I couldn't resist using this popular florist's slogan as the title for this post. As if this is a modern idea. Flowers have been significant in their message since Biblical times. Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Lilies mean beauty - glorious beauty. And as the white Madonna lily grew wild in northern Palestine, it's not by coincidence that its appearance each spring has become our traditional symbol of Easter. It's modern definition is majesty, a fitting image of the Resurrection.
|Lilies - photo courtesy of Wiki Commons|
|My poinsettia this past Christmas|
And of course, roses are the symbol of love. Jesus was called the Rose of Sharon, symbolic of his message of love. And each color of rose has its own meaning. White: innocence. Pink: grace. Yellow: friendship or infidelity (according to which reference you use). Coral: desire. Red: love. Dark Red or Crimson: mourning. Red and white together: Unity.
|Red Rose says true love|
No era was more attuned to the language of flowers than those who lived in England during Queen Victoria's rein (1837 to 1901). It was as important to people as being "well dressed." Flowers adorned almost everything - hair, clothing, jewelry, gowns, men's lapels, home decorations, including china, and stationery. The scent of a particular flower or a scented handkerchief sent it own unique message.
Flowers played a prominent role in courtship as well. A young man could either please or displease a lady with his gift of flowers, not only the type of flowers, but also the size of the bouquet or what was in the grouping. In this chaste age, flowers could convey meanings that weren't proper to be spoken. Even the hand with which the flowers were presented had a meaning. Offering a flower with the right hand meant "yes" - the left hand "no."
With such emphasis on flowers and their meanings, dictionaries were written to explain it all, and they were particularly used by lovers. A quandary could develop if the two lovers consulted different dictionaries that might have different connotations which could give rise to the potential for a major misunderstanding! Getting accurate information could make or break a relationship.
Bouquets, also called tussie-mussies, were quite popular in the Victorian era. The small bunch of flowers were wrapped in a lace doily and tied with ribbon. Sometimes they were presented in a decorative cone. To the Victorians, the contents of a tussie-mussie could be very telling. An arrangement with forget-me-nots, for example, suggested true love, while yellow roses symbolized friendship. Lilies stood for purity, snowdrops for hope, and yew for sorrow. Lemon balm and red poppies symbolized empathy and consolation, while ivy, lavender, and myrtle stood for loyalty and devotion.
|The nose-gay bouquet, aka Tussie-Mussie - Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons|
Even today, the gift of flowers can convey a sentiment that might be hard to express. We send bouquets to the bereaved and husbands still send the message of love with long-stemmed red roses. But why not also send a cheery vase of posies that says "Congratulations!" or "I want to be your friend" or "You are special." And flowers make wonderful thank-you gifts. So the next time you want to make someone's day memorable, why not "Say it with flowers!"
|A bouquet of fresh daisies (innocence)|
Language of Flowers
Vanessa Diffenbaugh's Flower Dictionary. In her lovely book The Language of Flowers, she ran into the same issues with different meanings as the Victorian times people did. In this dictionary, her goal was to create a usable, relevant dictionary for modern readers.
What is your favorite flower? Does it have a story behind it. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Carla Stewart is the award-winning author of five novels. With a passion for times gone by, it is her desire to take readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.” Her newest release is The Hatmaker's Heart. In New York City’s Jazz Age, a naïve, but talented young hat designer must weigh the cost of success when the rekindled love with her childhood sweetheart is lost and her integrity in the cutthroat fashion world is tested.
Learn more about Carla at www.carlastewart.com