The Language of Flowers

Posted by Pavel Bogdanov on

The Language of Flowers: The meaning of flowers and what they are telling us.

It's the 19th century and you live in Victorian England. It is a time of great change, with industrialization changing how people live and work, the various social classes intermingling, and a new monarch keeping a fragile peace between the great western powers of the time. As with all new-found times of peace, the liberal arts find space to grow and flourish. Literature, theatre, and science grew by leaps and bounds, while social etiquette became more conservative in an effort to develop a more civilized and refined society. So, what does one do when even small and subtle flirtation is considered rude and improper? When it is considered ignorant and uncultured to express gratitude to a friend? How can one send veiled threats to an enemy or rival in that kind of cultural climate? Humanity will always find a way, and so began the tradition of saying it with flowers.

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.
Gerard De Nerval

Floriography, or the language of flowers, originated in Ottoman Turkey. It was well known in the court of its ancient capital of Constantinople, which was obsessed with tulips at the time. Floriography was brought to the western capitals via the work of two women. The English Mary Wortley Montagu, and the Swedish Aubry de la Mottraye. The timing for these could not have been more perfect, as flower cultivation and botany were becoming immensely popular. Joseph Hammer-Purgstall's Dictionnaire du Langage des Fleurs, dictionary of flower languages, was the first published work that associated various flower types with symbolic meanings. This book and other floriography books then spread from England and France, to across Europe, and over the Atlantic to the United States, and South America. This also influenced some of the greatest writers, from Shakespeare, Bronte, Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, to use floriography in their works, giving the new language a true foothold in this era of western culture.

In the Victorian Era, flowers were used in the same way we use emojis today. And in sending a bouquet with specific flowers, a meaning is communicated, so let's explore a primer with some of today's most popular flowers to get you started in the art of floriography.

Blue thou art, intensely blue; Flower, whence came thy dazzling hue?
James Montgomery

Acacia: Friendship, Beauty in Retirement, Elegance
Alstroemeria: Devotion, Wealth, Prosperity, Fortune
Asparagus: Fascination
Azalea: Temperance, Self-Care, Fragility, Chinese symbol for Womanhood
Baby's Breath: Innocense
Birds of Paradise: Faithfulness
Cactus: Endurance
Calla Lily: Magnificent Beauty
Carnations-General: Female Love
Red: Admiration
White: Sweetness, Pure Love, Adoration
Pink: Unforgettable
Purple: Capriciousness
Solid Colour: Yes -Approval
Striped: No, Refusal
Yellow: Dissapointment
Cedar: I live only for you
Cherry Blossom: Education
Chrysanthemum: Friendship, Rest, Cheerfulness
Red: Love
White: Truth
Yellow: Slighted Love
Cyclamen: Resignation, Goodbye
Daffodil: Respect, Unrequited Love
Dahlia: Dignity, Elegance
Daisy: Loyalty, Gentleness
Dead Leaves: Sadness
Dill: Lust
Elder Flower: Zeal
Fern: Fascination, Magic
Gardenia: Purity of Love
Gerbera: Innocence
Grass: Submission
Holly: Domestic Happiness, Defence, Foresight
Hyacinth: Playful
White: Loneliness
Red/Pink: Play
Blue: Consistency
Purple: Forgiveness
Yellow: Jealousy
Hydrangea: Understanding
Iris: Faith, Valour, Wisdom
Jasmine: Modesty, Grace
Lily: Return of Happiness, Humility
Orange: Wealth
White: Wealth
Yellow: Fantasy
Magnolia: Royalty
Mint: Virtue
Moss: Maternal Love
Narcissus: Egotism, Charity
Olive Branch: Peace
Palm Leaves: Victory, Success
Parsley: Useful Knowledge
Orchid: Love and Beauty
Pussy Willow: Motherhood
Rhododendron: Danger, Caution

Roses:

Red and White: Unity
White and Dried: Death over Dishonour
Pale Pink: Grace

Snap Dragon: Presumption, Deception
Statice: Remembrance
Sunflower Tall: Pride
Sunflower Small: Adoration
Tulip: Love, Passion
Venus Flytrap: Caught at Last
Violet: White Risk in Love
Blue Faithfulness
Witch Hazel: A Magic Spell
Zinnia Thoughts of a Distant Love

 

Remarkably interesting, this secret and ancient language of flowers. Writing poems with nature. Sending strange and wonderful bouquets, to communicate and be deciphered by the recipient. If the opportunity presents itself, and you're lucky enough, try and obtain two floriography dictionaries, one for yourself, and the other for your favourite flower recipient. Share a secret language together, and let our florists act as a pen and paper to send your complex and unique emotions.

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