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From the earliest history, plants and flowers have been used to console sorrow, congratulate achievement, celebrate victory and confirm friendships. The same flower or plant may convey a different message at different times and in different places. Flowers and plants have been used by people of all ages and genders around the world.

There is much truth in the old Chinese proverb, “habits and customs differ, but all people have the love of flowers in their heart.” The Romans celebrated victory and bravery using palms and oak leaves. Before the arrival of Columbus, Aztec warriors often carried elaborate bouquets. There is even a print of Robespierre carrying a huge bouquet during the French Revolution as a part of a celebration of the holiday of the Goddess of Reason.

In northern climates at the time of the winter solstice, people in many parts of the world used evergreen plants in the ceremonies and festivals held to beg the sun to return for another year.

Today in the drab, grey days of winter, flowers and flowering plants are great gifts for just about everyone, and the memory of them lingers long after the flowers are gone. An added bonus is that they are non-fattening.

Plants and flowers are available in many places: florist shops, greenhouses, the internet, grocery stores, and in some unexpected places. Plants and flowers that look fresh and perky make the best selections. Those who do not make their selections in person should order early and offer the order-taker suggestions and information about the recipient.

Cheerful plants that will last well into the new year and beyond are poinsettias (many colors, some are even available with colored sparkle dust on their foliage); amaryllis (ready-to-bloom, bulbs will last for years); bromeliads (dramatic, tall vase-shaped ones); and orchids (especially Phalaenopsis). A slender vase or a well-shaped green glass bottle with a few flowers and a bit of green makes a beautiful gift for grandmothers and other special people. The accompanying note can alert the recipient to the promise of a return with refills for the vase.

Before being taken outdoors flowers and plants should be well-wrapped to protect them from the shock that can result from being exposed to cold weather. In very cold weather, plants can be double-wrapped by placing the already-wrapped plant into a plastic bag blown up with warm breath. The car should be pre-heated and the plant should stay unwrapped until it is safely at its new home and the air around the package has had a chance to warm up. A saucer under the pot will collect excess water.

P.S. Anyone who receives a plant that is too large or flowers that induce sneezing can share them with a plant-loving friend, a retirement home or a soup kitchen.