Flowers are nature’s way of showing off. These botanical marvels look fantastic in any garden, and who doesn’t like to receive a carefully selected bunch of flowers as a gift? Many of us will always have a vase full of fresh-cut flowers on a table in our homes because the very sight of them fills us with joy and calm. It’s a double bonus if the flowers give off an enticing smell, with many blooms delivering a delightful perfume.
When it comes to gardens, creating your own little paradise is easy. You can turn even the smallest space into an oasis of tranquillity, and by adding a few natural wooden benches and a table, you’ll have a serene little retreat for quiet reading, or you can invite your friends for a light brunch and refreshments. There is nothing more romantic than sitting outside with your significant other and enjoying a glass of wine while surrounded by a stunning display of beautiful flowers and plants.
Choosing the right flowers may be as simple as finding your favourite type or colour, but did you know that flowers have their own language? Floriography is the language of flowers, and each different flower has a significant meaning. Floral arrangements were carefully selected in days gone by, especially when the flowers would be given as a gift. The wrong flowers may have been deemed an insult or a challenge. While this practice has, for the most part, been forgotten, it’s never too late to learn the secret language of flowers. Before you rush out and grab a random bunch of mixed flowers from the supermarket, find out what each flower symbolizes and let your bouquet speak for you.
The secret language of flowers[i], otherwise known as floriography, is an unspoken way to communicate a particular message or feeling that depends on the type of flower you choose. It can get complicated though as the type of flower or plant has its meaning, but much of it also depends on the colour of flower you choose. Floriography was widely popular in the Victorian era, but the use of flowers to send a message was also used in parts of Persia.
Flowers have always been a way of communicating, which is why they are the world’s most popular gift. Nothing says “I love you” more than a dozen red roses, right? Those roses are sure to bring out passion and romance, but as roses tend to be on the pricey side, you can choose from many other flowers to let someone know that they are the object of your affections.
Floriography isn’t just limited to the colourful blooms we’ve come to love. The language also applies to herbs and other plants. This means you need to be extra careful because even filler greenery can send the wrong message.
It’s hard to imagine a world without flowers[ii]. They bring life to a dull room, and they add charm to your garden. The flowers you choose can communicate a lot about your personality and have been doing this for thousands of years. It isn’t easy to know precisely when the language of flowers first began, but it was undoubtedly at its most popular during the Victorian era in the 19th century. This trend was also prevalent in the United States during the same period. Men would carefully select the blooms he would present to his fair lady to convey a specific message that may not have been very gentlemanly to say out loud. The lady, on the other hand, knowing her gentleman caller was coming, would arrange a selection of flowers in a vase and set it in a prominent position to either give him a sign of encouragement or cool his heels a little.
Unfortunately, as with all forms of communication, misunderstandings and miscommunication could end a relationship in the early days of the courtship. In an era when people simply did not speak their minds, sending mixed messages knowingly or unknowingly resulted in many broken hearts.
A dictionary of floriography was published to end the confusion and clear up the floral lines of communication. In 1819, Louise Cortambert’s book “La Langage des Fleurs”, The Language of Flowers, made its debut and became a must-have book in the libraries of all the best homes. It didn’t take long for other authors and publishing houses to print their own versions of this botanical bible. This was fantastic in theory, but as more of these books were published, the authors gave their own interpretations of the meanings of flowers, so the language of flowers became unique to each country and region, much like the spoken language.
With the symbolic messages of flowers being more transparent, it didn’t take long for the language of flowers to become an integral aspect of literature. Flowers were frequently mentioned in literary classics from great names such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Poems and sonnets were written comparing fair maidens to delicate flowers, and artists covered their canvases in stunning displays of coloured flowers that are still popular today.
As the decades and centuries passed, less people paid attention to the language of flowers and it became a forgotten art. The giving of flowers as a gift is still as popular as ever, but apart from roses, peonies, tulips and lilies, to name a few, most people simply don’t put much thought into selecting flowers to put into a bouquet or in a vase. Most will choose ready-made arrangements according to colour or price instead of a carefully arranged bouquet to convey a secret meaning.
Isn’t it a shame that subtlety is a long-lost attribute? While being open and honest may be liberating, we have become a society of people who blurt out everything that pops into our minds. The subtle art of creating a bouquet that conveys a message may not be all that popular anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put thought into an arrangement that says something special. While it’s impossible to list all flower meanings to their respective botanical, we can take a look at some of the most popular flowers so you can put together the perfect bouquet as a gift or grace your home with flowers that mean something to you. Here’s a list to get you started.
Red – I love you
White – Truth
Red – Love, desire, passion
White – New beginnings, purity
Pink – Joy, happiness
Yellow – Infidelity, jealousy
White Calla Lily – Sweet, pure
Lily of The Valley – Pure love, sweetness
Orange Lily – Intense hatred
Red – Passionate declaration of love
Yellow – Sunshine, smile
White – Respect, forgiveness, honour
Pink – Affection, well wishes
Purple – Elegance, royalty
White – Innocence
Pink – Memorable, remarkable
Yellow – Disdain, rejection
Red – Heartache
Pink Camellia – Yearning
White Camellia – Adoration
Gardenia – Secret love
Magnolia – Nature lover
Dahlia – Discernment
Pansy – Thoughtful
Sunflower – Pride, ego
Violet – Devotion, loyalty
Yarrow – Endless love
Sweet Basil – Best wishes
Baby’s Breath – Everlasting love
Chamomile – Patience
Chives – Useful
Clover – Think of me
Edelweiss – Courage
Holly – Prudence
Ivy – Friendship
Lemon Balm – Sympathy
Mint – Virtue
Pine – Humility
Rosemary – Recollection
Sage – Wisdom
Willow – Misery
Snapdragon – Deception
Lavender – Distrust
Cyclamen – Resignation
Black/Dark Crimson Rose – Mourning, grief
Rhododendron – Caution, danger
Striped Carnation – Rejection, refusal
Begonia – Dark thoughts
Marigold – Jealousy, despair
It’s time to bring back the grace and charm of yesteryear and let your favourite flowers do the talking for you. Put together a bouquet that is not only beautiful, but will also send subtle signals to the recipient. Whether you are putting together an arrangement to let someone special you know you love them, send someone a bunch of flowers to congratulate them for whatever reason, or just send flowers to let family and friends know that you are thinking of them. There is a flower for every feeling and sentiment which means you can say a lot without verbally communicating.
You can also create a beautiful garden with your choice of flowers giving your inspirational messages every time you spend time in your private sanctuary. Once your flowers are in bloom, the right natural wooden bench will complete the look of your garden and give you a comfortable place to sit and enjoy those warm summer days and nights.
Once you understand the secret language of flowers, those supermarket bouquets will never look the same again. Enjoy putting your own custom arrangements together for giving gifts and gracing your home. And while you’re selecting those beautiful blooms, don’t forget to take a little extra time to inhale deeply and smell those flowers.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.