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“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.” 

–Buddhist Proverb

The Lotus: An Ultimate Symbol

(A Lotus Flower Just Rose from Under Water, Wu Bin from the Ming dynasty, 1368-1644)

Lotus flowers or water lilies are sacred blossoms that burst forth from mud in ponds and create a gorgeous unfolding of petals that represents, to some, an expansion of the soul. A member of the plant family Nelumbonaceae, the lotus is ubiquitous in Asian cultures (as it is the national flower of India and Vietnam). In Vietnam the lotus represents the dawn and “is the symbol of purity, commitment and optimism for the future. At night the flower closes and sinks underwater and rises and opens again at dawn.”

Lotus flowers have been known to bloom from seeds over 1,000 years old; when this was discovered in China, many immediately associated the plant with longevity.

We associate the lotus with wellness and as a symbol of Zen and calm. This may seem like an idea that’s recently permeated our culture but has actually been around for centuries. Images of lotus blossoms have been found in hieroglyphs from Ancient Egypt as tokens for pharaohs, while Indian culture associates the lotus with various gods and goddesses.

The Lotus Eaters: Fun Fact

“Thence for nine days’ space I was borne by direful winds over the teeming deep; but on the tenth we set foot on the land of the Lotus-eaters, who eat a flowery food….and the Lotus-eaters did not plan death for my comrades, but gave them of the lotus to taste. And whosoever of them ate of the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, had no longer any wish to bring back word or to return, but there they were fain to abide among the Lotus-eaters, feeding on the lotus, and forgetful of their homeward way…”
–Homer, The Odyssey

(W. Heath Robinson)

Did you know that the term “lotus-eater” comes from Greek mythology and refers to a group of people encountered by Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey? After being shipwrecked, he came upon an island filled with people who lazed about all day without a care in the world; they had become extremely tranquil after eating lotus seeds and tempted the fellow men to imbibe and forget Ithaca. When we use the term “lotus-eater” to refer to someone today, we are essentially calling them daydreamers.

In his 1832 poem “The Lotos-Eaters,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson describes the elusive flower as something that blooms anew each day because, after all, the lotus does just that:

“All its allotted length of days/
The flower ripens in its place,/
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,/
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.”

The Lovely Lotus: Where to Plant

“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Most types of lotus are native to India, Vietnam, China, or—in the case of the American yellow lotus—the United States. The most common sort of lotus blossom comes from India and is known as the “Sacred lotus.” They can be grown from seeds anywhere in the world as long as the climate is temperate, and it’s important to keep in mind that they thrive in dirty, muddy water. A koi pond in a backyard or garden is ideal for lotus blossoms, and, of course, they add just the right touch to any space in need of tranquility and simple elegance. A pond filled with lily pads and lotus blossoms is the perfect setting for relaxation. A view complete with white, pink, or yellow lotus flowers is perfect for meditation, yoga, or simply reading a book.

For more information on lotus blossoms, consult the links mentioned in this blog:

For more information on all your fall floral needs, visit Chelsea Flowers!

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