THE FLOWERS SAY WHAT?!
Posted on August 07 2019
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” -HENRY MATISSE
Beginning in the early 1700’s, the Victorian flower language, or floriography, was the pre-digital version of emoji. Bouquets with secret messages were sent between high-class Victorian homes, conveying messages full of emotion and meaning. The long-lasting floriography fad was set off by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a feminist poet married to the English ambassador to Turkey. Letters she wrote home from Constantinople in 1717 and 1718 not only argued in favor of smallpox inoculation, but included an enthusiastic description of the Turkish selam (”hello”)- a secret flower language used by clever harem women to communicate under the noses of their guards. Though Montagu may have misunderstood or romanticized a popular rhyming game of the time, the idea of a flower code quickly caught on with fashionable and wealthy Europeans. The exotic East, full of strange customs and decadence, was a powerful subject for upper-class fantasy—all the more so if it might be a source of forbidden knowledge, or a proxy for discussion of women’s repression back home. Whether Montagu had mischaracterized selam was beside the point. Harems were sexy; flowers were sexy; secret messages between lovers were extra sexy. The public wanted in. Since then, the code continued to evolved and several dictionaries were published. Subtle floral messages were included in paintings, poetry and literature. Though this method of communication has lost favor with the general public, floral meaning is still utilized in modern-day life. Kate Middleton, Duchess Catherine of Cambridge regularly nods to the Victorian flower language by incorporating blooms with meaning into her ceremonial decor. Here are a few different meanings for you to enjoy or try...
- MIMOSA chastity
- DEEP RED ROSE romantic love
- PINK ROSE non-romantic affection
- WHITE ROSE virtue
- YELLOW ROSE friendship or devotion
- BLACK ROSE death and dark magic
- DAFFODIL new beginnings
- DAISY innocence
- LILAC first emotions of love
- PERIWINKLE tender recollection
- BASIL hatred
*Stott, Romie. “How Flower Obsessed Victorians Encoded Messages in Bouquets”. www.atlasobscura.com