The language of flowers peonies and lupins

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

Hydrangea and sweet pea in vaseDuring the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901), societal customs dictated and even prohibited outright flirtations, expressions of attraction, and even conversation between interested people. Wanting to conform to proper etiquette but not willing to give up intriguing interactions altogether, people began assigning secret meanings to plants, flowers, and herbs. The composition of a flower arrangement or bouquet signaled love, attraction, interest in marrying, but also anger, betrayal, or hurt feelings.

I find this kind of plant history fascinating. Thank goodness we’re free to have the kinds of conversations we want to without resorting to clandestine messages, but knowing the traditional meanings of plants is still a fun way to add some meaning to your garden. And while you can still send a “secret message” bouquet to a loved one (how charmingly old-fashioned), why not tuck some plants into your garden that hold meanings that are important to you? Choose flowers with meanings that commemorate a loved one who’s passed, to remind yourself of values you hold dear, or to add to wedding bouquets or party arrangements.

Begonias in the gardenSome of the meanings differ depending upon what source you use, but the idea is fun nonetheless. Here are some traditional meanings associated with common plants — are there some that speak to you?

 

Aster – symbol of love or daintiness

Azalea – take care of yourself for me; fragile passionForsythias

Begonia – beware

Cactus – endurance

Carnation – fascination; Divine love

Chrysanthemum – you’re a wonderful friend

Daisy – innocence; purity

Dead leaves – sadness

Gardenia – secret love

Forsythia – anticipation

Hydrangea – thank you for understanding

Pink Peonies in vase

Magnolia – nobility

Moss – Maternal love

Nasturtium – victory in battle

Orchid – love; beauty

Peony – happy marriage

Poppy – eternal sleep; imagination

Sweet pea – goodbye; departure; thank you for a lovely time

Tulip – perfect lover; fame

Violet – modesty

*For tips on using herbs to create secret messages, read our article “The Language of Herbs.”

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