Language of Flowers

What could this bouquet mean?

The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. This language was most commonly communicated through Tussie-Mussies, an art which has a following today. “Tussie-mussie” is a quaint, endearing term from the early 1400s for small, round bouquets of herbs and flowers with ­symbolic meanings (Wikipedia).

Apparently Kate Middleton chose her wedding flowers based on their symbolic meanings.

I’m currently reading a lovely novel called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, set in present-day San Francisco, where the main characters do communicate through floriography (and photography is also one of the elements).

Poppy: Oblivion ~ Red Poppy: Consolation ~ White Poppy: Sleep

Sunflower: pure and lofty thoughts

Daffodil: chivalry

Pink Rose: friendship, grace ~ White Rose: I am worthy of you

Red Rose: true love

Who would think that delicious Basil represents hatred?

Geranium: gentility

Hibiscus: rare beauty, delicate beauty

Gerbera Daisy: innocence and cheerfulness

Marigold: despair and grief

Stargazer Lily: youthfulness and beauty

I can’t remember what this flower is. Do you know? One of the problems with flower meanings (and the characters in the novel encounter this, too) is that there are many language of flowers dictionaries and the meanings are not always the same. Or the meanings can be entirely different depending on the color or subspecies. I’ve been looking online and the sources are endless and often contradictory. It’s a complicated and potentially dangerous art form.

If you’re going to communicate through flowers, you have to be cautious, I guess. Or just make sure they’re really pretty.

Here are a couple of sources in addition to the Wikipedia article cited above: Language of Flowers and Phillips 1-800 Florals.

And, if you read and like The Language of Flowers, try this one, too: Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin; it relies on plant properties, too, and is very lush and fanciful.


7 thoughts on “Language of Flowers

  1. This is a brand-new art form and means of communication to me. I enjoy beautiful flowers, but remain oblivious to their meanings. I can imagine your exploration of these books of meaning and the novel you’re reading make this a very interesting and worthwhile pursuit.


  2. It’s a malva, often simply called a mallow flower.
    I remember learning about this in high school and, if I remember that far back, I think the reason our teacher was using it as a lesson was because of a book we were reading. But darned if I can remember what book that may have been!


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