Ever heard of floriography? No? You’re not alone. Floriography is an age-old practice of attributing meanings to various plants and their arrangements. The Bible is filled with such references, as are centuries-old poems and plays. But it was the Victorians that took the language of flowers to a whole new level. Those Victorians…they were stylish but not the loosest people in the world. Polite society prohibited people of that era from communicating certain feelings directly, so they took to sending bouquets that spoke those feelings for them.
For example, if a young man had romantic feelings for a woman, he would send her red roses. If his feelings were of a more platonic nature and he wanted to Friend Zone her, he’d send yellow roses. Feeling the sting of rejection? Send yellow chrysanthemums. Need to beg forgiveness? Purple hyacinths will do.
Now, unless your friend or the object of your affections is aware of this coded floral language, the meanings will be lost on them. But you could send a mixed bouquet along with a charming book on the language of flowers, and your recipient will have a fun time decoding your message.
And you could also create pockets of meaning within your own garden. Those going through treatment for disease can plant sage (health) and fennel (strength) in and around their garden to remind themselves of what they wish for. Plant a garden in memory of a loved one that includes rosemary (remembrance) and plants that exemplify your loved one’s traits (larkspur for levity, daisy for innocence, geranium for gentility). Or, create a garden that reminds you of what you love and cherish (pink rose for grace, lily for elegance, dahlia for dignity). It doesn’t matter that nobody else knows the meanings, because these gardens are intensely personal for you.
Some plants and flowers have different meanings associated with them depending upon the source you consult, but here are some common meanings to whet your appetite. (And if you’re filled with gratitude for this article, feel free to send me some dwarf sunflowers and deep pink roses.)
Appreciation – Rose, deep pink Jealousy – French Marigold
Smile – Sweet William Joy – Wood Sorrel
Bashful – Mimosa Justice – Rudbeckia
Beauty – Lily Long Life – Sage
Boldness – Pink Dianthus Love – Red Rose
Calmness – Lavender Loyalty – Alstroemeria
Compassion – Allspice Marriage – Ivy
Consolation – Red Poppy Maternal Love – Moss
Despair – Marigold Mourning – Weeping Willow
Discretion/Secrecy – Maidenhair fern New Love – Pink Rose Bud
Early Youth – Primrose Patriotism – Nasturtium
Faithfulness – Blue Violet Poverty – Clematis
Gratitude – Dwarf Sunflower Pride – Amaryllis
Grief – Aloe Remorse – Raspberry
Hope – Snowdrop Spirituality – Cherry Blossom
Inspiration – Angelica True Love – Forget-Me-Not
The Language of Flowers — A New York Times Best Seller work of fiction by author Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
A Victorian Flower Dictionary: The Language of Flowers Companion — nonfiction charming reference book by Mandy Kirkby.