“Love makes the world go ‘round” so they say. Well the World has certainly been going around since creation but Love, or most emotions, were not always spinning ‘round or talked about as freely as in our modern age.
As recently as the Victorian Era, communication about such delicate subjects as sensitive emotions, love or sex was virtually taboo.
Some say that it is actually Women that make the world go ‘round, or perhaps better said that they help make love go ‘round. Certainly in this situation it was Women who learned how to get around this ‘sensitive’ communication problem with an elaborate and ingenious secret language used to convey messages without upsetting conservative Victorian Society. They called it the Language of Flowers and it has saved many a broken heart and embarrassing moment.
For example, if you really liked someone but wanted to avoid a potentially embarrassing confrontation, just in case they did not share your affection, an appropriate gift would be to send them a bunch of Roses. Especially Red Roses, even a single Red Rose would do. Or a bunch of soft Coral-Pink, Pink or White Roses could also say what words dare not express.
But be warned that one must learn to master this ‘language’ with greatest care. Just like in almost any language, in this secret Language of Flowers there are many subtleties that carry quite different meanings. For example, there are well over 100 distinctly different coded means that Roses might convey.
Classic bright Red Roses definitely mean ‘I truly love you’, ‘true love’; ‘passionate love’; ‘romance’. This statement is so emphatic that even one red Rose will send this message and is often given to a new love or to say, ‘I still love you’ or ‘I will always love you’. While those brighter red shades can also mean ‘congratulations’, ‘respect’ and ‘well done’, especially if mixed with greenery like Laurel (‘victory’) or Magnolia (‘magnificence’).
The deeper red shades increase the ‘admiration’ and intensity of this love. But avoid the very deepest crimson and/or black Roses for a happy and healthy loved-one as these are mean to express sympathy at a time of death and mourning. These are more appropriate for more sombre emotions like funerals.
The pinker the shading the more it represents ‘perfect love’ ‘grace’ and ‘beauty’. Pink Roses are most appropriate for a very sweet love perhaps better given to an adored Wife or Mother. White Roses mean ‘eternal love’, ‘innocence’ or ‘innocent love’, ‘purity’ and ‘reverence’: definitely good for children, Motherly or Grand Motherly love or religious love used in the Church.
But add a dash of orange into the shading and this becomes a Rose-of-a-different-colour. Pure orange Roses represent ‘fascination’, ‘desire’ and ‘secret love’ while coral shades mean ‘desire’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘passionate’ love more like saying “I am an enthusiastic suitor passionately desirous of you” and if the coral Roses are mixed with orange shaded Roses then this might suggest adding to the message: “that desires a secret affair with you”. If coral and red are mixed together, the message is to expect a ‘hot and passionate affair’. Perhaps an unacceptable combination for ones Mother, but okay for Dad to give to the Wife he still adores or to ensure a passionate love affair.
Yellow Roses often mean ‘delight’, ‘remembrance’ and ‘new beginning’s’ which often work with friends. But with thorns attached; or if the bloom is full-blown or fading this message becomes, ‘love is waning’. Yet add a splash of orange Roses mixed with healthy, thornless young yellow Roses and we have ‘passionate thoughts’.
There are definite cautions here, too. A Thorny Rose means ‘danger’. A European yellow Rose, that is classically prickly, often means ‘decreasing or waning love’ or ‘infidelity’. So a prickly Sweet Briar yellow Rose might well mean ‘forget it’! And even worse a fading red or yellow Rose means’ ‘love is ending’ or ‘it’s over’. While if somehow the red Rose arrives withered this means, ‘I would rather die’! Thus one must be very careful to pick just the right shading and under all circumstances make sure that these Roses arrive in perky, pristine condition!
Red Tulips are another classic love flower. They symbolise an ardent love, especially one for the first time. Another classic Love Flower are Red Chrysanthemums which mean, ‘love’, I love’ or a ‘classic love’. Between red Tulips, red Roses and red Chrysanthemums, this pretty much covers the entire year for florist flowers given as a ‘love’ symbol. Add late Autumn to Spring-flowering red Anemones for ‘unfading love’ and the floral year is complete.
Another early season Love Flower favourite are satiny red Ranunculus. These often bloom even earlier than the Tulips and sometimes over the cooler Late Winter months along with Anemones.. This is a classic flower of ‘attraction’ often meaning ‘you are very attractive to me’. If after sending them a bunch of red Ranunculus, they send you back another bunch of red Ranunculus get out your dancing shoes as this is the flower of sexual attraction. The secret floral message translates “you are radiant with charms” or ‘sexual attraction’. A mix of pink and red Chrysanthemums or Roses says the same thing, which covers sexual attraction messages for most of the year!
But watch out if they send nothing back and next time you see them they are wearing a striped Carnation, which in that instance means “refusal”. If they were to send you in return a bunch of fragrant and pretty striped Carnations, this would imply, ‘I wish I could be with you but I can’t’. The base colour of the Carnation as well as the colour of the stripes each carries a suggestive meaning. White petals with pink or red stripes, especially if the bloom is also fragrant and spicy, suggest that indeed there is a deep love, but there is some reason why this cannot be consummated. While a yellow Carnation (which can represent ‘disappointment’ or ‘distain’) with purple stripes (‘capricious’ or ‘whimsical’) means there is just no chance that this is going to happen. Yet a yellow Carnation or a sunny bunch of yellow Carnations given in a non-sexual way represents that they or you are ‘my Sunshine’.
A big bunch of spicy pink or red Carnations or Dianthus is the traditional symbol of maternal love so a great gift for Mum. Since antiquity, Dianthus has remained amongst the world’s most beloved and cherished blooms. Before the relative modern arrival of the hybrid Florist Carnation, garden Carnations and many other forms of spicy Dianthus, especially Clove Pinks, were the favourite love flower. Today in the Florist Trade is has been largely superseded by the Carnation which is also considered a classic symbol of affection and love. Carnations can represent many meanings including ‘bonds of love’, ‘devoted love’, ‘Divine love’, ‘I’ll never forget you’ and many more subtle connotations of love.
White Carnations possess a natural divinity about themselves that change the love meaning toward ‘purity’, ‘sweet and lovely’, ‘good luck’ and more ‘angelic’ love symbols. The Pink shadings all tend to represent a devoted or sublime sort of love like a Mother or Parent for a child or an endeared Friend. As the Carnation shading becomes deeper, it adds an additional dimension of desire. Be warned that hot pink and double red Carnations are frisky shades reserved for more passionate “ardent love”. Purple can be downright capricious on its own; yet when toned down with more ‘stable’ shades or other flowers can represent a refreshing willingness to experiment and ‘let one’s hair down’.
The Salvia in fiery red shades is a symbolic ‘pledge of love’ and ‘loyalty forever’. It is often given or planted in the home garden to represent ‘conjugal domestic love’. A garden bed of red Salvia is a lovely symbol of devotion in the home of newly-wed couples or to celebrate anniversaries.
While individual flowers each have one or more meanings, entire bouquets of various mixed flowers can send a rather complex message. And an entirely different dimension can be created by planting flowers with distinct meanings in ones’ garden.
A more aggressive approach, especially during Victorian times, was to plant or sow the seed of flowers with special meaning in the garden of another. For example, the tiny little Pansy faces of Heartsease, Viola tricolor said, “you occupy my thoughts” or can represent, ‘fondest and kind thoughts’, or ‘thinking of you’. It was often sown near someone’s entrance gate or walkway by a departing friend or loved-one so that they would always be remembered in their absence. Today, the hybrid Pansy is a more dramatic substitute with a similar meaning. The flower colour can also affect the interpretation of its meaning.
In a similar way, planting Violets in someone’s garden had a similar meaning of endearment. Blue Violets represent ‘youthfulness’ or ‘youthful love’, ‘true love’ and ‘I’ll always be faithful and true’. Purple Violets intensifies the emotions of ‘love and loyalty’. White Violets adds an ‘innocence’ and ‘purity’ as in ‘I will always be sincere and true’.
Planting Sunflowers in the garden or near the house was a sign of “adoration”. Sunflowers planted in any influential and suitable position could also mean ‘you are splendid’, ‘best wishes’ and are considered a great symbol of ‘good luck’. Beautiful and fragrant Stock means “lasting beauty” and also symbolizes ‘bonds of affection’, ‘happy life’. This goes for the plants in the garden and also when given as cut flowers. They also have the lovely meaning of “you will always be beautiful to me”.
Planting Alyssum means “worth beyond beauty”. Forget-Me-Not is another ancient love flower classic with the symbolic meaning of ‘true love’, ‘hope’, ‘memories’, ‘remembrance’ and literally ‘forget-me-not’. Certainly once sown in the garden the message would never be forgotten as these pretty blue flowers self-seed forever!
Fragrant flowers often are considered to carry exceptionally potent messages. One of the finest is Convallaria (Lily-of-the-Valley) which since earliest times in both Asian and Western traditions represents ‘Return of Happiness’ and also ‘loves good fortune’. When Lily-of-the-Valley is included in any bouquet or even when its essential fragrant oil is added, this means ‘you make my life complete’.
Blue Hyacinths were often given to departing friends as symbols of ‘emotional constancy in love’, even during separation. Red and Pink shades are quite ‘joyous’ and 'playful. While pristine White Hyacinths mixed in a bouquet added the compliment of ‘unobtrusive loveliness’. Zinnias were often given to represent ‘thoughts of absent friends’.
So planting a bed of pink and red Roses under-planted with Violas and Violets was the classic wedding garden. This combination says, “I am devoted and in love with you and always will be faithful and true to you”. Adding an even more bountiful and prosperous symbol would include planting a Lemon and especially an Orange tree. Orange blossom, still very popular in wedding bouquets today, has remained from very ancient times as a symbol of ‘Eternal Love’, ‘Fidelity in Love’; a classic symbol of ‘fruitfulness in marriage’. It is also a classic symbol of ‘Generosity’ and ‘Good Luck’ and is still considered one of the most benevolent and bountiful flower and plant symbols in Nature.
All Citrus carry this distinction. Lemon blossom, fruits and trees are classic symbols of ‘fidelity in love’, ‘everlasting and faithful love’ or ‘fidelity’. Grape Fruit blossom, fruits and trees are also symbols of ‘good luck’, ‘benevolence’, ‘bountiful’ prosperity and ‘fidelity’. All other forms of Citrus carry similar meanings.
Planting Wisteria near a new home or by a garden gate or over an arbour symbolised, “I cling to thee”. Cobaea scandens, Cathedral Bells represents a similar meaning of ‘bonds or knots of love’. Honeysuckle planted in similar positions and especially near the house was thought to encourage “bonds of love”, ‘devoted affection’ and symbolised a ‘sweet disposition’.
White Jasmine was for “amiability” and most Jasmine vines were considered to bring ‘attachment’, ‘attraction’ and sensuality’. Ivy created a mood of ‘friendship’ and ‘fidelity in marriage’. It is often used to symbolize ‘links to others’, ‘fidelity’ and also ‘wedded love’
Planting any or all of these vines was felt to do much more than merely symbolize these meanings but also encouraged and enhanced their development in all who dwelt there or frequented these environments. Passing by or especially beneath such vining symbols was felt to transfer this energy and emotions to them. And all how viewed them, smelled or touched them potentially have the opportunity to be affected or uplifted by their particular botanical magic charms.
Early friendships were traditionally symbolised by giving Blue Periwinkle. Or symbolically planting this pretty groundcover in the garden or near the gate or entrance way to an endeared or new friend also sealed this friendship. Purple Lilac was a sign of the ‘first emotions of love’. Daffodils and Jonquils meant a ‘return of affection’ and add a sunny disposition to any message.
If all else fails there is no love lost in giving a delicate bouquet of Galanthus (Snowdrop) or Leucojum (Snowflake). These most early flowers of Late Winter and Early Spring are classic symbols of ‘hope’ and one cannot truly love or lead a passionate life without hope.
Click this link to learn more about the remarkable ‘Language of Flowers’
and discover an exciting great list of flowers, groundcovers, herbs, plants, shrubs, trees and vines plus their special meanings. Use these to send special floral messages to your friends and loved ones. Started planning and planting your gardens to carry symbolic meanings that will allow your garden to ‘talk’ with you and remind you of the very special person you are and the magic relationship you share with your patch of the Living Earth and your special bond with all of Nature.
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