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Do Flowers have a Meaning?

The Meaning of Flowers - What does that flower mean? Victorian secret language of flowers, used to convey secret messages between lovers, all with the coded flowers they used in their symbolic tussie-mussie flower posies. Very romantic!

The Meaning of Flowers

Popular Flowers and their Significance...

The symbol of flowers as a "messenger of the heart" became hugely popular in the nineteenth century, when people dreamt of the age of courtly love and faithfulness that made use of the sentimental Victorian "Language of Flowers".

They used sweet smelling Tussie Mussies (miniature garden posies) carefully crafted and designed posies of fresh picked florals - with each bloom holding their own coded meaning, full of symbolism.

What does that Flower mean?

Flowers and their meanings - This nostalgic tradition has been revived today, with both the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with William and Kate choosing to bring personal touches, to their own Royal Wedding, by using the meaning of flowers as symbols to tell part of their story. Then in the marriage of Harry and Meghan becoming the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, again they used traditional blooms to share a secret story. Unique choices of blooms to tell their royal tales.

The recent funeral of the Queen has just shown us how poignant and thoughtful it can be to include flowers with meaning. The wreath used on the top of her casket was from hand-picked flowers from some of the royal homes Buckingham Palace, Highgrove and Clarence House.

The Queens wreath contains myrtle, the ancient symbol of a happy marriage, cut from a plant that was grown from a sprig of myrtle in the Queen’s wedding bouquet in 1947.
I love this - what a powerful and emotional inclusion of a special flower with real meaning.

Her wreath also contained rosemary as a symbol of remembrance and English oak, a national symbol of strength, in a nod to the Queen’s constancy and steadfast duty. Other flowers used includes pelargoniums, garden roses, autumnal hydrangea, sedum, dahlias, and scabious.
It was also made sustainably using no plastic or floral foam.

victorian vintage language of flowers

Victorian Language of Flowers that mean Love

How can you show someone you love them using Flowers? The Victorian Language of Flowers was born from a need to communicate powerful emotions such as; love, hate and rejection and many more meanings attributed to the blooms. Expressing these emotions verbally was widely frowned upon and not readily permitted, in a society governed by strict social rules, where courtship always had a chaperone, and there were rules to be followed. 

In such a prim and proper society, suppressed human emotions became extremely motivating. Young couples hoping to court and show their affections (modestly of course!), looked cleverly for ways to overcome such stifling restrictions. How romantic to use flowers to share their deepest desires and love!

Of course it won't surprise you to learn that the beautiful Rose has always meant Love and Romance!

language of flowers image platemeaning of flowers violets meaning of red roses

Floriography - Secret Messages using the Language of Flowers

Cunningly, a system of "Floriography" was devised in which secret messages could be passed from one person to another, using the meaning of flowers. Messages of love, rejection and hate would pass through the social ranks daily and create great joy or heartbreak for the recipient, based on what blooms were included in their nosegay gifted by a beau, whether the flower was included in bud form or open, and even what colour the bouquet came in.

Meaning was attached to the way the blooms were facing - or even if they were included upside down. Truly the amount of effort and detail is quite awe inspiring.

The Victorian Language of Flowers became so widely used, that books explaining language etiquette date back from as early as 1818. As a child I was always fascinated by the beautiful imagery in Victorian books, Flower Fairies, vintage greeting cards, postcards and other vintage artwork using flowers.

Today, there are many romantic suitors who do consider the meaning of flowers when choosing their bouquet, both as a unique gifting gesture and as a romantic nod towards tradition.

Upon researching this fun topic, you will come across many meanings attributed to each flower and colour, this can depend on the era in which the particular list was curated, the author, and also of course which hemisphere, so in some ways consider the meaning of flowers fun and whimsical and perhaps not take it too seriously.

Read more here about the meaning of Roses - by colour. > A more modern day interpretation.

Common Flowers and their Meanings:

victorian vintage floriography

  • Alstromeria  -  Wealth, prosperity, fortune
  • Amaryllis  -  Pride Anemone Forsaken
  • Anthurium  -  Lover
  • Baby's Breath / Gypsophila  -  Innocence, Pure of Heart
  • Bells Of Ireland  -  Good Luck
  • Bouvardia  -   Enthusiasm
  • Calla Lily  -   Magnificent Beauty
  • Camellia  -   Gratitude
  • Carnations  -   General Fascination
  • Carnations Pink  -  Woman's Love / I'll never forget you
  • Carnations Red  -   Admiration, Fascination
  • Carnations White  -  Ardent love, good luck
  • Chrysanthemums  -  Cheerfulness
  • Daffodil  -   Regard
  • Fern  -   Sincerity
  • Freesia  -  Thoughtfulness
  • Gardenia  -   You're Lovely
  • Gerberas - Simple beauty of a happy life
  • Gladioli  -   Strength of Character
  • Honeysuckle  -  Bonds of love
  • Hyacinth  -   Constancy of love
  • Hydrangea  -   Thank you for understanding
  • Iris  -  Wisdom
  • Ivy  -   Fidelity, marriage, friendship and affection
  • Jasmine  -   Amiability
  • Jonquil (Daffodil)  -   Sympathy
  • Larkspur  -  Fickleness
  • Lavender  -   Devotion
  • Lilac  -   Youthful / Humility
  • Lily  -   Majesty
  • Lily white -   Purity and modesty
  • Lily Yellow  -   I'm walking on air
  • Lily of the Valley  -   Return of happiness
  • Magnolia  -  Dignity / love of nature
  • Narcissus  -   Egotism
  • Orange Blossom  -   Purity
  • Orchid  -   Rare Beauty / love
  • Paeony Rose, (Peonie rose)  -   Bashfulness
  • Poppy  -  Eternal sleep
  • Queen Anne's Lace  -  Haven
  • Ranunculus  -  You are radiant with charm
  • Rose  -   Love
  • Rose, red  -  Love, passion, respect, courage
  • Rose, white  -  Innocence, purity, secrecy
  • Rose, yellow  -  Joy, friendship
  • Rose, light pink  -  Grace, gladness, joy
  • Rose, dark pink  -  Thankfulness
  • Rose, red and white combined  -   Unity
  • Rose, orange  -  Fascination
  • Rose Peach  -  Desire
  • Rosebud  -  Pure and lovely
  • Rosemary  -  Remembrance
  • Statice  -  Sympathy, remembrance
  • Stephanotis  -  Happiness in Marriage
  • Stock  -  Lasting beauty
  • Sunflower  -  Adoration
  • Sweet Pea  -  Lasting pleasure
  • Sweet William  -   Gallantry
  • Tuberose  -  Dangerous pleasure
  • Tulips  -  Perfect lover
  • Tulip Red  -  Believe me
  • Tulip Variegated  -  Beautiful eyes
  • Tulip Yellow  -   Hopeless love
  • Violet  -   Faithfulness, Modesty
  • Water Lily  -  Purity of heart
  • Wheat  -  Earnestness
  • Zinnia  -  Thoughts of Absent friends


Learn More about The Nostalgic Traditions of Flowers:

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Jo-Ann Moss - Senior Florist  |  07 October 2023, 09:22 AM

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