I Love You” (or five roses, for “I Love You Very Much”.)

Pastel-colored roses: Roses in soft shades of pink, white, cream, champagne, quicksand and cappuccino are the top picks among youngsters. These washed-out shades and suppressed colors are actually influenced by the Korean trend which has been deemed “more hipster” or even classier.

Stay away from these flowers

Although bouquets these days are pretty much customized according to the recipient’s preference, there are some taboos when sending flowers to your loved ones.

For example, chrysanthemums, especially white chrysanthemums, are a huge no-no in Valentine’s Day bouquets or any other joyous occasion, says Teo. Even though they are sometimes used as fillers in bouquets (because they are beautiful), Teo wouldn’t recommend using them because chrysanthemums are used in funerals and prayers, especially in Chinese culture.

Also, did you know that striped carnations are known as “break-up flowers”? Well, while there is no way of checking on the authenticity of these meanings that flowers have – perhaps it may be better to stay away from these for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day or any other day.

A bouquet of… vegetables?

These days, bouquets aren’t just limited to flowers. Some incorporate a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine into their bouquet. Even that’s quite old school as there are now vegetable bouquets (for the more health-conscious, perhaps), snack bouquets, fried chicken bouquets, and even money bouquets that are requested.

Teo says that one of the most popular non-flower bouquets being requested are money bouquets, in which banknotes are folded into flowers.

Though this type of bouquet is gaining popularity everywhere, opinions differ as to whether it is a good idea.

Just last March, a Malaysian woman posted on Facebook about the difficulties she faced disassembling her money bouquet which damaged some of the banknotes that were used and held together with hot glue.

“To the men who want to gift a money bouquet to women, my personal advice is to either use another folding method or just give the money straight away. Someone has to fold it, and someone has to take it apart. And you have to pay for the labor fee, “she said in her post.

These mixed views about cash bouquets also exist in other countries such as Indonesia as some women found the gift to be offensive, according to The Jakarta Post.

Indonesian blogger and violinist Mevlied Nahla for one will not be pleased if she’s gifted a cash bouquet.

“If a man just gifts me money straight up, it’s as if he is buying me,” she was reported as saying.


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