5. Hydrangeas

With its big bushy head and intense shades of pink, blue, burgundy, and purple, it's no wonder that the hydrangea represented "vanity" in the Victorian language of flowers. One of the most popular varieties changes in color as it grows from bubble-gum pink to sky blue, depending on the acid level of the soil.

photo by ROBIN PROCTOR

 A stem or two of this moderately priced, scentless shrub flower helps fill out arrangements and bouquets, and a few sprigs make a charming boutonniere. You'll find the hydrangea in white and shades of green, pink, burgundy, and blue.

4. Lily of the Valley

With bell-shape florets dangling from a thin stem, the lily of the valley is sometimes called "the ladder to heaven." The fresh, perfumed scent from its tiny flowers is unmistakable. In Norse mythology, the flower is linked to Ostara, the goddess of springtime, and while most plentiful during this season, it remains available -- and very expensive -- most of the year.


So while a fistful of lily of the valley might be your dream, a more affordable alternative may be to use just a few stems to infuse a bouquet or centerpiece with its wonderful fragrance. Most people know of the white variety, but lily of the valley also comes in a very rare rosy-pink.

3. Calla Lily

Also known as the arum lily, this elegant, trumpet-shaped blossom originated in Africa and symbolizes "magnificent beauty" in the language of flowers.

photo by SHIPRA PANOSIAN

The calla lily's distinctive form has been depicted in Art Nouveau and Art Deco works, in addition to twentieth-century photography. Two types are commonly available: a large-headed variety with a long, smooth stem and suitable for tall arrangements or presentation-style bouquets, and a miniature version ideal for nosegays and boutonnieres. Creamy ivory is the most popular color, but calla lilies also come in yellow, orange, mauve-pink, and dark purple.

2. Tulip

Although it's most often associated with the Netherlands, this flower is actually a native of Persia. Representing "consuming love" and "happy years," the tulip can be a meaningful wedding choice. The flowers are grown in a wide range of colors, including white and cream; pastels like pink, yellow, and peach; and vibrant hues like magenta, red, and purple. Available during much of the year, the most common tulips are very affordable, though rare varieties can be expensive. 


The versatile tulip can enhance both elegant wedding settings and more casual venues, and work well in almost any permutation -- from bouquets to boutonnieres to table arrangements. Three main varieties are commonly used: Dutch tulips (typically seen at neighborhood florist shops and in gardens), French tulips (expensive and elegant, with extra-long stems and large tapered blooms), and parrot tulips (noted for their ruffled, striped petals in intense colors).

1. Rose

Long considered a symbol of beauty and love, the rose figures into many myths and fairy tales. Romantic writers and poets have used the flower as a metaphor for emotion, beauty, passion, and true love throughout the ages. An all-star in the world of weddings, the rose is far from boring, particularly when it comes to color -- the rose is available in solid colors and bicolor varieties, and there are striped roses and tipped roses as well. 

More than three thousand varieties of roses are grown commercially, many available year-round and that are surprisingly affordable. And though roses are associated with luxurious fragrance, not every rose is scented. Three main types are likely candidates for your wedding flowers: hybrid tea roses (the classic, uniformly-shaped commercial roses generally seen at your local florist), spray roses (a rose with five to ten small heads on each stem and a "natural, garden-grown" look), and garden roses (expensive, old-fashioned varieties with bushy, open heads and delicious scents).

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