Dave Barry

Why flowers are good for you

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, May 8, 1983)

Have you ever stopped to think what life would be like without flowers? I mean, what would you send to dead people? Grapes, maybe. Then there would be something to eat at viewings. But what about high-school proms? If you pinned a bunch of grapes to your date's gown, your rental tuxedo would be a mess after the first slow dance.

So flowers are a good thing. They are a way for us to send a very special message to our friends and loved ones, a message that says, "Here are some flowers." This is considered extremely thoughtful, especially if the flowers are accompanied by a card stating some deeply heartfelt sentiment produced by the Heartfelt Sentiment Division of a major greeting-card company:

Thinking of you At this special time And hoping your organ Removal goes fine.

Flowers also have religious significance. When I was a youth attending St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Armonk, N.Y., every man, woman and child was issued a potted hyacinth on Easter Sunday. Then we'd sing a hymn with a lot of "alleluias" in it, and every time we got to an "alleluia" we'd all raise our potted hyacinths over our heads in a gesture of Major Religious Significance. I'm serious. You'd have this sea of potted hyacinths lunging up and down in semi-unison and occasionally crashing to the floor on account of it was hard to simultaneously hoist your hyacinth and hold your hymnal. It was during these services that I began to entertain serious doubts about organized religion.

Interesting Floral Fact: It was also during these services that Neil Thompson and I discovered you can eat hyacinth blossoms. They're not half bad. We'd come out of the service with hyacinths that looked like little potted sagebrushes. You might bear this in mind if you ever get the munchies at a viewing.

Flowers are one of those beautiful and amazingly adaptable life forms that Mother Nature comes up with when she's not wiping out entire villages in India with monsoons. Botanists have counted nine hillion jillion dillion species of flowers, although I suspect that toward the end there they were just making rough estimates. All these species of flowers can be divided into three major groupings, then put back together again. But for our purposes, whatever they are, let us say that the major types of flowers are annuals, quarterlies, semifinals, bisexuals, periodontals, woodwinds, gerunds and leeks.

Flowers have had to develop some very clever systems for reproducing, because they are rooted in the ground and thus cannot easily obtain liquor. Your uglier flowers, such as tulips, reproduce by means of bulbs, which are yam-like growths that crouch underground in places like Holland, where people are afraid to dig them up and burn them for fear they might weaken the dikes. The more attractive flowers reproduce by having sex with bees. Bees are willing to have sex with plants because the queen bee always has a headache since she has to take care of something like 600,000 babies at the same time.

After the sex act, the flowers develop little packets of seeds, which are deposited in the mailbox by the mailman, then deposited in the ground by the gardener. As you can see, this reproductive cycle requires a delicate balance of environmental forces, which is why in many states it is illegal to shoot postmen.

If you're interested in starting a flower garden of your own, you should first determine what area of the country you live in. To do this, mail a sample of your soil to the United States Department of Agriculture, along with your Zip Code. Within a few weeks you'll receive a written analysis indicating where you live, which will help you decide what kind of garden you should have. For example, if you live in California, you would plant flowers with poisonous spines, so health fanatics can't eat them. And if you live in New York City, you would plant extra seeds, because the pigeons will steal most of them and exchange them for drugs.

If you really get into flowers, you can join a garden club, which will give you a chance to meet lots of people you would not otherwise have met unless you were being paid a lot of money. You'll go to people's houses and discuss insects and floral arrangements for hours on end and eat little cakes and drink a lot of coffee so you don't nod off and pitch face-first into the begonias.

© 2010, Dave Barry

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