The Language of Flowers

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

Flowers have always held a wealth of lore and symbolism for us humans. Throughout history they have been associated with various gods, qualities and symbolic relationships.  This can be seen from the earliest myths of indigenous cultures, throughout the classical world and the Bible, right into the plays of Shakespeare. 

The so-called Language of Flowers, or Floriography, was largely invented in the Victorian era, though it is at least partly based on snippets of mythology, folklore and sometimes the growing habits of plants – the clinging ivy signified faithfulness, for example, and the hidden violet for modesty.  It became extremely popular, and most Victorian homes had a copy of one of the many books available on the subject. 

The main purpose of Floriography was to send covert messages, usually to a would-be lover, via the sending of flowers.  A red rose might be sent to express love, or bachelor’s buttons to convey that the sender is happy being single, thank you very much.  The colours of flowers were important too; while a red carnation declared love, a yellow carnation signified rejection.  However, there were several different systems, and various books give conflicting meanings, which must have caused some confusion and the occasional disappointment. 

By 1935, when the reaction against all things Victorian was at its height, a writer in the Gardeners’ Chronicle remarked of the old language of flowers books “how antique in spirit they seem – how remote from the thought of the present age”.  But fashions go in cycles, and in the 1960s and 1970s there was a revival of interest in Victorian culture, and this saw the republication of early books on the subject, such Mrs Burke’s Language of Flowers, and Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers.  When Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, the flowers in her bouquet were chosen for their meanings – lily of the valley to symbolise the return of happiness, sweet William flowers for gallantry, hyacinths for constancy of love, ivy for fidelity and myrtle as the symbol of love and marriage. 

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

Acacia Chaste love
Agnus castusColdness
African marigoldVulgar minds
AgrimonyThanks 
Almond flowersHope
AmbrosiaYour love is reciprocated
AmaryllisPride
AloeGrief
AmaranthUndying love
AnemoneForsaken
AngelicaInspiration
Apple blossomPreference
ArbutusI love you alone
AsterDaintiness
AzaleaTake care of yourself for me
Bachelor ButtonBlessed to be single
BasilGood wishes
BayGlory
BegoniaBeware
BelladonnaSilence
Bells of IrelandGood luck
BittersweetTruth
Black-eyed SusanJustice
BluebellHumility
BorageCourage 
Bouquet of Withered FlowersRejected Love
CactusEndurance
Camellia I long for you
CandytuftIndifference
Carnation (Pink)I’ll never forget you
Carnation (Red)My heart aches for you
Carnation (Purple)Capriciousness
Carnation (Striped)Refusal
Carnation (White)For the sweet and lovely
Carnation (Yellow)Rejection, disdain
CattailPeace, prosperity
ChamomilePatience/strength in adversity
Chrysanthemum (Red)I love you
Chrysanthemum (White)Truth
Chrysanthemum (Yellow)Slighted love
ClematisA beautiful mind
Clover (white)Think of me
ColumbineFolly
CoreopsisAlways cheerful
CorianderHidden worth
CrocusCheerfulness
CyclamenResignation and farewell
DaffodilHigh regard
DaisyLoyal Love, innocence
DahliaGood taste
DandelionFaithfulness, happiness
Dead LeavesSadness
EdelweissCourage, devotion
Fern (Maidenhair)Secret bond of love
FirTime
FlaxDomesticity
Forget-Me-NotDo not forget me
ForsythiaAnticipation
FoxgloveInsincerity
GardeniaSecret love
GarlicCourage, strength
GeraniumStupidity, folly
GladioliSincerity, integrity
GloxiniaLove at first sight
GoldenrodEncouragement
GrassSubmission
Heather (purple)Solitude
Heather (White)Protection, wishes will come true
HeliotropeEternal love and devotion
HibiscusDelicate beauty
HollyDefence
HollyhockAmbition
HoneysuckleBonds of love
Hyacinth (Blue)Constancy of love
Hyacinth (Purple)Forgive me
Hyacinth (Red or Pink)Playfulness
Hyacinth (White)Loveliness
Hyacinth (Yellow)Jealousy
HydrangeaThank you for understanding
IrisYour friendship is important to me
IvyFidelity
JasmineSweet love, amiability
JonquilAffection returned
Lady’s slipperCapricious beauty
Larkspur Fickleness
LavenderLuck 
Lemon balmSympathy
LilacJoy of youth
Lily (Orange)Hatred
Lily (White)Purity
Lily (Yellow)False
Lily (Calla)Beauty
Lily (Day)Coquetry
Lily (Tiger)Wealth, Pride
Lily of the ValleySweetness, return of happiness
MagnoliaNobility
MarigoldCruelty, grief, jealousy
MistletoeKiss me
MintVirtue
MonkhoodBeware
Morning gloryAffection
MossMaternal love, charity
MyrtleMarriage and love
NarcissusEgotism
NasturtiumConquest, Victory
NutsStupidity
OleanderCaution
Orange BlossomMarriage and eternal love
Orange milkweedLet me go
Orange, MockDeceit
OrchidLove, beauty
Palm LeavesVictory and success
PansyThoughts
PeonyBashfulness
PetuniaResentment, anger
PineHope
Poppy (Red)Pleasure
Poppy (White)Consolation
PrimroseI can’t live without you
Primrose (Evening)Inconstancy
RhododendronDanger, beware
Rose (Dark Crimson)Mourning
Rose (Leaf)You may hope
Rose (Pink)Happiness
Rose (Red)I love you
Rose (White)Virtue, chastity
Rose (White-Dried)Death is preferable to loss of virtue
Rose (White-Withered)You made no impression
Rose (Yellow)Decrease of love
RosemaryRemembrance
SalviaI think of you
SmilaxLoveliness
SnapdragonDeception
SorrelAffection
SpeedwellFidelity
Spider FlowerElope with me
StephanotisHappiness in marriage
StockBonds of affection
SunflowerHaughtiness
Sweet peaGoodbye and thank you
Sweet WilliamGallantry
Sweet woodruffHumility
TansyHostility
Tulip Passion
ValerianReadiness
Violet (white)Modesty
Violet (purple)My thoughts are of love
WillowSadness
YarrowEverlasting love
Zinnia Missed in absence

© Anna Franklin

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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