The Language of Flowers

Flowers from Jo and Emma 2

“When there are no words, there are still flowers.”

Yesterday I got a bunch of flowers from my god-daughter and her mum, who is one of my oldest friends. The yellow and white blossoms brightened my day,  filled the living room with the sweetest scent and was one of those gestures that can mean so much.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say. You want to express your emotion but all you can think of are tired clichés, or the feelings you are struggling with are so overwhelming that you don’t know where to start.

That’s where giving flowers comes in. We send them to express sympathy for a death, congratulations the birth of a baby, an engagement, or exam success. We use them to show our appreciation, to say thank you, or sorry, when we’ve done something wrong.

The blossoms we choose whether consciously or not also convey meaning. Red roses for love are the obvious one, but lilies are linked with death and bright colours like yellow daffodils have got to be a sign of hope.

In Victorian times there was a whole language of flowers. They could be used to deliver messages in secret as they could answer unspoken questions. If the answer was “yes” the right hand was used to give the flowers, if the left hand was used, the answer was “no.”

Flowers also had their own meanings. Forget-me-not speaks for itself, but almond blossom meant hope, anemones said that you were feeling forsaken and while red roses invariably meant love, a pink rose conveyed a gentler emotion such as gratitude or admiration. A purple hyacinth asked forgiveness, while if an unwanted suitor gave a rose declaring devotion or apple blossom meaning preference the answer might be a yellow carnation to express disdain.

How flowers were presented and in what condition were important. If the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite of what was traditionally meant. How the ribbon was tied said something, too: Tied to the left, the flowers’ symbolism applied to the giver, whereas tied to the right, the sentiment was in reference to the recipient. And, of course, a wilted bouquet delivered an obvious message.

Keep safe.

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