There is a Secret Hiding in the Blooms

The Language of Flowers

There was a secret language in the Victorian age used to express emotions known as Floriography.  The codes and significance of certain flowers could convey a passionate pledge of love or a bitter message of disdain.  In a society where etiquette discouraged outward displays of emotions, the mysterious language of flowers offered a much-needed yet subtle means of communication and soared in popularity during the 19th century.

The language of flowers was rooted in folklore and history and many of the flowers and herbs got their meaning from their practical uses.  Ivy, found clinging to the garden wall, was readily associated with fidelity whereas hemlock, known to be poisonous, was associated with death.  Many were obscure but the Victorians were keen on their symbols and knew their way around the garden.  If someone were to bring you a bouquet of yellow flowers today, you would think it was a lovely gesture but in the 19th century, it was either a confession of infidelity or a backhanded accusation that you were fickle and flirtatious.   

Although gifting flowers is usually a declaration of love, those naughty Victorians had a flair for drama and the opportunity to declare disdain for their enemies was often too much to resist and even used as death threats.  If you were a passive-aggressive villain, you could construct a bouquet of these bitter blooms and have the satisfaction of telling off your foe, without uttering a single word. 

Buttercup – Symbolizing childishness and immature behavior

Sunflower – Symbolizing haughty behavior, sunflowers were a symbol of false riches when Spanish explorers first came to America and thought they were real gold.

Yellow Carnation – Used to express disappointment and rejection of a love. 

Butterfly Weed – Used to tell someone to keep their distance and stay away.​​

Peonies – Symbolizes anger.

Orange Lilies – Used to wish ill-fates on an enemy.  

Basil – This popular herb’s smell and taste were so universally disliked by Victorian society that they started using it as an insult in bouquet form.

Black Rose – Although rare and hard to find, this was the Victorian’s way of saying “You’re dead to me”. 

June is National Rose month because it is when the blooms are said to be at the height of their beauty. The rose has roots in many legends and poems and represents love while the thorns signify the many obstacles to be overcome for its glory and each color has a unique message with the language of flowers. 

White roses are generally associated with innocence, new beginnings and weddings, however, they can also be given as a gesture of remembrance.

Purple roses, including violet and lilac, stand for enchantment.

Red roses signify love and passion, making it the number choice to send to a lover.

Light pink-hued roses are a symbol for “grace” which makes it perfect for a close friend.

Dark pink roses are if you want to express gratitude or show appreciation.

Pale peach roses stand for modesty.

Yellow roses imply infidelity, so think twice before sending them to anyone with knowledge of Floriography

Although the list is extensive, what better way to create a meaningful bouquet than with each flower proclaiming its own message.  This curious coded language of the past is a charming way to impress the hopeless romantic in your life, a garden lover, bride-to-be, or someone with an affinity for fairies and enchantment.  The Victorians knew that the best way to convey heartfelt sentiments was when you said nothing at all.   

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