For centuries, flowers, herbs and plants have been a source of pleasure because their beauty has the ability to cheer up the recipient and their fragrances are used to make perfume. Herbs give flavour to food and have scent and healing properties.
It is no surprise that flowers and plants have become symbolic and have significant meaning attached to them. In Biblical times and the middle ages, certain plants were believed to have magical powers. A special language of flowers was formulated which is known as floriography. It took the Victorians renowned for their sentimental attachments to give places of honour to flowers and plants in special gardens.
They also devoted as much attention to the language of flowers as to the way they dressed. For example, flowers adorned almost everything and spoke a thousand words to those who could read the language. Gentlemen sported floral buttonholes in their lapels and ladies wore corsages on their gowns and flowers in their hair. Jewellery, stationery, home décor, teapots, china and numerous other items were decorated with flowers.
Without words a young man could please or displease a lady by his gift of flowers. Flowers conveyed messages of love or dislike depending upon which flowers were given, their sizes and how they were held, or grouped together. These silent meanings would say what dared not be spoken.
Many books and dictionaries were written to explain this language and these especially appealed to lovers. One could learn that roses symbolised love in general, but each variety and colour had its own meaning. The lily generally symbolised beauty, but it also had many varieties, thus many different meanings. It is quite likely misinterpretations caused considerable offence on occasion!
Those of the Victorian era liked to make up bouquets called Tussie-Mussies as gifts. These were small posies or nosegays of flowers wrapped in a lace doily and tied with satin. The excitement and intrigue of interpreting messages sent via Tussie-Mussies became a popular past time.
Most people are aware roses are the symbol of love especially red ones. Red roses imply true romantic love but add a single yellow rose to the bouquet for passion. Pink roses mean a more chaste less passionate love while white roses suggest virtue and chastity. Yellow roses stand for friendship or devotion. Commonly known meanings include sunflowers for haughtiness or respect. Gerbera (Daisy) means innocence or purity. The Iris was named for the messenger of the gods in Greek Mythology and still represents the sending of a message. An Anemone signifies disappearance of hope. Pansies signifies thought, daffodils mean regard, and a strand of ivy means fidelity.
If you want to say thank you to someone include iris in your bouquet of flowers which tells the recipient it is a message, white bellflowers for gratitude, amaranth for affection and spearmint for warm feelings. Isn’t that better than a box of chocolates from a convenience store?
Leaving the best until last, what about wedding bouquets? When Kate Middleton was married to Prince William in the old royal tradition she chose a bouquet of white, but deliberately chose meaningful flowers to convey the sentiments of the day. Included were Lily of the valley for return of happiness, Sweet William for gallantry, Hyacinth for constancy of love, Ivy for fidelity, marriage, friendship and wedded love and Myrtle emblem of marriage and love. The sprig of Myrtle in Kate’s bouquet came from a plant grown from a sprig of Myrtle in a posy given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert. What a lovely sentimental return to the language of flowers.
For your own wedding bouquet, ask your wedding videographer to make a point of filming the bouquet and in the final edit, add the meaning of your flowers to the finished film result for something extra special on your wedding day