Sunday, February 12, 2012

shhh! my flowers are talking!

"A Victorian Bouquet" by William Powell Frith
image source: British Paintings: since about Victorian times

First of all, the topic I am about to write about has been previously researched and revealed to the blogosphere by another Victorian enthusiast- Ms. Lou at The Neo-Victorian Parlor.  While her post "Floriography-the Secret Language of Flowers" is better than the article I am about to discuss concerning the history of flower language and the meanings behind a wide variety of blooms, I thought the following article, written more for the masses rather than Victorian nerds like myself, is an interesting, concise, albeit less informative piece.

Gerald Filipski, a freelancer for the Edmonton Journal, recently wrote an article entitled: "Say something special with a Valentine's bouquet: Each bud has its own meaning, according to Victorian lore."  In his article he gives a brief overview of the 19th century European fad for conveying secret messages in ordinary objects:

In the 19th century, a craze swept Europe. It began in Turkey and involved sending secret love messages through objects. The recipient had to guess the meaning through rhyme. The idea reached Europe through the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the British ambassador to Turkey, but it was only the floral element that survived.

Why did this fad catch on?  In Puritanical Victorian England, meetings between a man and a woman were chaperoned and messages were difficult to convey through ordinary means without creating scandal or getting into trouble with your parents (or both).  Who knows if that servant you entrusted to give that letter to your lover read it and/or gave it to your father instead?

The meaning of flowers was particularly important in Victorian England, however, as courtship back then was nothing if not discreet. So a gentleman sending flowers to his lady would make use of the secret code to send a message to his be-loved. The code was so elaborate that lists of the various meanings were circulated. In The Meaning Of Flowers, the authors say, "the number of leaves on a decorative branch might indicate the date and time of a secret rendezvous . the fragrant tuberose became an invitation to dangerous pleasures. A double daisy was said to mean, 'I feel as you do.' "... For the Victorians, orange blossoms were always a part of the wedding bouquet. The tradition is believed to have originated in China, where the flowers were emblems of purity, chastity and innocence.
Although the fad faded in popularity with time, some people in our own century still analyze the significance of flowers:

In modern times, much speculation has surrounded Kate Middleton's wedding bouquet, with the myrtle meaning love, white hyacinth for beauty, sweet william for gallantry - and undoubtedly for the groom - and lily of the valley for happiness.
Mayhaps one should pay a little more attention to those flowers in one's V-Day bouquet.  Your lover just might be telling you something special.

As an added bonus, The Art of Manliness wrote this article on how manly and romantic it is for a man to actually think about the flowers he will buy for his preferred female instead of just "grabbing a bouquet out of the case at Wal-Mart."


  1. I'm glad you included the last link to the Art of Manliness's post. As I was reading this I was thinking, "really, a man would think about something that much?" I hope you catch my sarcasm there. ;)
    Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. I might leave it up and see if my hubby bothers to read it. ;)

  2. I almost wish things were still so discreet. Love and relationships might be a little more sacred under those circumstances... :) As for me, I think the language of flowers is so romantic, but I'm thrilled to receive them even for their purely aesthetic value. Either way, they make a girl feel special! Especially when they are just because. I'd almost rather NOT get flowers for Valentine's day, just because they are overpriced and expected. I say, get me flowers just because it's, say, a Saturday and then I'll feel really loved. :)

  3. wow, i only knew of a few flowers' meanings!

    then again i every valentines day i was single or in a huge argument so never received any flowers at all :-(

  4. Thanks for the shout out! I love this idea of There being a secret language of flowers. Yeah for us Victorian nerds!