The Flower Philosophy – The language of flowers

THE FLOWER PHILOSOPHY  – Language of Flowers

How many times have you bought or planted flowers, walked past flowers in gardens, and ever thought about what their meaning is? Of course we admire them for their magnificent scents and looks but like all things in life there is a deeper side to them. In this article I will aim to explore these deeper meanings and you can form your own thoughts too, you may have a favourite flower for some particular reason, like scent it reminds you or some memory, very evocative indeed. 

The language of flowers or floriography as it is also known, is a means of cryptological communication through the use of and arrangement of flowers. Meanings have been attributed to flowers for thousands of years and some form of floriography has been practiced in traditional cultures throughout Europe, Asia and the middle east. Plants and flowers are used as symbols in the Hebrew bible, particularly of love and lovers in the song of songs. In Western culture William Shakespeare ascribed emblematic meanings to flowers. 

Interest in floriography flourished in Victorian England and in the US in the 19th century. Armed with floral dictionaries Victorians often exchanged small talking bouquets called nosegays or tussie-mussies, which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. 

In modern times royalty has used floral bouquets with meanings attached. Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet was designed by royal florist Shane Connolly in the all white royal tradition. The flower sentiments of the bouquet were:

lily of the-valley- return of happiness

sweet William – gallantry

Hyacinth- constancy of love

Ivy- fidelity, marriage, wedded love and friendship

Myrtle- emblem of marriage and love

in 1718, Lady Mary Wortly Montagu, wife of the ambassador to the port of Constantinople became fascinated with the coded messages used by Turkish harems and introduced the symbolic language to the UK. However, the first published use of the phrase the language of flowers did not occur until 1809.

In the east the tulip is employed as the symbol by which a lover makes a declaration of love, presenting the idea that, like that flower, he has a face all on fire and a heart reduced to a coal.

Juniper for protection. The ancients consecrated this shrub to the Furies. The smoke of its green roots was the incense which they offered in preference to the infernal gods. 

Azalea- take care of yourself for me, temperance, fragile passion

Camellia- admiration, perfection, good luck

Carnation- fascination, divine love

Daisy- innocence, loyal love, purity

Fern- magic, confidence

Forget me not- true love, memories

Gardenia- secret love

Geranium- stupidity, folly

Gladiolus- give me a break…I’m really sincere, flower of the gladiators

Heather- admiration, solitude

Hyacinth- flower dedicated to Apollo 

Iris- fleur de Lis, emblem of France, your friendship means so much to me

Magnolia- nobility

Nasturtium- conquest, victory in battle

Orange blossom- innocence, eternal love marriage and fruitfulness

Orchid- love, beauty, refinement Chinese symbol for many children

Primrose- i cant live without you

Rose- happy love, yellow rose- friendship

Sweet pea- goodbye, departure, blissful pleasure, thank you

I hope that reading this has made you think a little more about how you go about choosing your flowers as gifts or as a bouquet for a future wedding! Remember it is meant to be a fun way of sending messages to loved ones and friends. I personally have sent plenty of yellow roses in the past, meaning friendship. Happy flower choosing and arranging!!

Angela Mitchell

June 2018