Language of Flowers

The art of communicating through flowers is called Floriography, the language of flowers, it became extremely popular during the Victorian era. Couples would communicate their feeling through flowers, during a time when it was not socially acceptable to discuss matters of the heart in public. Flowers allowed others not only to convey their feelings but to relay secretive messages. The colour also affected the meaning; pink meant I’ll never forget you, red said my heart aches for you, white was for the sweet and lovely, and yellow expressed romantic rejection. Flowers could also have several meanings depending on what other flowers and herbs they were arranged with. Flower dictionaries were created to interpret and decipher the meaning of the bouquet. The earliest dictionary was printed in Paris, 1819, titled Le Language de Fleursand. It was important to ensure your recipient had the same version, to prevent any misunderstandings.

Tussie-mussie or nosegay was the name given to the small ‘talking’ bouquet of flowers and herbs, during Victorian times they were often wrapped in lace doilies. How you received the bouquet was also important, as it would act as a response to the senders message. If the received held the bouquet close to their heart it meant the feelings were mutual, however by holding the bouquet down the face the ground was a sign of rejection. The small bouquets could also be used to answer yes or no questions, if flowers were handed over with the right hand this would be a yes, while the left hand would signify a no.

 
Mini flower jars

Mini flower jars

proflowers.com

proflowers.com

The language of flowers also often featured in literature and art. Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Emily and Charlotte Bronte all used flowers to convey how their characters were feeling. In Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, when Jane looks at snowdrops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies in chapter nine, she’s feeling hopeful, cheerful, modest, and preoccupied with the connection between money and happiness. While Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia uses flowers to discuss her intense feelings, as openly discussing them would lead to her demise. She appears to be insane as she talks of pansies, rosemary and violets. Pre-Raphaelites like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir John Everett Millais included the secretive floral language in their paintings.

 
Ophelia, John Everett Millais

Ophelia, John Everett Millais

Vanitas V, Annet Van Der Voort

Vanitas V, Annet Van Der Voort

Even thought floriography is not popular today as it was in Victorian times, a modern day example of communicating through flowers is the Duchess of Cambridge’s bridal bouquet. Each flower and foliage was selected for their sentimental symbolism; lily of the valley for trustworthy, sweet William in reference to the groom, myrtle, the emblem of marriage and love, ivy to symbolise marriage, friendship and affection.

A few of our favourite flower meanings include; peony - I'm shy, but I like you a lot, sweet pea - you give me lasting pleasure, fern - sincerity, magic and bonds of love, hydrangea - gratitude for being understood, carnation - pure love, devotion, and dedication. So when words can’t communicate how you feel say it with flowers.

 

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Witching Hour Bud Vase

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Further reading: https://archive.org/details/cu31924074093760/page/n21

MusingsJess Piatigorsky