Do you know the language of flowers?
Meanings have been invested in particular flowers since ancient times, though by the 18th century, their simple code had become a well-developed language for lovers. Flowered Victorian Valentine cards spoke volumes to initiators of “the language of flowers.”
Almond blossom symbol of sweetness and delicacy; its message is hope.
Anemone like earth’s pleasures, the flower swiftly fades in the first chill wind; it means withered hopes.
Lily often regarded as an unlucky flower; (white) purity; (yellow) falsehood or gaiety.
Periwinkle (blue) early friendship; (white) pleasures of memory.
Poppy a petal in the palm hit with the fist should make a snapping sound if your love is faithful; (red) consolation; (scarlet) fantastic extravagance.
Rose dedicated to love; the normal meaning is love; (red rosebud) pure and lovely; (yellow) jealousy.
Formal meanings in English-speaking countries:
- White roses are for true love.
- Red roses are for the passion.
- Yellow roses are for friendship.
- Black roses mean farewell.
- Red roses mean love.
- Yellow roses mean friendship.
- Pink roses mean friendship or sweetheart.
- White roses mean purity of the mind.
- Black roses mean hate and death.
Snowdrop transformed from a snowflake by an angel to comfort Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Eden; indicates hope or consolation.
Sunflower emblem of the sun; it means haughtiness.
Tulip symbolizes the heart burning like a flame; (red) declaration of love; (yellow) hopeless love.
Aster (Michaelmas daisy) symbolizes afterthought.
Bachelor’s button (cornflower) while its color remained fresh, then so would love: if it faded so would romance; its message is delicacy or celibacy.
Buttercup the flower of childhood; memories of childhood is one meaning, another is ingratitude.
Carnation ancient tradition suggests the flower sprang from the graves of lovers, and once it meant “alas, for my poor heart”; recently, however, it has become a Christian symbol of betrothal, marriage and eternal love.
Columbine the symbol of deserted lovers; it also signifies folly.
Chrysanthemum (red) love; (yellow) slighted love; (white) truth.
Hyacinth used for bridal wreaths in ancient Greece; sport, game or play.
Daffodil associated with death in Greek legend; regard or deceitful hopes.
Forget-me-not, its small blue flower indicated true love.
The Legend about the Forget-me-not
There is a legend connected with the name of the little blue forget-me-not which everyone loves so much. It is said that a boy and a girl were walking by a river that flows into the Rhine. The girl saw a lovely flower growing just by the water’s edge. The bank of the river was steep and the water swift.
“Oh, the beautiful flower!” she cried.
“I will get it for you,” said the boy. He sprang over the side of the steep bank and, catching hold of the shrubs and bushes, made his way to the place where the flower grew.
He tried to tear the plant from the earth with both hands, hoping to get it all for her who was watching him from the bank above.
The stem broke and, still clasping the flower, he fell backward into the rushing stream.
“Forget me not!” he cried to her as the waters bore him down to the falls below. She never did forget her blue-eyed friend who had lost his life trying to get her a flower.
“Forget me not!” she would say over and over until her friends called the little blue flower by this name.
Now these blossoms are called forget-me-nots all over the world. And whether this story is true or only a legend, the dear little flower could not have a prettier name.
The Rose: Myth and Meanings
You know what roses mean. But did you know your choice of color can make or break someone’s Valentine’s Day? And beware of other blossoms – they can say volumes.
The custom of exchanging flowers may have less to do with romance and chivalry than with anxiety. For the shy or uncertain, handing over a bouquet is often the easiest way to express sentiment.
Roses are among the oldest cultivated flowers, with the first known to have grown in Asian gardens 5,000 years ago. In its untamed form the flower goes back even further; fossils of wild roses date back 35 million years.
Ancient myths, biblical stories, and fables all assigned meaning to flowers. In the early 1700s Charles II of Sweden introduced a new language to Europe when he brought the Persian poetical art called “the language of flowers” to the West. Floral lexicons were published throughout the 18th century, allowing secrets to be exchanged with a lily or lilac, and an entire conversation to take place in a bouquet. It seems the more popular the flower, the more superstitions and meanings have been associated with it. The rose carries the most baggage by far.
The ancients explained the beauty of the rose through myths of godly creation. The Greek goddess Chloris stumbled upon a beautiful dead nymph and turned her into a flower; Aphrodite added beauty; the three graces added brilliance, joy and charm. Dionisious donated fragrant nectar, while Zephyrus the west wind blew away the clouds so Apollo could shower the rose in sun. The flower was given to Eros, the deity of love, and named the “Queen of Flowers.”
The Romans had their own ideas on the rose’s origin. According to their legend, many suitors were lined up to marry a beautiful woman named Rodanthe, but she little interest in any of them. These men were so full of love and desire that they became rowdy and eventually broke down the doors to her house. This episode angered the goddess Diana, who turned the woman into a flower and her suitors into thorns to teach them a lesson.
Whatever its origin, the rose is undeniably the best-known symbol of beauty and love. It is common knowledge that red roses mean I love you. A dozen of them makes the ultimate statement on Valentine’s Day, a tradition surely developed by those who measure value by quantity rather than quality.
Lesser known nuances of meaning are attached to different colors and types of roses. Red and white together mean unity, pink means grace and gentility, and yellow symbolizes joy. Orange or coral roses speak out your desire. Burgundy will compliment your sweetheart’s unconscious beauty. Sweetheart roses are for couples who like nicknames, as they mean darling, dear, or honey. A single rose signifies simplicity, a nice statement to make if your pockets are empty. White roses mean you’re heavenly, while white rosebuds warn that you’re too young for love.