I recently received a light-read fiction book from a friend who has come to know my growing adoration for my beloved blooms. It is titled "The language of Flowers" by American novelist Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I enjoyed the story but more importantly it triggered my curiosity into further reading on the topic. I have since discovered many similar titles, poems, love stories, academic writings and historical text about the Victorian Era's (and even in earlier centuries) obsession with Floriography or "The Language of Flowers".
The language of flowers, sometimes called Floriography, was a means of secret communication through the use or gifting of flowers. Meanings were attributed to flowers for thousands of years, and some form of Floriography has been practiced in traditional cultures throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Plants and flowers are used as symbols in the Bible, particularly of love and lovers in the Song of Songs as an emblem for the Israelite people and for the coming Messiah. In Shakespearian times flowers often contributed meanings to flowers, for example in Hamlet.
There was a heightened interest in Floriography during the Victorian era in England and the continued in the USA during the 19th century. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings which could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society. Armed with floral dictionaries, Victorians often exchanged small "talking bouquets", called nosegays which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. Sounds very romantic, doesn't it!
I have discovered that many of my most beloved blooms like Roses, Hellebores, Dahlias, Poppies, Lily if the Valley and many more carry wonderfully fitting and positive meanings. But it wouldn't have been quite the Victorian times without superstition either so I have also discovered that my all time favourites, like Peonies and Anemones carried rather dark meanings in old Victorian times. I am in no way superstitious and choose to rather enjoy and marvel at God's most precise floral creation and I will keep using any flower that catches my interest for a particular bouquet.
Even though some of these meanings are encouraging and "nice-to-know", my belief is rather to enjoy the floral gifts of fragrance, colour, texture and visual appeal and to celebrate the act of giving and the joy of receiving. No flower in my opinion should ever be hidden or avoided, each can shine in its own right. Whether I choose the humble cosmos or the "weedy" cornflower, the delicate Cuphea, blossoming wattle or in contrast the blooms only preferred by flower-snobs and royalty like Sweet William , Primrose, Lily and Rose, each flower tells her own story. I often find myself talking to these little petalled princesses while I'm arranging them in a bouquet encouraging them to "lift your little head and shine in your own right". My hope is that each one will be noticed and celebrated regardless of it being bold or ordinary.