Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, its fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give,
Thoughts that often do lie too deep for tears.
William Wordsworth, from Ode: Intimations of Immortality
Thus begins one of the reference books I use most often, The Language of Flowers, a tiny little purple book put out in 1991 by Running Press. I pick this book up frequently because in days gone by, a smitten swain did not text his damsel, nor did he IM her, post on her FB wall or otherwise put his sentiments into words. He had only to stop by the flower shop, or perhaps amble around his own blooming garden and chose a bouquet for his lady.
Contrary to what Wiki would have us believe, the language of flowers goes back at least a millennium, possibly to ancients times. The Victorians, by turns repressed and passionate, did make great use of floral messages, even refining them to the point that a flower given upside down meant its opposite, and every detail of the presentation—whether the flowers were loose or tied, what color and type of ribbon was used, the direction of the bow on the bouquet, whether the flowers were fresh or wilted—all had significance.
For purposes of the average doting swain, the following flowers would probably suffice:
Acacia—Secret Love Aloe—Grief
Amaryllis—Pride Arborvitae—Everlasting Friendship
Bachelor Button—Celibacy Baby’s Breath—Innocence
Asparagus—Fascination Bird of Paradise—Liberty, magnificence
Campanula—Gratitude Red Carnation—deep romantic love, passion
White carnation—pure love, faithfulness Yellow Carnation—disdain, rejection
Coriander—Lust Forget-Me-Not—True love
Grass—Submission Hydrangea—Frigidity, heartlessness
Iris—Messages, good news Lavender—Distrust
Lichen—Solitude Lilac—First emotions of love
Lily of the Valley—Returns of Happiness Lobelia—Malevolence
Love Lies Bleeding—Hopelessness Marigold—Pain and grief
Mint—Suspicion Morning glory—Love in vain
Oak leaf—Strength Olive—Peace
Pear blossom—Lasting friendship/shame Primrose—Eternal love
And of course, ever color of rose has its significance. To look up the flowers that arrived in your bouquet, you can start with the Wiki article here, but be aware that from one culture to another, and even one region to another, each flower’s significance can change.
Here’s hoping your bouquets are always full of: red and yellow roses together (joy), snowdrops (hope), wheat (prosperity), pink roses (grace) and arborvitae (ever lasting friendship).
If you were going to receive your ideal bouquet, what flowers would it include?
Happy Valentine’s Day, Grace, and also to Val. Based on the meaning of the flowers you listed, I would hope for a bouquet of red carnations and forget-me-nots. Some dark chocolate would be greatly appreciated, too!
There is a candy code, by which the design on the top of a confection tells you what variety it is (nougat, cherry, caramel, etc), but I think a language of chocolate would be more useful. 70 percent cacao for “I desire you,” white for everlasting friendship…. Think it has potential?
Indeed! That prompted me to see what info I could find and the darkest chocolate appears to be 86% cacao, and it has a decadent name also: Intense Dark Midnight Reverie. If 70% means “I desire you,” then 86% must mean something like, “I’m a flaming volcano of lust.” (I know you can come up with a better one than that.)
Happy Valentine’s Grace to you and your Windham clan.
I want Lilacs! Also pleased to be setting aside my marigold and aloe bouquet.
Yes, spring is coming. Time for new flowers, Larisa. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too. Your beloved would want you to be happy. He, most especially would want you welcome a new love should one come your way.
I’m using lilacs for the scent associated with current heroine, and she too is getting over a significant loss. How coincidental is that? Don’t suppose you have a pet angora rabbit named Franklin?
No, my furry boy is feline and markedly similar to Charybdis in Julie Anne Long’s ‘How the Marquess Was Won.’ He’s 15lb and 15″ at the shoulder aka a pocket panther.
Grace that adds even more reasons to another book by you! Look forward to hearing how this heroine deals with her loss and finding new love.
Happy Valentine’s Day Grace!
Based on the above i would love a bouquet of coriander, white carnations, forget-me-nots and arbivortae. I love the smell of lavender and my favorite flowers are tulips. Much romance to you on this day of love!
Noticed the coriander, did you? That alone tells us the Victorians were not the sole progenitors of this lexicon. I could see them coming up with something for passion, but not LUST.
I guess the flowers in the bouquet would depend on who is sending it. But, I am going to use this to devise some flower beds around my house. I just built/moved in to my house last summer so I have a wonderful blank slate of yard to work on.
Sabrina, I am not very domestic, but I have a two-acre yard with a barn and a lot of outbuildings–summer kitchen, smoke house, etc. I’ve been here twenty years, and each year, I try to get one yard project done. Two years ago, I planted about 500 daffodils, and I cannot wait for spring. Wish you a similar ongoing joy with your yard.
500! Please share photos when they bloom!
Sabrina, the lastest garden trend I’ve noted is planting large swaths of one type of flower, similar to, say, a prairie field of wheat effect. I’m thinking of doing a full sweep of echinachea (coneflowers) in one color. I also have a standalone all-white flower bed, which I just love for it’s simplicity and complexity. Enjoy your clean slate! t
I’m a bulbs and perennials girl myself, but oh, for the days when you could have a white garden, a scent garden, a spice garden, a color garden, a formal garden, a rose garden, a medicinal garden…. somebody needs spring pretty badly, I’m thinking.
Happy Valentines day Ms.Burrowes:) Based on your chart I would want two bouquets of corriander and forget-me-nots with some aboritave.
TWO bouquets of coriander!! Lucky Mr. Nichols, but then, he’s the guy who runs your baths for you. Virtue like that (so to speak) should be rewarded. I like the forget-me-not and arborvitae, too.
Oh I love that 86% Midnight Reverie. It probably wouldn’t be pretty but I’d like Olive Carandula, and Bird of Paradise. But I’d take dandelions on Valentine’s Day if they came from my love.
You are a romance writer for sure: I’d take Dandelions on Valentine’s Day if they came from love….
Grace, you are a fountain of information. I just noticed that “asparagus” is on your list! What? Apparently, it used to be considered part of the lily family. Still, a bouquet of asparagus? Maybe not. I think I’ll hunt down that Intense Dark Midnight Reverie. How about you?
What struck me is that asparagus is the probably the most phallic offering on the list (antherium not being in the lexicon that I could find–that’s the pink tongue looking thing with the dangling pink stamen at sorta half mast… the poor plant must get a lot of unwanted attention.)
ok, you can probably hear me laughing all the way from ohio
(and i was thinking of the phallic reference, but was ignoring it. – notice your words that went along with it were fascination and magnificence.)
I noticed exactly that very thing, too. Fascination and magnificence. Wonder if upside down asparagus was ever called for?
But when you don’t cut asparagus to eat, it gets all funky looking. Like baby’s breath without the white flowers.
Grace, thanks for this post. i’m reposting for my garden club friends. t
They probably know whole bunches about tussie-mussies that I haven’t come across yet. There are books on tussie-mussies alone…. Thanks, Thea!
You have to wonder where some of these meanings came from – what did the poor Lavender do to cause distrust lol. I think I’ll go for the Primrose 🙂
I love lavender myself, though it’s a bracing scent. I’ll nose around and see if I can’t find the origins of the association…
I would like red & white carnations with oak leaves! My favorite flowers are tulips, do they have a special meaning too?
Denise, every color of tulip has a special meaning, a few of them being: variegated tulips–you have beautiful eyes; red tulips–declaration of love; yellow tulip–I am hopelessly in love.
Not quite coriander, but worthy sentiments!
I am always tickled just to get flowers in the first place, but I do love when bells of Ireland are part of the make-up.
I love tulips! I would love a bouquet of tulips. It doesn’t matter the color, just lots of them.
Happy V-Day Grace
my bouquet : Iris—Messages, good news, Lilac—First emotions of love, Grass—Submission, Arborvitae—Everlasting and tulip, i love tulip