Floriography: The Language Of Flowers

There is no denying that flowers have inspired us for centuries.

They’ve been the subject of art, literature, folklore, and religious symbols for an incredible, near unmeasurable amount of time, showcasing just how versatile these plants are.

In the past, associating legends and symbolism with flowers was a way of preserving knowledge, of telling you exactly when the best time to harvest certain plants were, what their medical applications are, and which plants you should avoid entirely.

Floriography The Language Of Flowers

What Is Floriography?

Floriography is the ‘language’ of flowers. This is the idea that near enough every flower symbolizes an ideal, message, or story, and this can change depending on the color and number of flowers given.

While the practice of giving someone flowers which symbolize a message is ancient, the term for the language of flowers, floriography, was invented by the Victorians.

It serves as a secret language in the form of a gift, of one or more flowers.

The Origins Of Floriography

Flowers have been used for centuries as emblems, which was practiced by the Ancient Greeks, and became introduced into medieval Europe during the crusades.

The language of flowers also enjoyed popularity in the renaissance and in the baroque period, but it didn’t really take off in Europe until the early 1800s.

The reason for this was the influence of the works published by various authors, including Lady Mary Wortley Montegu, and Louise Cortambert.

Notably, Lady Montegu lived in Istanbul during the 1700s, at the time of the Ottoman Empire, as her husband was the English ambassador to Turkey. 

She noticed that flowers were given between ladies of harems and servants and slaves, as confessions of love and coded messages, which were never said aloud.

This form of floriography is a little different to the one we know today.

Instead of a certain flower carrying a specific meaning, a fruit or flower would be given, which rhymed with the message the person wanted to send.

For example, a pear would say ‘do not despair’, and in the Turkish language, it rhymes much the same as it does in English. 

At the time, this was a secret language only known to a few, otherwise guards and masters would have put a stop to it, which is completely different to the Victorian language of flowers, which was, and still is, widely known.

The Victorian Language Of Flowers

The language of flowers was extremely popular with the Victorians, and this was often stoked by a rising interest in botany and rare plants.

If arranged in a certain way, a combination of different flowers created an intricate and sophisticated message to the recipient.

This helped provide some comfort for those who loved someone that their peers did not approve of, or, for whatever reason, could not be together publically.

As they do, the meanings behind the flowers became more developed and intricate, and what one flower meant to one person meant something entirely different to someone else.

This led to a need for flower dictionaries, to provide ‘standard’ or more widespread definitions, which still filter through modern florists and floriography today.

Floriography And Cultures

It’s worth mentioning that different cultures contain wildly different symbolism for the same flowers.

What can be intended as a confession of your deepest feelings or a general well-wishing gesture can have associations with anger or death in other cultures!

Sending A Message Through Flowers

As with all trends, those which have fallen out of favor in the past are making a resurgence, and the same is true for floriography.

Flowers make the perfect gift, depending on what flowers and colors you choose. 

This is a more complicated task than it sounds – and it is tricky to begin with – as they can mean different things to different people, and the perfume and the historical uses of each flower also inform the meaning.

It does pay to look closely at the flowers you want to send, and their associated meanings, before you send them, otherwise they may carry an entirely different message than the one you were hoping for.

There is some general symbolism behind many flowers which are used in bouquets, which makes things a little easier.

For example, red roses have signified romantic love and the deepest desire for hundreds of years, and this meaning is something that most of us are familiar with.

This meaning has filtered down through hundreds of years of the practice of floriography, which is pretty amazing in itself.

While getting the right symbolism can be complicated, combining several flowers with similar meanings are sure to get the right message across.

This is especially true for those times when you don’t have the words to be honest about how you feel, or you don’t want to be there to see their reaction, but you want to tell them the truth anyway. 

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