May 17, 2016
Dear Fabulous Reader
Have you ever wondered what flowers would say if they could speak?
Would you be surprised to know that they have their own secret language, made fashionable in the Victorian era?
The Language of Flowers has existed for hundreds of years but first came to prominence in France during the late 1800’s.The book contained delightful floral illustrations along with a word to describe the appearance or behaviour of each blossom. Each flower’s trait and colour became symbolic and people used these floral symbols to express their feelings secretly to one another. One of the best documented examples is the Mimosa which represents chastity. This is because the leaves of the mimosa close at night or when touched. We all have a beginner’s knowledge of flowers and their symbolism within us– you just need to think of a red rose and immediately you associate it with true love.
Victorian society was very traditional. There were many topics that were not permitted to be vocalized aloud, so it became important for men and women of that time to express themselves through creative forms. Victorian ladies were well versed on how to use their gloves, fans, handkerchiefs and even parasols as a skillful system of flirtation before the Language of Flowers became popular.
Gifts of blooms, plants and unique floral arrangements were sent to convey a heartfelt and coded message to the recipient. Flowers are a gift that never go out of season and so armed with their floral dictionaries, Victorians (both men and women) would exchange small posies called “tussie-mussies” which could be worn or carried as a trendy accessory. By modern standards Floriography (another name for the Language of Flowers) could be best described as “the emoji’s of the 19th century.”
We are fortunate today because we can express ourselves freely and through so many social mediums unlike our Victoria counterparts. The Language of Flowers essentially becomes a charming reminder of a more gentle and artful language.
From a personal point of view I find it heartwarming to think about the little flowers that my children have given me in the past when we have gone for a walk. Two flowers that stand out as regularly being gifted are Daisies and Lavender which represent innocence and devotion respectively. This is the aspect of Floriography that I most admire because it gives real meaning to the phrase “it’s the thought that counts.” It doesn't matter how much or little a flower gift costs; what is important is the feeling or thoughtfulness that the giver is expressing.
The Language of Flowers is alive and well today and continues to receive renewed attention in modern society. Stylish and well known public figures like Kate Middleton chose to express her feelings for Prince William in her bridal bouquet on their wedding day, 29 April 2011.
The Duchess selected Lily-of-the-valley representing a return to happiness, Sweet William meaning gallantry, Hyacinths for constancy of love, Ivy for fidelity and friendship and Myrtle as an emblem of marriage.
If you are a royalist like me, you would be interested to know that the Myrtle holds a particularly interesting and personal story because it was taken from a plant grown from a sprig of myrtle on a tussie-mussie gifted to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert.
To the contemporary men out there who see themselves as fashion forward, you are not forgotten! Why not consider donning a masculine buttonhole for a special occasion or just because you feel like it? Some men are certainly embracing floral looks by sporting beard gardens as form of expression.
The next time you plan to send flowers or require flower arrangements for an occasion (wedding, wedding anniversary, birth, Christening, birthday, Valentine’s Day, mother’s day, get well, house warming or graduation) invest some thought in the message you would like to share with your guests or a special recipient. Collaborate with your florist to see which flowers are in season and how you can best craft this little masterpiece together and enjoy this little project of learning and love.
You can be a trendsetter in your own right by personalizing your flowers to tell a story or share what you hold as sacred. If you send an arrangement as a gift, include a handwritten card for the recipient listing the flowers, herbs or plant materials used and their significance and sentiment. The recipient may not be familiar with The Language of Flowers but they will love and appreciate the beauty and perfume of the blooms as well as the symbolism of your message.
Here is a short list of well-known flowers and their symbolic meaning:
Peony – Devotion
Baby’s Breathe- Innocence, Pure of Heart
Cherry Blossom –Spirituality, Beauty
Geranium – Gentility, Esteem
White Heather - Good Luck
Hibiscus – Delicate beauty, Sweet disposition
Ivy – Friendship, Fidelity, Marriage
Jasmine – You are cheerful and graceful
Stargazer Lilies –Optimism, limitless opportunities, prosperity, abundance
Magnolia –Dignity, Love of Nature
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About the Author:
Michelle Gross is a Cape Town based blogger originally from a Travel & Tourism background. Having been a stay-at-home mom for several years she is now discovering new passions: writing being one!
In her free time she enjoys reading and bookclub, gym and Park Run events, karate, socialising with friends, meeting new people and the exploring the Cape Winelands.