Romance and the Language of Flowers


Language of flowers

Although flowers have been used for hundreds of years to symbolise emotions and feelings, it was the Victorians who brought this symbolism into its heyday and created a language of flowers.  Strict Victorian codes of conduct on decorum and courting stifled the chances of lovers to express their feelings – but the giving of flowers enabled all sorts of meanings to be encoded in the actual flowers given to the recipient.

Back in the 1700s Lady Montague had popularised the notion of a language of flowers – she was married to the British ambassador to Constantinople and was fascinated by the symbolism the Turks attached to flowers.  This symbolism permeated the decades, culminating in the Victorian obsession with all things floral.

A young Victorian man enamoured with a young Victorian lady could express all sorts of emotions in the bouquet of flowers he gave to her.  But it wasn’t just expressions of love, you might even give someone you were cross with some flowers to symbolise your irritation with them!  The following are just a few of the meanings of love and infatuation attached to flowers.

Pansy – I think of you

Forget-me-not – love and remembering

Primrose – I can’t live without you

Honeysuckle – devotion, fidelity

Daisy – loyalty

Pink rosebuds – confession of love

Hawthorn – hope

Camellia – admiration

Roses – true love

Lilac – do you still love me?

Heliotrope – devotion

Bluebell – everlasting love

Mistletoe – kiss me

Sweet Violet – I will always be true

Azalea – passion!

Maidenhair fern – secret love

Ivy – fidelity, marriage

Yellow Iris – passion

White Clover – think of me

4-leaved Clover – be mine

Sunflower – adoration

Holly – Am I forgotten?

Zinnia – I miss you

Daffodil – unrequited love

But it isn’t only the flowers themselves that declare the giver’s emotions – the way they are presented is also symbolic.  For example, a bouquet tied with ribbon to the left implied the flowers had meaning for the sender; tied to the right meant meaning for the recipient.  Turning a stem upside down suggested the opposite meaning that that particular flower symbolised.  The Victorians took this symbolism very seriously and many, many books were published on the language of flowers, which would have been very helpful as it seems the whole area of the giving of flowers was a right minefield – get the meaning wrong and your love may never be requited!

Teresa SinclairWritten by Teresa Sinclair

Wildflower Favours













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