I admired these beautiful flowers a few weeks ago – the large, velvety petals of rich colour, and the buds waiting to open and unfurl – all set amongst the bright green leaves. Even the name seemed magical – gloxinia sonata melangée.
Although hoping to find some kind of musical association to explain the term sonata, I did not find any. What I did find is how complex and complicated the classification and naming of plants can be!
The latter are members of the tuberous botanical family Gesneriaceae that includes the African violet (saintpaulia). Also known as the ‘florist's gloxinias’ or gloxinia elegant, these ‘false’ gloxinia have been extensively hybridized over the last 200 years. A variety of digitalis is also called foxglove gloxiniaeflora.
I did manage to unearth a few facts and associations concerning the gloxinia -although whether that concerns the genuine or the false variety, or both is another story !
Whilst the Victorians considered the gloxinia to represent love at first sight, other meanings have been attributed to this plant with its distinctive large, bright blooms.
There are many variations but these often take the form of campanula with a solitary flower. Perhaps this is why gloxinia is also believed to symbolize individuality, independance and leadership – a ‘proud spirit’.
In that light, it is not surprising that it is also represented by the number 1 and the sun, no less !
Gloxinia is also said to symbolise pioneering and attainment – leading the way forward, initiating change, emotional growth and consciousness. Apparently shaman use the flower for their spiritual and sacred journeys. Perhaps it is in these last attributes that gloxinia merits a link to the sonata – a model used for an unfolding composition for an instrumental soloist.
Garden centres have been shut for weeks now and yet I was able to recover a few sorry specimens that were left out for customers at a local supermarket. Not sure that they will acclimatise to life on a fifth-floor balcony but I hope so, inspiring adaptation to changed circumstances.