Welcome to the curious world of floriography…
The most important thing about flowers is of course, that they make your home or your event naturally lovely and beautiful – and frankly, we can’t see why they really need to have much meaning beyond that! Even so, since long before red roses meant ‘I love you’ and the garage bouquet meant ‘sorry for forgetting your birthday or even our anniversary!,’ people invested time in floral symbolism.
Although many credit the Turks for developing flower meanings in the 17th century, the language of flowers (or ‘floriography’ as it is sometimes known), is most commonly associated with the Victorian era. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901) that flowers were used to communicate feelings that the strict etiquette of the era would not allow to be openly expressed.
Say it with tussie-mussies (nose-gays)
Flowers were typically sent in the form of small bouquets known as tussie-mussies or nosegays consisting of aromatic herbs and a single, meaningful flower such as a rose surrounded by secondary flowers and herbs, wrapped in a lace doily and other embellishments. Each flower was laden with significance, as was the size and the arrangement of the flowers, the way the ribbon was tied, and how the bouquet was actually presented and received (upright or upside down, held close to the heart, or presented using the left or right hand). Suitors presented tussie-mussies to their prospective lovers and watched to see if they were accepted. A tussie-mussie held at heart level indicated joy and acceptance, while one held downwards was a sign of rejection.
As the language of flowers became so widely practiced flower dictionaries began to be published all over Europe. It was a useful guide as not only did certain flowers have their own significance, different colour variations of the same stem also denoted different intents and emotions. In fact, when you take into account all the different colour nuances, nearly every sentiment imaginable can be expressed with flowers.
Today, the art of floriography may not be as widely understood or consciously practiced but flowers continue to be exchanged as a way of expressing important feelings. Red roses, for example, which represent romantic love are now intrinsically linked to Valentine’s Day. Wedding bouquets are often filled with hidden symbolism too, learn more here. By experimenting with different flower content you can let your loved one know exactly how you feel about them.
Here are just a few of the most common meanings associated with your favourite flowers:
Agapanthus secret love
Alstroemeria devotion, wealth, prosperity, fortune
Amaryllis pride, timidity, splendid beauty
Aster Symbol of love
Carnation fascination, woman love
Red rose romantic love
Gypsophila Innocence, pure of heart
Hyacinth playful, loveliness
Narcissus unrequited love
Ranunculus you are rich in attractions
Tulips Love and Passion
Phlox our souls are united!
Primrose I can’t live without you
Does floral symbolism influence your purchase? Will it do so in the future?