Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Red and white flowers

.  Red and white flowers together not allowed, represent blood and tears.  Never take red and white flowers to anyone in hospital.  Very unlucky.  London, 1960s [Lambeth Horticultural Society, London, November 2015].

2.  Clackmannanshire in the 1950s and Caithness in the 1960s … Mum never liked red and white flowers put together – Wars of the Roses? blood and peace? [Thurso, Caithness, January 2012].

3. When my mother was in hospital they went really potty when someone brought in red and white flowers. That was Hants in 1974 [Westminster Quaker Meeting House, London, October 2009].

4. They say red and white [flowers] together are unlucky; I don’t know why [Maida Hill, London, November 2008].

5. I grew up in the Cotswolds … My mother was very superstitious … She wouldn’t put red and white flowers in the same vase as she said it was like blood and bandages! [Crewkerne, Somerset, January 2007].

6. [Newcastle-on-Clun area, Shropshire] red and white flowers should never be put together, this foretells death [Sandiway, Cheshire, October 2004].

7. In church decorations … red flowers with white gypsophila at Whitsun to symbolise fire and smoke [Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, October 2004].

8. Red and white flowers together: unlucky, represent blood and bandages [Barking, Essex, August 2004].

9. A man from Australia … said that when he had had to go into hospital he had had some red and white flowers brought in by a visitor, but the nurse would not allow it [Natural History Museum, London, September 1998].

10. I have just retired but I started nursing during the War. I found that red and white flowers in the same vase made some patients uneasy; they would mutter ‘Red and whte, someone will die’. If the colours were separated into a vase of red blossoms and one of white this was acceptable [Penicuik, Midlothian, April 1982].

Images:   Sunnyside Residential Home, Chard, Somerset, January 2015.

Observation:  At the Holditch Hall Flowershow, in west Dorset on 10 August 2019, the opener was presented with a buttonhole composed of two white and one red carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) and some asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus), made by an elderly local lady; presumably she was unaware of this superstition.