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The Hidden Language of Flowers

By: Sandra Nelson

child with tulips

My five year old granddaughter came bursting into the house on Sunday as excited as I have ever seen her. In her hands she clutched a somewhat frazzled bouquet of tulips. “I bought them for you,” she said, “because you like flowers and I like pink.”  Moments later, the bouquet delivered, she was off on a five-year-old's important pursuit and I was left there thinking about how much love those eight pink tulips communicated. 

For centuries, peoples all across the globe have been using flowers as a silent language, sharing messages without the use of words. Sometimes, the flowers expressed heart-felt emotions from one person to another. At other times they were part of a culture’s rituals or traditions, and at their darkest times, flowers were ingrained in superstitions and witchcraft. Floral tributes have been found in prehistoric graves, perhaps suggesting that flowers helped welcome the souls of the dead into the afterlife. In early Egyptian culture, the lotus flower symbolized renewal and rebirth. To the Greeks, a floral wreath marked power and high status. Europeans planted marigolds in the garden to drive out witchcraft, while the Chinese believed that the scent of chrysanthemums exorcized demons.

The language of flowers blossomed (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.) during the Victorian Era.  Flowers were used to express ideas and emotions that could not, because of societal expectations, be spoken aloud – especially to the opposite gender. Guidebooks were published that explained the “true” meaning of each individual flower and the meaning of flowers in combination so that floral faux paus could be avoided. For example, a suitor might send his adoration with a rose, but be rebuffed with a yellow carnation in return. Sending blue flowers added sincerity to an apology.

Today, most of us are not fluent in the language of flowers; we tend to select flowers by their appearance, fragrance or even price. Wouldn’t it be fun though, instead of just grabbing a grocery store offering, to give your special someone the perfect bouquet with the perfect unspoken message? If the idea appeals to you, or even if you're just curious, click the link below to learn the meanings of some classic cut flowers.  It may change how your view of flowers forever!

Click here to view.