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Flowers in English Expressions and Sayings

Updated on July 29, 2016
Gloriousconfusion profile image

I love the English language, it's so expressive and colorful, with its nuances of meaning, metaphors, puns, proverbs and regional slang

An English Garden

A typical English cottage garden style in summer, all in pink and green tones - hollyhocks, spirea and cornus
A typical English cottage garden style in summer, all in pink and green tones - hollyhocks, spirea and cornus | Source

As you know, English is full of colloquial expression and metaphors

English speaking people seem almost to absorb these from the time they learn to speak, but they must present quite a learning problem for people learning English as a second language.

I love the various nuances of English language, and have taken it upon myself to write several web pages breaking down these expressions and sayings into groups, such as Flowers, Animals of various types, Colours, and even Boundaries. They are enjoyable reminders for native English speakers, and , with the pictures, are a useful way of memorising a whole new bunch of expressions, including proverbs and common quotations.

Flowers and gardening have been such a popular subject through the ages that I thought there would be far more flower sayings and metaphors than I have actually managed to produce here, which very much surprised me.

There are also quite a lot of English expressions about trees and nature, which perhaps calls for me to make another hub about them. As you will see, I am a keen photographer, and I can certainly produce plenty of tree pictures too.

See how many of these you know.

Gilding the Lily

Day Lily
Day Lily | Source

1. Gilding the Lily

Gilding the Lily means trying to improve something which is already perfect

e.g. “I’ve made a delicious banana bread cake, and now I’m going to try it with icing” – “ No, don’t do that, it’s just gilding the lily”.


There are several fairly similar expressions relating to roses, but I have mentioned them separately, because they are all in use

A Rose by any other name still smells as sweet

Climbing Rose
Climbing Rose | Source

2. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet –

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – means that the name of something does not affect its nature or essence. The expression, which comes from Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, is often shortened to A rose by any other name. ideological activist (such as Nelson Mandela) may be called a freedom fighter or a terrorist, depending on your point of view, but the fact that he was essentially an activist is indisputable – a rose by any other name.”

Below is an extract from Romeo and Juliet, to show you the context. For those who don’t know the story, Romeo and Juliet fell in love although they belonged to warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets and it all ended tragically.

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Act II, Scene II

To Come up Roses

A Tea Rose
A Tea Rose | Source

3. To come up roses

To come up roses means to have a successful or good outcome, especially after a poor start.

E.g. “in spite of term-time difficulties, everything came up roses when the exam results were announced”.

To Come up Smelling of Roses

Tea Rose
Tea Rose | Source

A Bed of Roses

An English Floribunda Rose
An English Floribunda Rose | Source

4. To come up smelling of roses

To come up smelling of roses means to emerge with an untarnished reputation from a problematic situation.

E.g. “After the criminal investigation, he came out smelling of roses”.

5. A bed of roses

A bed of roses – means comfort or luxury and is usually used to describe someone’s life.

E.g. “Her life is not exactly a bed of roses”, meaning she has a difficult time.

A Path Strewn With Roses

Rosebud | Source

6. A path strewn with roses

A path strewn with roses means an easy life

e.g. “when he was young, his path was strewn with roses, but after the war, all that changed.”

Primrose Path

Primroses in various colours
Primroses in various colours | Source

7. The primrose path

The primrose path means an easy, pleasurable and possibly dissipated way through life.

E.g. “he trod the primrose path” meaning he succumbed to life’s temptations.

A Pansy

Purple and White Pansies
Purple and White Pansies | Source

8 A pansy

A pansy - This is a disparaging term for a male who is effeminate or homosexual.

eg “he’s such a pansy” meaning he’s effeminate, a bit of a wimp.

It's not politically correct, and is therefore falling out of use, but, if you come across it, you still need to know what it means, and that it is nowadays considered an inappropriate use of language.

A Shrinking Violet

African Violets
African Violets | Source

9 A shrinking violet

A shrinking violet means a shy or timid person.

E.g. “She’s a bit of a shrinking violet, and doesn’t present herself in the best light at interviews”.

A Wallflower

Orange Wallflowers in a Cottage Garden
Orange Wallflowers in a Cottage Garden | Source

10 A wallflower

A wallflower – someone who is left out

e.g. “She was a wallflower at the dance” meaning no-one asked her to dance.

Picking Daisies

Daisies in the Grass
Daisies in the Grass | Source

11 Picking Daisies or pushing up the daisies

Picking Daisies or pushing up the daisies – means dead and buried.

E.g. “I haven’t seen Fred lately” – “no, you won’t, because he’s been picking daisies for the last year” meaning he died a year ago.

Fresh as a Daisy


12. Fresh as a Daisy

Fresh as a Daisy – means very fresh

e.g. “she was at an all-night party but still looked as fresh as a daisy next day”.

Let's see how many readers have English as their first language, and how many are still learning English

Is English your home language?

See results

Did you learn anything new or did you know all these expressions? Do leave a comment

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    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Lovely photos of flowers and expressions. I shall not gild the lily of your beautiful hub with my superfluous comment.

    • LindaSmith1 profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      I love Daisies.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      3 years ago from Germany

      What a lovely idea for a hub! I know some of the sayings. I used to be a "wallpaper" in our high school parties. Thanks for sharing this hub as I have learned a lot. The video was beautiful. It reminded me of those "good old days."

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      3 years ago from United States

      Your garden is beautiful and I delighted in both the words and the photos. The first one I had not heard of but I have lived a sheltered life.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      3 years ago

      Thanks for the flowery phrases!

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Yes, it helps people to remember, doesn't it ?

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a great idea for a hub! This is a very enjoyable article with lovely photos. It's also a useful article for people who are learning English.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      3 years ago from California

      I never knew what gilding the lily meant, though I'm familiar with the other phrases. They are beautifully represented with the flower photos.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for all your comments, I'm so pleased you have enjoyed this Hub and found it interesting. I love gardening - the flowers are all from my own moderately-sized garden, and I just can't resist photographing "my babies".

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      What fun! Great subject for a hub. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      3 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      A very interesting hub and a great way to showcase your beautiful flower photos.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      3 years ago from Land of Aloha

      What an interesting topic; I think I knew all of these but hadn't heard most of them for some time. Entertaining!

    • Susan300 profile image


      3 years ago

      I know the expressions, but the photos were worth the trip. Such lovely work you've done capturing them! I look forward to your hub on trees.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      3 years ago from New Zealand

      Great hub. I enjoyed reading it. I know all of those sayings although I haven't heard them much in the last few years. Thanks for the memories my parents always quoted these expressions, I have missed hearing them.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I learned something new here today. I had no idea that a wallflower was really a flower. Beautiful Hub. Thank you.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I think you are right and I may or may not be wrong. Anyway, I've amended it to "pushing up the daisies", because I know that is correct.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Wonderful hub! I knew most of these expressions. The exception was "putting up the daisies". I've always heard it as "pushing up the daisies". I guess that would be interpreted as meaning the person is buried below where the daisies are growing. The difference in the word usage may be based on where the person lives, but that's only a guess.

    • snerfu profile image

      Vivian Sudhir 

      3 years ago from Madurai, India

      Many thanks for those roses, an interesting play of words that runs around the flower bushes and opens out a door to the literary world. I revel in this Glorious Confusion and hope other readers find their way up the garden path too.


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