The Language of Flowers
The Language of Flowers

Giving flowers can be a very personal gesture, but a further dimension is implied by understanding the meaning of individual flowers. Although many of us are familiar with Shakespeare's quote "there's Rosemary, that's for remembrance…", the Persians, Greeks, Chinese and Indians have all used flower language to symbolise emotions for centuries.

The idea was first encouraged in England in 1716 by Lady Mary Wortley Montague, wife of the English Ambassador to Turkey, who observed this tradition at the Sultan's court. The popularity of floral language grew in Victorian times when it became an expressive, though discreet, method of communication for both men and women. Not only did flowers themselves have meaning, but their position was crucial too. Wearing a marigold in the hair expressed mental anguish while the same flower pinned to the bosom conveyed indifference.

Although this quaint tradition seems rather coy these days, it can add an element of fun to an otherwise innocent gift of flowers or plants. The language of flowers is still observed, though probably not consciously, by many brides as they make their choice of wedding bouquet.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) – splendid beauty, pride
Arum lily, calla (Zantedeschia) – magnificent beauty
Bluebell (Scilla) – constancy, forgive and forget
Campanula – white, gratitude
Carnation – red - "alas for my poor heart"; striped - refusal; yellow - disdain; pink - woman's love
Cockscomb celosia – affectation, individuality
Chrysanthemum – red - "I love you"; yellow - slighted love; white - truth
Daffodil – regard, chivalry
Dahlia – good taste
Forget-me-not (Myosotis) – true love, "the key to my heart"
Freesia – friendship
Garden Pink (Dianthus) – pure love
Gladiolus – strength of character
Hyacinth – blue - constancy; white - unobtrusive loveliness
Iris – yellow - flame of love
Lilac (Syringa) – purple - first emotions of love; white - youthful innocence
Longi Lily (Lilium longiflorum) – pure and modest
Lily of the valley (Convallaria) – return of happiness
Love lies bleeding (Amaranthus) – hopeless, not heartless
Mimosa (Acacia) – sensitivity, secret love
Narcissus – self esteem, female ambition
Orange blossom – bridal festivities, virginity, "your purity equals your loveliness"
Orchid – longevity, elegance
Peony – bashfulness
Ranunculus –"you are rich in attractions"
Rose – symbolises love & good fortune; white - truth; white with pink blush - "only for thee"; large bright pink - "meet me by moonlight"; single stem - simplicity; red & white together - unity; small yellow - "thou art all that is lovely"; rosebuds - pure and lovely; red - eternal love; crown of blooms - reward of virtue
Rudbeckia – justice
Snowdrop – hope
Solidago – encouragement
Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) – purity
Stock (Matthiola) – lasting beauty
Sunflower dwarf – adulation
Sweet pea – departure, delicate pleasures
Tuberose – dangerous pleasure
Tulip – red - declaration of love; striped - beautiful eyes
Veronica – fidelity
Violet – faithfulness, modesty

Chrysanthemum - truth
Zantedeschia - magnificent beauty
Red tulip - declaration of love
Freesia - friendship
Lilac - youthful innocence
Amaryllis - splendid beauty, pride
White rose - truth
Hyacinth - unobtrusive loveliness