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Stop and Smell the Parsley

Stop and Smell the Parsley

Flowers convey deep meaning, both on the holiday of Shavuot and all year round, and most men have no idea what it is.


If you are a man, chances are you know nothing about flowers. Sure, you appreciate them as G-d’s creations, the same way you appreciate a rhinoceros or an ostrich, but chances are you’re not going to bring home a rhinoceros or an ostrich to put on your holiday table. But sometimes you have to buy flowers anyway, like on an anniversary or the holiday of Shavuot for example, and frankly, they scare you. For one thing, they all look pretty much alike. The only ones you can actually recognize by name are roses, and that’s because you remember learning about the War of the Roses when you were in high school.

It is for this reason that I have put together a beginners’ Q&A column about flowers, using questions sent in by actual husbands via telepathy, because they were all too scared to ask me in person. Or else I just made them up.

I have put together a beginners’ Q&A column about flowers, using questions sent in by actual husbands via telepathy

(AUTHOR’S QUALIFICATION TO WRITE THIS COLUMN: The author has been married for over five years, during which he has bought flowers more than eight times. .)

Q: What exactly is the appeal of flowers?

A: Flowers are pretty, and they smell nice, and are relatively inexpensive compared to jewelry, except that jewelry lasts for years and years and eventually gets fought over by your children, whereas flowers sometimes die on the way home from the store.

Q: They seem like a waste of money, don’t they? How about I buy something that actually lasts, like another vase?

A: Actually, the fact that flowers die works out in your favor. You’ll never hear anyone say, “Let’s not get them flowers, they already have flowers.”

Q: What type of flowers should I buy?

A: In general, if you buy flowers every Friday on the way home from work, you can probably get away with flowers that will last for a couple of days, whereas if you buy flowers once a year, they had better last you at least until the next Shavuot. Or else you can do what I do, which is go into the flower shop and ask “What can I get for X dollars?” Florists are used to dealing with clueless husbands, and will cheerfully point you toward a bouquet that does not appear to have any actual flowers on it. That’s how you know it’s time to up your price range.

Q: What is the difference between buying flowers from a florist and buying them from a street vendor?

A: About thirty-five dollars.

Q: No, I mean a real difference.

A: Okay. Street flowers usually last about two days.

Q: Shavuot is two days.

A: What are you saying?

Q: How about the planting flowers they have for sale at Home Depot? Can I just buy those? They last longer.

A: Okay. But good luck explaining this to your wife.

Q: I’m not buying the flowers for my wife. I’m buying them for Shavuot.

A: No, you’re buying them for your wife. Shavuot or not, you’re still going to come home from the store and say, “Look, I brought you flowers!” Single college guys don’t buy flowers for their dorm rooms for Shavuot. At best, they spray around a can of floral scented room freshener.

Q: How long will my flowers last out of the water?

A: Not very. Once you buy your flowers, you’re going to want to get home as soon as possible. Make irresponsible traffic decisions if you have to. If a cop pulls you over, just explain that you have flowers in the back seat, and then ask if you can please have a police escort to your home.

Q: Really?

A: Really. I remember how one year it was about ninety-five degrees on the afternoon before Shavuot, and I’d had the idea to buy Italian ices for the holiday, but I had to make a choice between letting the ices sit in the hot car while I stood in line for flowers, or letting the flowers sit in the car while I ran into the supermarket.

Q: So what did you do?

A: I bought the ices first, and then took them into the flower shop with me, and spent a lot of my waiting time standing casually inside the flower refrigerator and pretending to have a genuine interest in browsing through the flowers, and at the end I just asked them for suggestions anyway.

Q: What do I do with the flowers once I get them home?

A: Every time I buy my wife flowers, she carefully cuts a piece off the bottom of each stem, at an angle, before she puts them in the water. I had no idea you were supposed to do this. I would just plop them in the water, and they would be sitting in the vase haphazardly, with the buds perched about three and a half feet off the table.

Q: I heard that different flowers are supposed to send different messages to the receiver. Is there any truth to this?

A: Yes. In Victorian times, people used flowers to convey secret messages to each other. Some flowers signified friendship or devotion, while others signified hatred or war or even death. “Dear France. We hate you. Have some flowers.”

IMPORTANT NOTE TO WOMEN: Nowadays, most of these meanings have fallen by the wayside, so if you ever receive flowers, don’t read too much into it, or you may end up starting a war. There is no way your husband knows what any of these flowers mean, and if you start yelling at him for getting you flowers, he will be more confused than he has ever been in his life. “No wonder they were so cheap.”

Q: Can you give some examples as to what some of these flowers meant, none of which you are making up, of course?

A: Sure.

Palm leaves (lulavim) = victory or success.

Wolf’s Bane = misanthropy. In other words, if you sent anyone wolf’s bane, it meant you disliked people in general.

Betony = surprise. “Surprise! I got you Betony!”

Cactus = endurance. If someone was sick, you would give him a cactus, and it would sit on his nightstand so he’d be afraid to reach for the orange juice.

Oleander = caution. We’re guessing they put them into their appliance cartons with their instruction manuals.

Parsley = festivities. In other words, if you found parsley on the side of your plate, it meant you were at a simcha.

Q: What if I forget to buy flowers?

A: If you ever forget to buy flowers for a special occasion, don’t just buy them after the fact. Part of the point of flowers is to have them on display at the occasion, so that everybody can, in turn, say, “Oh. Flowers.” And now it’s too late. But you can buy apology flowers, though.

Q: What’s the difference?

A: About forty dollars.

(PS. Yellow roses mean, “I’m sorry.”)

This article is excerpted from Mordechai’s book “A Clever Title Goes Here” which can be purchased online here.

May 15, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Jared, May 21, 2010 3:38 PM

the thought of flowers

When I was dating my now wife, I told her I had thought about buying her flowers, but didn't because the selection wasn't good. She was so happy that I "thought of her". Even though I didn't buy her anything! So I figured the only think I could do in this situation would be to marry her, because you just can't get any more low maintenance. "Honey, I thought about buying that jewelry for you, but it was too gold colored." "Wow, you thought about me? I love you so much!" I've got a great wife.

(5) chaiah schwab, May 18, 2010 1:55 AM

I throw in my support to comments #1 & #2!

Bravo! Oddly, I never really liked cut flowers, b/c they die so soon, ao I used to tell my husband to please buy me a potted plant instead, until I discovered a flower that REALLY lasted and was inexpensive, to boot: alstromeria (spelling may be off). Looks like a miniature tiger lily, only not orange colored but white or pink with dark red & yellow streaks in the throats. Many on a single stem. They easily last a week. If you add a teaspoon of sugar to the water, it seems to give 'em an even longer cut life. I used to live in Israel . The children would decorate the entrance to the apartment buildings with flowers for Shavuos; how I miss that! May we all merit to return to our homeland soon! P.S. If you do buy someone a potted plant, for heaven's sake don't buy dumb cane, even though it's pretty; they may think you are silently wishing they would talk less!! It got its name from the fact thta if someone chewed on a leaf, it cauld cause their throat constrict and they couldn't speak. Nasty. But a very pretty and fairly common house plant!

(4) Anonymous, May 17, 2010 10:23 PM

hahahahhahaaaaa great artical!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! haha!!!!

(3) Louise Doan, May 17, 2010 8:35 PM


Greetings from the female species. Before I go any further, please understand that the monetary cost of giving a woman flowers, need not be great. As a woman and as a counselor, I have seen the value that flowers hold. When you present one or three (not two) roses to your wife, you are also presenting to her unspoken messages. These, to her, can be of great value. Unspoken messages include: Honey, I love you. I value you over any other woman-including my mother. I thank you for the time and effort that you place in our children (once a mother, always a mother). I appreciate the things that you do for me. I respect you and I honor you with this gift. Understand, a woman who is given flowers by her man, is blessed. And....get this one...a man who gives flowers is blessed as do we not reap what we sow? I know a well-known Rabbi who is aware of this first hand-and teaches it to other men. He and his wife have an incredible relationship from A to Z. And they have fun. Thus, should you have been one with a negative attitude about flowers: be there a wall of hindrance in your life, tear it down. Then, give it some time and continue to water the ground where new seed has been sown (in love): enjoying one another as new growth and blessings begin to spring forth for both of you. A dozen roses are good for anniversaries-not all of the time or a dozen can lose its value. Communicate on this as she might like something else. If you ask-listen. Several flowers on Friday are excellent: a part of Shabbat and honoring the Lord for the woman He has given you. PS It is rare, but some women do not like flowers so, if fruit is not coming forth, or there is no smile on her face-then ask.

(2) Anonymous, May 17, 2010 4:37 PM

Bravo!! Utterly hilarious!

I think you should seriously consider all these comments & do a rewrite of all this material and PUBLISH a book on the subject!! if julia child can do it; so can you ... the jewish husband's guide to flowers; BRAVO; again; really wonderful sentiment here; tip from a woman? roses may be v. usual; but they are single-handedly a real powerhouse of a scent for women; the electromagnetic frequency of the oil is v. high; wonderful for all ''women's issues' these are the medicinal, aromatherapeutical BENEFITS to buying them: instant mood lifter; and perhaps the best 'sorry' possible?

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