Interpreting the Language of Flowers
January 29, 2015
Ever wonder why red roses are the symbol of Valentines Day? Why not
white or yellow? The reason lies in the
language of flowers. This does not include the language we use after the
bunnies have eaten the flowers. It's the delicate, subtle meanings given to
flowers in order elicit emotion in the receiver.
The language of flowers also known as floriography has been around for
centuries. Writings of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese all
included flower and plant symbolism. Meanings were probably passed orally
through a largely illiterate audience.
The 1800's seemed to have been the heyday of flower symbolism. Intimate
emotions could be conveyed with flowers. Emotions that the delicate sensibilities
of the time were not dared to be uttered aloud. During Victorian times many
small colorful handbooks were produced to guide the giver and givee as to the
meanings. Unfortunately depending on the
culture and the author, not all of the books agreed on meanings. Even today
different cultures assign different messages to the same flower. One would only
hope that each party was literally on the same page when it came to the
For instance hyacinth can mean games, play or forgive me. I guess this
is the perfect flower for a man to give to a woman. It pretty well covers all
the bases and he probably needs to be forgiven for something.
Also how the flowers were presented and the condition of the flowers
was also important. It didn't take a genius to figure out that wilted flowers
wasn't a good thing. Or it could have just meant a slow messenger. Flower
symbolism had a few inherent problems.
If the flowers were given upside down then the meaning was the opposite
of the traditional meaning. Just how the ribbon was tied had meaning. Tied to
the left, the flower symbolism was in reference to the giver. If it was tied to
the right, the symbolism was about the givee. Flower symbolism was not for the
Flowers were also used to answer "yes" or "no" questions. A "yes"
answer was signified if the flowers were handed over with the right hand, if
they were handed over with the left hand the answer was "no". Handing
over flowers is just like spending time at an auction, don't scratch your nose;
you never know how someone might interpret it.
The following is a lovely discussion of the language of flowers from: Collier's
Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and
Entertaining Knowledge, (actually I just really like the title of the book)
compiled by Nugent Robinson.
have a language of their own, and it is this bright particular language that we
would teach our readers. How charmingly a young gentleman can speak to a young
lady, and with what eloquent silence in this delightful language. How
delicately she can respond, the beautiful little flowers telling her tale in
perfumed words." P.F. Collier, 1882. We
all could use a bit of eloquent silence and perfumed words these days.
Today flowers are still an important part of our weddings, funerals, holidays and
ceremonies although we may not know their true meaning. Wedding bouquets often
include ivy that symbolizes fidelity. If you are looking for new ways of saying
I love you, consider a bouquet of these.
chrysanthemums and heliotrope - I love you
- true love
tulips - perfect love
rose - desire and love
- I live for thee
- love at first sight
- our hearts are united.
the other hand, the language of a new Mercedes is always clear.
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