by Barbara Early
While the phrase “Say It With Flowers” is now an advertising slogan, to the Victorians--and earlier to the Turks and a number of other cultures--flowers were the alphabet of a language both expressive and sometimes romantic.
For many ancient cultures, flowers spoke words that people couldn’t read or were timid to say aloud, the meanings understood through tradition and word of mouth. Perhaps the use of the language of flowers caught the interest of Victorian couples trying to elude over-zealous chaperones. Or maybe the romantic nature of flowers just caught the fancy of the time.
The Victorian era gave rise to a number of illustrated volumes on the subject. (What good is a language that no one can understand?) Some meaning of flowers are universally understood. Can anyone debate the meaning of a red rose?
The recent royal wedding featured a rather demure bouquet designed with this language in mind. Kate Middleton’s understated and sweet bouquet featured lily of the valley (happiness restored), hyacinth (constancy or unobtrusive loveliness, depending on which guide you use), Sweet William (gallantry, but was probably a nod to the groom), and myrtle (love), grown from a cutting of Queen Victoria’s bouquet. Meanwhile, the cathedral was decorated with maple (reserve) and hornbeam trees (ornament).
Unfortunately, this language was plagued, like all languages, by a difference of opinion on the meaning of words. And sometimes the meanings changed over time--or were changed by florists wanting to sell flowers whose meaning were… unfavorable.
|I burn for you or I hate you?|
Some flower names with Biblical origins seem to have related meanings. Lily of the Valley symbolizes happiness restored. Star of Bethlehem represents purity and reconciliation. Balm of Gilead stands for a cure or relief. Cedar of Lebanon means incorruptable. Jacob’s ladder simply means “Come down,” while the Judas Tree symbolizes betrayal and unbelief.
|Blue rose: mystery.|
For more flowers and their meanings, I’ve begun collecting them on my pinterest page, Language of Flowers.
Question: Have you ever wondered about the meaning of flowers when you’ve given or received flowers? What flowers did you/would you like to include in your bridal bouquet?Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.