The Secret Language of Flowers: Wooing the dame like a Victorian
I don’t know about you, but, as is apparent by everything I’ve ever written, I’m a hopeless romantic. So hopeless, in fact, that I often find myself lost in daydreams and smashing my poor toes into table legs.
And as a proper, self-respecting romantic, I absolutely adore flowers!
Humble and beautiful beyond measure, flowers are the embodiment of Mother Nature herself smiling at us. Throughout the history of mankind, many cultures have given important meaning to flowers and traces of their usefulness can be found in religious texts, myths, folk tales, and even medical texts.
They decorate our homes, enrich our vision and herald the coming of spring, bringing us a peace of mind that only the beauty of nature can ever hope to bring.
Ancient civilizations like the Ancient Greeks and the Celts were so aware of the importance of flowers that most of their religious rituals involved herbs and blossoms, either as offerings to their Gods or as a way to create the right environmental conditions for their ritualistic practices of worship.
Flowers are also very closely connected to the female figure and nature. Many female deities from around the world are depicted holding flowers, wearing flower crowns, or having different types of blossoms are their symbols. Being the messengers of spring and essentially, the rebirth of the Earth after the passing of winter, flowers are also intertwined with fertility and the figure of the Mother.
Flowers have the natural ability to make us feel rejuvenated, and that particular property has been used to treat patients suffering from anxiety, depression, problems of the menstrual cycle, and fatigue. Their presence triggers feelings of happiness, intensifies the feeling of satisfaction, and affects us in a positive way.
There is no specific scientific or biological explanation regarding the existence of a particular mechanism that flowers unwittingly use to affect us so, but in general, it comes down to two key factors: color and aroma. And it is definitely no accident that these two elements correspond to two of our most important senses.
Every flower has a very specific, unique smell that makes it stand out. And every single one of those smells affects us in a different way. It comes as no surprise that aromatherapy has become such a popular method of therapeutic relaxation these past few years. And while many argue that it’s not actually a science-based remedial method, the positive results are indisputable.
Similarly, each color also has a unique effect on us based on the light and the wave frequency it represents. So, while red can increase energy levels, yellow can make us feel optimistic!
One does not have to be an expert in order to utilize the healing properties of flowers. Studies have shown that people who see or come in contact with flowers in the morning, have more energy, are more productive and feel much better in general, compared to those who haven’t. In fact, it is quite possible, that this positive, energetic attitude will be passed on to other people too! Similarly, a second study showed that people who receive flowers immediately get a feeling of elation, with factors like age, gender or temperament of the individual not playing any part in that reaction.
So, next time you feel gloomy, it might be a good idea to get a new flowerpot with a cute little gardenia to put on your desk.
The most important function that flowers have, however, is their power to convey profound human emotions and thoughts the way no other object can. And this something that the people of the Regency and Victorian Era knew all too well!
During the Romantic Era when society’s rules were sometimes more important than the law, expressing one’s feelings was a tricky business. Walking up to someone and confessing undying love certainly wasn’t an option so if one didn’t want to end up with a pistol pressed to their temple or the furious father of a young lady out for their blood, a person had to get crafty!
Thus, all those little lovebirds had to find a way to get the message across without alerting their families. No one would want to find themselves reenacting a Shakespearean love story, I am sure.
And here is where flowers come in!
I do have to say, let us give a round of applause for the person that first sat down and distributed meanings to flowers! Of course, that list has been greatly enriched since then, but it does take a brave person and an able mind to take on such a task!
During the years of the puritan Victorian Era, certain flowers had specific meanings because the flower selection was limited, and people used more symbols and gestures to communicate than words. At the same time, flowers were so highly viewed that it was not uncommon for ladies of the ton to resort to a practice called “Floromancy” or “flower reading” to discover their future.
Or if their husband was cheating on them.
Or if that wonderful yellow dress was on sale!
In order to decode the unique message of each flower, they considered factors like color, aroma, size, shape, and sometimes even markings.
And I bet you are dying to know those meanings!
Planning on giving a blossom or two to a special someone, aren’t we?
Do not despair, my precious darling!
For I am here—in my metaphorical shining armor—to rescue you!
Let’s take a look at a list of flowers and their unique symbolism!
Tulip (depending on color)
Yellow: Unrequited love
Red: Passion and perfect love
Purple: Royalty and prosperity
Pink: Love for friends and family
The Lotus flower symbolizes rising from a dark place into beauty and rebirth as the Lotus flowers grow directly out of muddy and murky waters.
Lily of the Valley
This delicate flower, often used in wedding bouquets, symbolizes natural beauty, delicacy, hope, and humbleness.
Hibiscus (according to color)
Yellow: Happiness, good luck, and sunshine
Pink: All kinds of love, apart from romantic love, and friendship
Purple: Mystery, knowledge, and nobility
Red: Love and passion
Orchid (according to color)
With a delicate, sculptural beauty and historical rarity, orchids carry an unrivaled symbol of refinement, luxury, and mystery. Each color variation carries a slightly different meaning with it, making them ideal gifts and a beautiful surprise for your loved ones.
Pink: Innocence, femininity, grace, joy, and happiness
Purple: Royalty, respect, admiration, and dignity
Red: Passion, desire, courage, and strength
White: Innocence, elegance, reverence, humility, and beauty. It is often given as a gift to newborn babies
Yellow: Friendship, joy, and new beginnings
Orange: Pride, enthusiasm, and boldness
Green: Health, nature, life, good fortune and longevity
The Iris flower symbolizes faith, hope, and wisdom.
Daisies symbolize vitality, radiance, wit, and creativity.
The beautifully delicate blossoms of this tree symbolize purity, virginity, sanctity, beauty and marital bliss.
Owing its name to the Scottish physician, botanist, and zoologist Alexander Garden, this lovely flower symbolizes a secret love and the sensuality that every woman hides inside of her.
Having gotten its name from its sword-like shape and the Latin word “gladius”, this flower symbolizes strength, integrity, resilience, and strength of character. It is also considered as the symbolic flower of the Roman Gladiators.
Dedicated to all virgin deities, the oriental lily symbolizes purity, femininity, immortality, life, peace, and fertility.
‘Narcissus’ means the end of winter, but also the lucky emblem of future prosperity around the world. It is almost synonymous with Spring. It symbolizes regeneration and new beginnings.
A symbol of good fortune, a symbol of wealth and honor, it favors women and love. It declares romance and keeps affection and passion alive.
A symbol of eternal sleep and imagination. The red poppy is a symbol of hope and enjoyment, the yellow one of wealth and success. Expressing consolation, fertility and eternal life, it is also considered a symbol of Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dreams.
Justly crowned the “King of Flowers”, the rose is the symbol of love and passion and the flower of Eros. According to Freud, the rose also symbolizes feminine nature.
And because I like to go out with a bang, I’ve saved a flower with a fascinating backstory for last!
It symbolizes pride, determination and glamorous beauty.
According to Greek mythology, Amaryllis was a shy, beautiful nymph, who fell in love with Altaion, a shepherd beautiful as Apollo, and as mighty as Hercules.
However, Altaion did not show any interest in Amaryllis. She decided to win his love, without worrying about the consequences. Altaion, unmoved by her charm, had one desire: to be offered a flower unlike any other in the world.
Determined to win his heart, Amaryllis went and consulted the Oracle of Delphi. There, she was told that she would have to wear a white dress for thirty nights and stand in front of Altaion’s door, piercing her skin above her heart once each night. Then she would have to write her name on his door.
From the drops of blood that fell into the soil in front of the door of Altaion, a wonderful plant was born. So, when Altaion opened his door one morning, he saw a beautiful flower with deep red petals, painted in the blood of the heart of Amaryllis.
And that’s how the nymph Amaryllis won the love of the shepherd Altaion.
So, next time you wish to say “I love you” or “I miss you”, just go the nearest garden and let the flowers do the talking!
Written by Emma Linfield