Monday, June 05, 2006

The Language of Flowers

In Victorian times, flowers were used as a means of saying what one would not be so bold to say in person. Instead, single flowers, bouquets and arrangements were given, and specific thoughts were expressed in the kind of flowers and the manner in which they were given.

I've been reading a wonderful late 19th century book, "The Language and Poetry of Flowers", and am intrigued with how detailed, sometimes complicated, this method of communication could be.

The Love Flowers
The simple statements were pretty easy to guess - a single red rose signified "I love you", and we still use this today, don't we? The same message coul be given by offering someone Myrtle, too.

But did you know that giving someone a dog rose means "I love you, and it causes me both pleasure and pain"? Don't ask me where one finds a dog rose - clearly that was a flower of the times, and would be difficult to find now. Just as well . . .

What if you received a coxcomb as a gift? This asked "Do you love me?" And in those days, a four-leafed clover wasn't a sign of good luck. Instead it meant "Be Mine."

Not All were Happy Comments
Sometimes, unhappy couples would send flowers back and forth, signifying their displeasure. Should your beloved stand before you, break off a rose and throw away the rose petals, he was saying "I do not love you." Of course, this is one of the less subtle floral statements!

Scarlet Auricula was given when one wanted to say "You are a miser." Surprisingly, a gift of rhododendron signified "You are in Danger." Apricot blossoms meant "I doubt you." Moonwart was known for the statement "Forget Me."

The beautiful flower foxglove told it's own story - "I know I can't Trust You!" , while petunias were a warning to "Keep Your Promise." Who would have guessed that those gorgeous peonies meant "For Shame!"

Not surprisingly, when you gave a dandelion puffball, it meant "Depart!"

Conversations Through Bouquets
  • For someone with whom you are not impressed: "Your affectation and deceit I disdain."
affectation - - - Coxcomb
deceit - - - Flytrap
disdain - - - Yellow Carnation

  • For the person who asks too many questions: "I love to disappoint your curiousity."
love - - - Red Rose
disappoint - - - Carolina Syringa
curiosity - - - Sycamore

  • For that special person you want to spend the rest of your life with: "Let the bonds of marriage unite us."
bonds - - - Blue Convolvulus
marriage - - - Ivy
unite us - - - a few whole Straws

  • As a funeral spray of flowers: "Be assured of my sympathy. May you find consolation."
my sympathy - - - Thrift
consolation - - - Red Poppy

The Language of Flowers for Advanced Speakers

By giving a flower to someone reversed, you were suggesting the exact opposite of what that flower meant.

Placing a marigold on someone's head meant "Mental Anguish". There are days when I want to keep a whole flat of marigolds handy, just for those people in my life who are causing me grief without realizing it!

Or, if a marigold was placed on the bosom, it meant "Indifference". Guess that would depend on who's bosom it was placed, wouldn't it??

~ ~ ~

Tomorrow, I'll share with you a list of flowers for building your own special bouquets, so YOU can send special meanings to those important people in your life!

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