The Meaning of Flowers

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Lilacs in MugWhen you learn the meaning of flowers, you can be thoughtful, mysterious, and creative all at once when you share a nosegay that you’ve arranged according to the Victorian-era “language of flowers.” Suitors in that era would pick certain flowers according to their “flower dictionary” definitions, and the recipients might spend days decoding the floral message. Today, you could give a theme bouquet as a special treat for a friend, family member, or romantic interest, along with leads for deciphering your meaning. For example, a friend facing a job interview could be the recipient of a posy made of chamomile (energy in adversity), hollyhock (ambition), and basil (good wishes). Or you could present tickets for a date to spice up a longtime relationship, and present a small bouquet of fern (fascination), hyacinth (sport, game, or play), and chickweed (rendezvous) alongside.

Best of all, many of the most meaningful flowers are blooms you can cultivate yourself or find in a vacant lot, so you can indulge often—and the arrangements are far more original than most anything you’d find at the florist. Here are 20 flower messages from Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers (1885).


Alyssum, sweet Worth beyond beauty
Amaryllis Pride, timidity, splendid beauty
Azalea Temperance
Basil, sweet Good wishes
Carnation Woman’s love
Chamomile Energy in adversity
Chickweed Rendezvous
Chrysanthemum (white) Truth
Columbine (red) Anxious and trembling
Coreopsis Always cheerful
Daffodil Regard
Elm Dignity
Fern Fascination
Hibiscus Delicate beauty
Holly Foresight
Hollyhock Ambition, fecundity
Honeysuckle Generous and devoted affection
Hyacinth Sport, game, play
Ivy Fidelity, marriage
Lilac (purple) First emotions of love
Lily of the valley Return of happiness
Moss Maternal love
Nasturtium Patriotism
Periwinkle (blue) Early friendship
Primrose Early youth
Rhubarb Advice
Sage, garden Esteem
Shamrock Lightheartedness
Sweet pea Departure
Tulip (red) Declaration of love
Tulip (variegated) Beautiful eyes
Tulip (yellow) Hopeless love
Violet (blue) Faithfulness
Zinnia Thoughts of absent friends

Excerpt from 1,001 Old-Time Household Hints—brought to you by Skyhorse Publishing


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