Victorian Language of Flowers

Flowers and their Meanings

Nora Creeach © 2004

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"I post a letter in the flowers,
to wish you many happy hours"

Flowers have been used for centuries to convey sentiments in the ancient Greek and Oriental cultures. It was left to the Victorians to elevate the language of flowers to an art form. Charlotte de la Tour wrote the first flower dictionary entitled, “Le Language Des Fleurs” (Paris, 1819).

This became a popular reference on the subject. At a time when etiquette and propriety were of such great importance, lists of flowers and their meanings were found in the popular household manuals and social guide books.

In 1879, Miss Corruthers of Inverness wrote a book which became the authority on flower symbolism throughout England and the United States.

Beverly Seaton, author of "The Language of Flowers, A History" states "To modern enthusiasts, no feature of Victorian popular culture appears more charming, more cozy, more absolutely Victorian, than the language of flowers."

Giving meanings to the various flowers, herbs, and plants meant a bouquet of flowers and greenery could be arranged to express certain sentiments. Not just the flower or greenery but a picture on a postcard, the scent placed on a handkerchief or letter would carry the same message.

If a flower were arranged in an upright manner it had a positive meaning, but placed upside down the meaning would be the exactly opposite. Even the ribbon had a meaning. Tied to the left the meaning referred to the giver, but on the right it referred to the recipient. Flowers also answered questions. Presented with the right hand the answer was yes, but the left hand meant no.

Orange blossoms were originally used as part of the bridal attire in China and the Mediterranean. They were considered lucky and were symbolic of fruitfulness because the orange tree both blooms and holds fruit at the same time. The custom spread throughout Western Europe and arrived in England in the early 1800's. Queen Victoria wore a wreath of orange blossoms in her hair when she married her prince.

A Victorian lady often used flowers to send a message to her future husband. Gentlemen arrange for a tussie mussie containing specific flowers to be delivered to a lady before a social engagement.

The floral offering a lady chose to carry that evening would give her answer.

Sending flowers that also send a message can make the gift even more special. We can use our stitched flowers to convey these same messages.

Even though not all experts can agree on the real meaning of many flowers, we present some of the more traditional meanings here along with the instructions for stitching a few.

"May true friends be around you"

Apple Blossom - Preference
Anemone - Expectation
Aster - Symbol of love; Daintiness; Afterthought
Baby's Breath - Innocence
Bachelor's Button - Hope in love; Felicity; Delicacy; Single blessedness
Bay leaf - Victory
Bells of Ireland - Good luck
Bluebell - Humility; Everlasting love
Buttercup - Childishness
Calla Lily - Magnificent Beauty
Cedar - strength
Cactus - Endurance
Caladium - Great joy and delight
Camellia - Gratitude; Perfection Camellia: Version 1 , Camellia: Version 2 , Camellia: Version 3
Camellia (blue) - You're a flame in my heart
Camellia (pink)  - Longing for you
Camellia (white) - You're adorable; Perfected loveliness
Camellia (red) - Unpretending excellence
Carnations - Fascination; Womanly love; Devoted love
Carnation (Red) - My heart aches for you; Admiration
Carnation ( Pink) - I'll never forget you; Woman's love
Carnation (Purple) - Capriciousness
Carnation (Striped) - Sorry I can't be with you; No; Refusal; Wish I could be with you
Carnation (White) - Innocence; Sweet and lovely; Pure love; Woman's good luck gift; You're adorable
Carnation (Yellow) - Rejection; You have disappointed me
Chrysanthemums (red) - Declaration of Love
Daffodil - Regard and Chivalry
Daisy - Innocence
Delphinium - Swiftness; Lightness
Dogwood - Durability
Edelweiss - Devotion, Courage
Fern - Secret bond of love; Fascination; Sincerity; Magic
Fleur De Lis - Flame; Burning
Forget-Me-Not - True Love; Remembrance
Freesia - Innocence
Gardenia - Purity; Joy
Heather (Lavender) - Solitude
Heather (White) - Protection; Wishes will come true
Hibiscus - Delicate beauty
Heliotrope - Devotion, Eternal Love
Holly - Foresight
Honeysuckle - Generous; Devoted Attention
Hyacinth (white) - Unobtrusive Loveliness; Fertility
Hyacinth (Blue) - Constancy
Hyacinth (Purple) - Please forgive me; Sorrow
Hyacinth (Red / Pink) - Play
Hyacinth (Yellow) - Jealousy
Iris - A message of faith; Wisdom
Ivy - Fidelity and Marriage
Jasmine (white) - Sweet Love
Jasmine (yellow) - Passionate Love
Jonquils - Narcissus Affection returned; Sympathy; Desire; Love me
Lavender - Distrust
Lilac - First Love; Joy of Youth
Lilac (Purple) - First emotion of love
Lilac (White) - Youthful innocence; Purity; Modesty; Virginity; Majesty
Lily ( Calla)  - Beauty
Lily (Day) - Coquetry
Lily Maiden charms - Purity
Lily (Tiger) - Wealth; Pride; Prosperity
Lily-of-the-Valley - Return of Happiness; Sweetness
Linden Tree Blossom - Conjugal Love
Lupin (The Bluebonnet is a Lupin) - Imagination
Magnolia - Love of nature; Nobility; Dignity
Marigold - Grief
Marjoram - Blushes
Mint - Virtue
Nasturtiums - Patriotism
Orange Blossoms - “Your purity equals your loveliness”; Fertility
Orchid - A Belle Love; Beauty; Refinement; Beautiful lady; Flower of magnificence
Orchid (Cattleaya) Mature charm
Pansies - Thoughtful reflection; Merriment
Parsley - Festivity
Peony - Shame Bashfulness Prosperity
Peppermint - Warmth of Feeling
Phlox - Agreement; Unanimity
Pine - Hope; Pity
Poinsettia - Be of good cheer
Poppy - Eternal sleep; Imagination; Oblivion
Poppy ( Red) - Pleasure
Poppy ( White) - Consolation
Poppy (Yellow) - Wealth; Success
Queen Anne’s Lace - Queen of the Meadow
Rose - Queen of the Flowers, Love
Rose (White) - Pure and Spiritual Love
Rose (Yellow) - Infidelity or Diminishing love; Friendship
Rose (Cabbage) - Ambassador of Love
Rose (Musk) - Capricious Beauty
Rose (Damask) -Brilliant Complexion
Rosebud (White)- Heart is Ignorant of Love; Girlhood
Rosebud (Red) - Pure and Lovely; Desire
Rosemary - Remembrance, Friendship and Fidelity
Rue - Protection from Evil
Sage - Esteem or Domestic Virtue; Health
Southernwood - Jest
Sunflower - Adoration; Pride; Sunshine
Sweet Pea - Delicate pleasures; Good bye; Blissful pleasure; Departure; Thank you for a lovely time
Sweet William - Grant me one smile; Gallantry
Sweet Basil - Good Wishes
Thyme - Activity; Emblem of Courage
Tulip (red) - Declaration of Love
Tulip (yellow) - Hopeless Love
Tulip (Variegated) - Beautiful eyes
Violet - Modesty and Faithfulness
Wheat - Prosperity
Willow - Freedom
Wallflower - Fidelity in adversity
Water Lily - Purity of heart
Wisteria - Welcome
Zinnia - Thoughts of Absent Friend
Zinnia (Magenta) - Lasting affection
Zinnia (Scarlet) - Constancy

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