Human Flower Project

Oops a Daisy ~  Plant Idioms

Georgia Silvera Seamans takes us down the primrose path, into a thicket of botanical phrases. Let’s pile on the plant idioms, old chestnuts and new hybrids.


“Raking the Hayfield”

a.k.a. “Making Hay” (with Cherokee roses)

Painting:  Walt Curlee

By Georgia Silvera Seamans

Make hay while the sun shines.  Well, I don’t have a grass field so I cannot make hay, but I can take advantage of the sunlight and warm weather in Berkeley, California.  With all that brightness, how could I hit the hay?! 

As I write, it’s the third January day in a row of high-60 degree weather, clear skies, and sunshine.  I spent Saturday helping to create a bird garden, a grassroots project, in the Mission District of San Francisco and Sunday walking some of Berkeley’s paths.  You could say I’m a rolling stone; I gathered no moss this weekend.  I did not want to let the grass grow under my feet.  There are always fun volunteer opportunities in the Bay Area.  For example, today, as part of the MLK Service Weekend, I will be participating in the California Indigenous Habitat Activists/ Ohlone Greenway restoration project.  Next Monday, I will be planting fruit trees in Preservation Park in Berkeley.  Volunteering in the Bay Area is not like finding a needle in a haystack.  One could say it’s a bowl of cherries—even a bed of roses.  (Though Portland, Oregon, is known as the City of Roses, I observe so many yards of roses in Berkeley.  There is also the famous Rose Garden in Berkeley, and one in Oakland, too.)

image“Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow”

Image: Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition

I mentioned earlier that I am writing this in January 2009—the New Year.  And like a lot of people, I am turning over a new leaf or several leaves.  What leaves?  Well, for one thing, not thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.  It might be greener because the homeowner uses herbicides and pesticides (yikes!) or too much water (we are in a drought!), or maybe it’s faux grass.  I’ll try to be less of a shrinking violet.  And I’ll sow the seeds, literally, to grow a sidewalk garden.  One must be careful with resolutions of course.

Do these old chestnuts bore you?  Last December I found $20 on the street (oops a daisy).  Maybe this year I will win the lottery: great seed money for my tea shop/ book shop.  But you know what they say: mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

In addition to personal resolutions, I have an academic goal: collect and analyze the relevant paper-based data for my dissertation project this spring (and if necessary, this summer).  Knock on wood.  I am excited about my current research idea.  In the past, I have barked up the wrong tree. I had another not too promising idea and was slow to nip it in the bud.  I couldn’t see the forest for the trees

imageBed of Roses

Photo: My Flower Depot

Three plant idioms in a row!—  and 19 total in this essay.  What idioms do you use frequently? What are the most common idioms in your culture/ country? 

I was born in Jamaica.  I remember (I think) hearing “make hay while the sun shines” and “the grass is not always greener on the other side” quite often.  Why?  In the case of the first, Jamaica was a British colony and Britain is a meritocracy that promotes one’s own best effort.  As for the second idiom, Jamaicans are fairly God-fearing and one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not covet.”

Editor’s Note: Many thanks, Georgia, for this thicket of plant idioms. We’ve heard that in Australia folks who criticize people of distinction are accused of “cutting down the tall poppies.” And in Japan they say “Iwanu ga hana”—The flower doesn’t speak. Its English version might be “Silence is golden.”

Please let us know of others. We welcome familiar expressions, like “steel magnolias” or “gilding the lily.” But feel free to invent some floralisms of your own. How about “Pass the nasturtiums,” to say you’re daring. Or a “black iris”—for someone who takes pride in being gloomy….

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 03:49 PM


Well, I won’t beat around the bush. This post was the pick of the bunch today—and I didn’t even need to wear my rose-colored glasses! Thanks for helping me to stop and smell the roses for a bit. smile

Posted by Donna at Suburban Sanctum on 01/17 at 07:58 PM

Hilarious!  What a nice playful post, thank you!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 07:40 PM
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