Sunday, August 28, 2011

Floriography - the Secret Language of Flowers

Thanks to my readers for hanging in there with me, while I took a brief hiatus. Life has been a little topsy turvy lately, but I am aiming to get back to regular postings. It definitely makes me admire my fellow bloggers who post daily. You guys are amazing!


A few weeks ago I posted about secret fan gestures. Another way lovers would communicate with each other, during the Victorian era,  is through the Floriography, the coded language of flowers. Lovers would send flower arrangements to each other, including small ones called tussie mussies to communicate their feelings to each other, which was often difficult to do in a world where courtship was scrutinized by chaperoens and rigid social conventions made it difficult for people to be open about their feelings. Tussie Mussies, were small flower arrangements, usually wrapped in a doily, and tied together with a ribbon. They could be carried around or pinned to the chest.




Using flowers to convey meaning has been around in Europe since at least Medieval times. Even before this, certain plants and flowers were thought to have magical properties. Over time the folklore waned and magical tradition was reduced to symbolic meaning.  In the 1700s with more contact with the eastern world, Chinese and Turkish traditions of floriography began to capture western imagination. In 1718 Lady Mary Wortly Montagu, the wife of the English ambassador to Constantinople became particularly interested in the Turkish tradition and helped to spread the eastern flower traditions into British fashion. It wasn't until the 1800s though that this really took off, as Queen Victoria was particularly taken by the idea of a secret language conveyed through flowers. During her reign, hundreds of dictionaries were published to satisfy the public's appetite for this poetic way to communicate.

Below are some of the more common flowers given during the Victorian era and their meanings. The list is quite extensive, though there are much more thorough dictionaries out there. Most have positive meanings, but there are some insulting ones. So if someone gives you an arrangement of mock orange flowers, oleanders and nuts, they're telling you to watch out stupid, you're being deceived.



  • APPLE BLOSSOM -  Good Fortunee
  • ASPARAGUS FERN - Fascination
  • ASPHODEL - My Regrets Follow You to the Grave
  • ASTER - Symbol of Love, Daintiness, Talisman of Love
  • AZALEA - Take Care, Temperance, Fragile, Passion, Chinese Symbols of Womanhood 
  • BABY'S BREATH - Innocence, Pure of Heart
  • BACHELOR BUTTON - Single blessedness, Celibacy
  • BALM - Sympathy
  • BALSAM - Ardent Love
  • BEGONIA - Beware, A Fanciful Nature
  • BELLS OF IRELAND - Good luck
  • BITTERSWEET - Truth
  • BLUEBELL/BELL FLOWER - Humility, Constancy, Gratitude
  • BROOM - Humility, Neatness
  • BUTTERCUP - Childishness, Riches
  • CACTUS - Endurance, My Heart Burns with Love
  • CALLA LILY - Magnificent Beauty
  • CAMELLIA - Admiration, Perfection, Good Luck Gift for a Man, Gratitude
  • CAMELLIA (PINK) - Longing
  • CAMELLIA (RED) - You're a flame in my heart
  • CAMELLIA (WHITE) - Adoration, Perfection, Loveliness
  • CANTERBURY BELLS/BELL FLOWER - Gratitude
  • CARNATION (GENERAL) - Fascination, Devoted Love
  • CARNATION (PINK) - I'll never forget you, Women's Love
  • CARNATION (RED) - My heart aches for you
  • CARNATION (DEEP RED) - Alas! for my poor heart
  • CARNATION (PURPLE) - Capriciousness
  • CARNATION (SOLID COLOR) - Yes
  • CARNATION (STRIPED) - No, Refusal, Sorry I can't be with you, Wish I could be with you
  • CARNATION (WHITE) - Sweet & Lovely, Innocence, Pure Love, Woman's Good Luck Gift
  • CARNATION (YELLOW) - Disapointment, Rejection
  • CATTAIL - Peace, Prosperit
  • CEDAR - I live but for thee, Think of Me
  • CELANDINE - Future Joy
  • CHAMOMILE - Energy in Action
  • CHERRY BLOSSOM (SINGLE) - Education
  • CHICKWEED - I Cling to Thee
  • CHICORY - Frugality
  • CHRISTMAS ROSE - Relieve My Anxiety
  • CHRYSANTHEMUM (GENERAL) - Abundance & Wealth,
  • CHRYSANTHEMUM (RED) - Love
  • CHRYSANTHEMUM (WHITE) - Truth
  • CHRYSANTHEMUM (YELLOW) - Slighted Love
  • CINQUEFOIL - Beloved Child)
  • CLOVER (FOUR-LEAF) - Be Mine
  • CLOVER (WHITE) - Think of Me
  • CLOVER (RED) - Industry
  • COLUMBINE (PURPLE) - Resolved to Win
  • COLUMBINE (RED) - Anxious
  • COMPASS FLOWER - Faith
  • CORNFLOWER - Delicacy, refinement,
  • COWSLIP - Rusticity, Winning Grace, Healing, Youth, Pensiveness
  • COXCOMB - Foppery, Unfading Love
  • CROCUS - Cheerfulness, Abuse not, Gladness
  • CYCLAMEN - Resignation and Good-Bye
  • DAFFODIL - Regard, Unrequited Love, Sunshine, Respect, The sun shines when I'm with you
  • DAFFODIL (YELLOW ) - Chivalry
  • DAHLIA - Dignity and Elegance, Forever Thine
  • DAISY - Innocence, Loyal Love, I'll Never tell, Purity, Beauty
  • DAISY OX-EYE - Patience
  • DAISY (RED) - Beauty Unknown to Possessor
  • DANDELION - Faithfulness, Happiness, Love's oracle
  • DAPHANE CNEORUM/ROSE DAPHANE - I Desire to Please
  • DAPHANE ODORA/WINTER DAPHANE - I Would Not Have You Otherwise
  • DRACAENA/DRAGON'S BLOOD/DRAGON LILY - Inner Power
  • DEAD LEAVES - Sadness
  • DELPHINIUM - Big-Hearted, Fun
  • DILL - Lust
  • DOG ROSE - Pleasure and Pain
  • DOGWOOD (FLOWERING) - Am I Indifferent to You?
  • ELDER FLOWER - Zeal
  • EVERLASTING - Never Ceasing Memory
  • FERN - Magic, Fascination, Confidence, Shelter
  • FERN (MAIDENHAIR) - Secret bond of love, Discretion
  • FERN (ROYAL) - Reverie
  • FIR - Time
  • FLAX - Domestic Symbol
  • FLOWERING REED - Confide in Heaven
  • FORGET ME NOT - True Love, Memories
  • FORSYTHIA - Anticipation
  • FOXGLOVE/FAIRY THIMBLES/DEAD MEN'S BELLS - Stateliness, Youth
  • FOXTAIL GRASS - Sporting
  • FREESIA - Innocence, Trust
  • FUCHSIA (SCARLET) - Confiding Love, Taste
  • FURZE - Love for All Occasions
  • GARDENIA - You're lovely, Secret love, Purity, Refinement
  • GARLIC - Courage, Strength, Get well, Ward Off Evil & Illness
  • GERANIUM - True Friend, Stupidity, Folly
  • GERANIUM (APPLE) - Present Preference
  • GERANIUM (IVY) - Your Hand for Next Dance
  • GERANIUM (LEMON) - Unexpected Meeting
  • GERANIUM (NUTMEG) - I Expect a Meeting
  • GERANIUM (OAK-LEAVED) - True Friendship, Lady, Deign to Smile
  • GERANIUM (PENCILED) - Ingenuity
  • GERANIUM (ROSE) - Preference
  • GERANIUM (SCARLET) - Consolation, Melancholy
  • GERANIUM (SILVER-LEAF) - Recall
  • GERBERA - Innocence
  • GLADIOLI - Generosity, I'm sincere, Flower of the gladiators
  • GINGER - Strength
  • GOLDEN-ROD - Be cautious, Encouragement
  • GOOSEBERRY - Anticipation
  • GORSE - Endearing Affection
  • GRASS - Homosexual Love
  • HEART'S EASR/PURPLE/JOHNNY JUMP UP - You Occupy My Thoughts
  • HEATHER (LAVENDER) - Admiration, Solitude
  • HEATHER (WHITE) - Protection, Wishes will come true
  • HELIOTROPE - Devotion
  • HOLLY - Defense, Domestic Happiness, Am I forgotten
  • HOLLYHOCK - Fruitfulness
  • HOLLYHOCK (WHITE) - Female Ambition
  • HONEYSUCKLE - The Bond of Love
  • HONEYSUCKLE (CORAL) - I Love You
  • HUCKLEBERRY - Faith, Simple Pleasures
  • HYACINTH (GENERAL) - Games & Sports, Rashness, Flower dedicated to Apollo
  • HYACINTH (BLUE) - Consistency
  • HYACINTH (PURPLE) - Sorry, Please forgive me, Sorrow
  • HYACINTH (RED OR PINK) - Playful Joy
  • HYACINTH (WHITE) - Unobtrusive Loveliness, I'll pray for you
  • HYACINTH (YELLOW) - Jealousy
  • HYDRANGEA - Thank you for understanding, frigidity, heartlessness
  • IRIS - Faith, Wisdom, Promise in Love, Hope, Wisdom & Valor
  • IRIS (YELLOW) - Passion
  • IRIS (GERMAN) - Flame
  • IVY - Wedded Love, Fidelity, Friendship, Affection
  • JASMINE (INDIAN) - Attachment
  • JASMINE (SPANISH) - Sensuality
  • JASMINE (YELLOW) - Modesty, Grace, Elegance
  • JASMINE (WHITE) - Amiability
  • JONQUIL - Love Me, Affection Returned, Desire, Sympathy
  • LADY'S SLIPPER - Win me, Capricious Beauty
  • LARKSPUR - Levity, An Open Heart, Lightness
  • LAVENDER - Love, Devotion,
  • LEMON BLOSSOM - Fidelity in Love; I Promise to be True
  • LILAC (GENERAL) - Beauty, Pride
  • LILAC (PURPLE) - First emotions of love
  • LILAC (WHITE) - Youthful Innocence
  • LILY (GENERAL) - Majesty & Honor, Purity of Heart
  • LILY (ORANGE) - Hatred, Dislike
  • LILY (WHITE) - Virginity, Purity, Majesty, It's Heavenly to be with You, Youth
  • LILY (YELLOW) - I'm Walking On Air, False, Gay, Gratitude
  • LILY (CALLA) - Beauty
  • LILY (DAY) - Coquetry, Chinese Emblem For Mother
  • LILY (EUCHARIS) - Maiden Charms
  • LILY (TIGER) - Wealth, Pride, Prosperity
  • LILY OF THE VALLEY - Sweetness, Tears Of The Virgin Mary, Happiness, Humility
  • LIVERWORT - Confidence
  • LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING/AMARANTHUS - Hopeless, Not Heartless, Desertion
  • LOTUS - Estranged love, Forgetful of the Past
  • MAGNOLIA - Nobility, Perseverance, Nobility
  • MAGNOLIA (CHINESE) - Love of Nature
  • MALLOW - Delicate Beauty, Sweetness
  • MARIGOLD (COMMON) - Pretty Love, Sacred,Affection, Caress, Sorrow
  • MARJORAM - Joy, Happiness
  • MEADOW SAFFRON - My Best Days Are Gone
  • MILK VETCH - Your presence softens my pain
  • MIMOSA - Secret Love
  • MINT - Virtue
  • MISTLETOE - Kiss me, Affection, Difficulties, Sacred plant of India,
  • MONKSHOOD - Beware, Danger is near
  • MOUSE-EAR CHICKWEED - Simplicity
  • MORNING GLORY - Affection
  • MOSS - Maternal Love, Charity
  • MUGWORT/WORMWOOD - Tranquility, Happiness
  • MYRTLE - Love, Joy, Hebrew Emblem of marriage
  • NARCISSUS - Formality, Stay As Sweet As You Are
  • NASTURTIUM - Conquest, Victory In Battle
  • NUTS - Stupidity
  • OAK LEAVES - Bravery
  • OLEANDER - Caution
  • OLIVE BRANCH - Peace
  • ORANGE BLOSSOM - Innocence, Eternal Love, Marriage, Fruitfulness
  • ORANGE, MOCK - Deceit
  • ORCHID - Love, Beauty, Refinement, Chinese Symbol for Many Children, Thoughtfulness
  • PALM LEAVES - Victory & Success
  • PANSY - Merriment, Thoughts (You Occupy My Thoughts)
  • PARSLEY - Useful Knowledge
  • PASSION FLOWER - Faith, Religious Fervor
  • PEAR - Affection
  • PEACH BLOSSOM - I am your Captive
  • PEONY - Shame
  • PEPPERMINT - Cordiality
  • PERIWINKLE - Early Recollections, Pleasures of Memories, Sweet Memories
  • PETUNIA - Your Presence Soothes Me
  • PHLOX - Our souls are united, Unanimity
  • PINE - Hope, Pity
  • PINK- Pure Affection
  • PINK (MOUNTAIN) - You Are Aspiring
  • POPPY (GENERAL) - Eternal Sleep, Oblivion, Imagination
  • POPPY (RED) - Pleasure
  • POPPY (WHITE) - Consolation
  • POPPY (YELLOW ) - Wealth, Success
  • PRIMROSE - I Can't Live Without You, Woman
  • PRIMROSE (EVENING) - Inconstancy
  • PRIMROSE (RED) - Unpatronized Merit
  • PUSSY WILLOW - Motherhood
  • QUAKING GRASS - Agitation
  • REEDS - Music
  • RHUBARB - Advice
  • RHODODENDRON - Danger, Beware, I am Dangerous
  • ROSE (BRIDAL) - Happiness
  • ROSE (BURGANDY) - Unconscious Beauty
  • ROSE (CHRISTMAS)- Relieve my anxiety
  • ROSE (CORAL) - Desire
  • ROSE (DAMASK) - Freshness, Persian Ambassador of Love
  • ROSE (DARK CRIMSON) - Mourning
  • ROSE (DOG) - Pleasure & Pain
  • ROSE (HIBISCUS) - Delicate, Beauty
  • ROSE (LEAF) - You may Hope
  • ROSE (LAVENDER) - Enchantment
  • ROSE (ORANGE) - Fascination
  • ROSE (PINK) - Perfect Happiness, Secret Love, Grace & Sweetness, Indecision
  • ROSE (DARK PINK) - Thankfulness
  • ROSE (PALE PINK) - Grace, Joy
  • ROSE (PEACH) - Immortality, Modesty
  • ROSE (RED) - Love, I love you, Respect, Beauty
  • ROSE (DEEP RED) - Bashful, Shame
  • ROSE (TEA) - I'll Remember - Always
  • ROSE (THORNLESS) - Love at first sight, Early Attachment
  • ROSE (WHITE) - Innocence, Purity, Humility, I am Worthy of You, Secrecy, Silence
  • ROSE (WHITE & RED TOGETHER) - Unity, Flower Emblem of England
  • ROSE (WHITE-DRIED) - Death is Preferable to Loss of Virtue
  • ROSE (YELLOW) - Joy, Jealousy, Friendship (one yellow rose with 11 red ones means love & passion)
  • ROSEBUD - Beauty & Youth, A Heart Innocent of Love
  • ROSEBUD (RED) - Pure & Lovely
  • ROSEBUD (WHITE) - Girlhood, Heart Ignorant of Love
  • ROSEBUD (MOSS) - Confessions of Love
  • ROSES (Bouquet of full bloom) - Gratitude
  • ROSES (Single full bloom) - I truly love you, Simplicity.
  • ROSES (GARLAND or CROWN OF) - Beware of Virtue, Reward of Merit, Symbol of Superior Merit
  • ROSEMARY - Remembrance
  • RUSH- Docility
  • SAGE - Wisdom, Great Respect, Speedwell Female Fidelity
  • SHAMROCK - Lightheartedness
  • SNAPDRAGON - Gracious Lady, Strength
  • SNOWDROP - Hope, Consolation
  • SPEARMINT - Warm Sentiment
  • SPIDER FLOWER - Elope with me
  • STAR OF BETHLEHEM - Atonement, Reconciliation
  • STRAW FLOWER - Agreement
  • STRAW (BROKEN) - Broken agreement
  • SUNFLOWER (TALL) - False riches, Pride
  • SUNFLOWER ( DWARF) - Adoration
  • SWEETPEA - Good-by, Departure, Blissful Pleasure, Thank You for a Lovely Time
  • SWEET-WILLIAM - Grant me one smile, Gallantry
  • TRUMPET FLOWER/ANGEL'S TRUMPEt- Separation
  • TULIP (GENERAL) - Perfect Lover, Fame, Flower Emblem of Holland
  • TULIP (RED) -Believe me, Declaration of Love
  • VALERIAN - Accommodating Disposition 
  • VENUS FLYTRAP - Caught at Last
  • VERBENA - Pray for me, Sensibility
  • VERVAIN - Enchantment
  • VINE - Intoxicating
  • VIOLET - Modesty, Virtue, Affection
  • VIOLET (BLUE) - Watchfulness, Faithfulness, Love
  • VIOLET (WHITE) - Let's Take A Chance On Happiness
  • WALL FLOWER - Faithful in Adversity, Fidelity, Lasting Beauty
  • WINTERGREENS - Harmony
  • WISTERIA - Welcome
  • WITCH HAZEL - A spell
  • WOLFBANE- Misanthropy, Chivalry, Knight
  • WOODBINE - Fraternal Love
  • WORMWOOD - Absence, Do not be discouraged
  • YARROW - Cure for heartache
  • ZEPHYR FLOWER- Sincerity, Symbol of Love
  • ZINNIA (MAGENTA) - Lasting Affection
  • ZINNIA (MIXED) - Thinking (or in memory) of an Absent Friend
  • ZINNIA (SCARLET) - Constancy
  • ZINNIA (WHITE) - Goodness
  • ZINNIA (YELLOW) - Daily Remembrance

5 comments:

  1. My grandad said that flowers like to hear us talking.
    Therefore, I talked to flowers.
    Sorry for the dumb comment XD

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  2. @Lady Catherine I don't think this is dumb at all, I think it is beautiful and sweet.

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  3. Wow, that is a lot of flowers! I wonder if they had flower dictionaries to decipher their bouquet? :P

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  4. Glad you're back, my dear. It's always a pleasure to learn something new about those crazy Victorianites. I love how they managed to compile something like this, that someone sat down and wrote the floriography bible, and yet it makes me wonder...what might the modern equivalent be?

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  5. Who could ever remember all that! I bet there were a lot of misunderstandings – with unpredictable results :) Great blog – thanks Lou!

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