In the Regency period, where I set my books, flowers were more than simply pretty. Each and every flower had a meaning.
Want to express love? Try carrying carnations--red for pure love or pink meaning, I will always remember you. Or perhaps the love is new. Then you want to give lilacs, which symbolize the first emotions of love. Tulips indicate a declaration of love. Red roses, of course, are the ultimate symbols of love. Violets indicate faithful love.
From whence did this tradition originate? Turkish harems, believe it or not. In 1718, the wife of the ambassador to Constantinople decoded the messages used in the harems and introduced them to England. It wasn't until 1809 that the first book on the subject was published, and after Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, she spread the tradition around the country.
Lest you think this tradition has completely died out, consider that Kate Middleton specifically chose flowers for her wedding celebration to convey particular meanings. Her bouquet contained Lily-of-the-valley (return of happiness), Sweet William (gallantry), blue hyacinth (constancy), ivy (fidelity), and myrtle (emblem of marriage and love). Kate's sprig of myrtle started from a nosegay given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert's grandmother.
Wonder what your favorite flower means? Here are a few of the most popular.
Tulips (red)--declaration of love
Tulips (yellow)--hopeless love
After reading about the language of flowers, I wish I'd known more about it when choosing my wedding bouquet. Have you ever chosen flowers specifically for their meaning?