Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Language of Flowers by Shana Galen



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.
Red roses--love
Poppy (white)--sleep
Poppy (red)--consolation
Hyacinth--sport
Tulips (red)--declaration of love
Tulips (yellow)--hopeless love
Peony--bashful
Daisy--innocence
Sunflowers--pride
Orchid--beauty



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?

20 comments:

  1. Some flowers have different meanings for different colors. Florists have changed some meanings to encourage sales. Red roses at one time implied a physical love (most improper for your innocent young ladies) as opposed to a pledge of enduring romance. Yellow roses used to mean jealousy.Now they symoblize joy and friendship. Hows that for a makeover?

    And yes, I have used traditional symbolism. An adult with a living mother wears a red carnation while a child would wear a pastel carnation. If the mother is deceased, A white carnation was proper at any age. I used to arrange the corsages for Mom and the grandmothers when I was old enough and they were still around.

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  2. Shana, what an interesting post. Now I understand why no one ever gave me peonies!

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  3. Shana, I've much enjoyed weaving the language of flowers into my own historicals, finding some sources that say it flourished even in Medieval Europe. And as Virginia says, there seems to be a lot of variability over time and across cultures regarding the meanings of certain flowers.
    All of which, is lovely. Thanks for decoding Kate's bouquet!

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  4. Virginia, thanks so much for the information. So interesting! And it seems nothing, not even flowers, are immune from revision.

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  5. I love the language of flowers, but didn't use it while picking my bouquet for my upcoming wedding... I chose hydrangeas and apparently they have multiple meanings - like vanity and boastfulness OR gratefulness OR heartfelt sincerity. So let's go with either of the latter two. LOL :) Great post!

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  6. Great post, Shana! I received yellow roses from a boyfriend because I was living in Texas and I thought it was so romantic! Yellow rose of Texas. :) It's great when you can conjure up a reason for someone doing something special for someone because it means something special to them.

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  7. I was married in Jamaica on the beach. I chose local flowers. I had a bouquet of fushia Calla Lillies.

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  8. I have never chosen flowers for theif meaning, but a long time ago a not so secret admirer kept sending me red and yellow roses as an expression of love and jealousy.

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  9. I'm usually indifferent to flowers, except for lilacs. I LOVE lilacs. So much that I planned my wedding in late May just because that's lilac season and they were the only flowers I carried in my bouquet. So if someone gives me lilacs, I take that to mean they pay attention to my interests. Oh, and I also like the wild lilies that grow in the mountains mid-spring because they mean it's morel season.

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  10. Not me, but I enjoyed reading the meanings. Whatever the color of the flower or the thought behind it, all flowers make me smile.
    Amelia

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  11. Yes, Grace. I love it when authors use flowers and their meanings in their books. I haven't found a way to do it...yet.

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  12. Chrystal, I think, as a bride, you get to choose the meanings you want attributed. :-)

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  13. Terry, I agree. That shows so much more thoughtfulness.

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  14. April, I bet those were gorgeous!

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  15. Mina, interesting...Did you decode the meaning?

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  16. Brooklyn, I think you've hit on the modern meaning of flowers. If you have a favorite and someone gives you that flower, then that's far more meaningful than just receiving red roses.

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  17. I think we need to update the language of flowers. We need one that means "hot sex!" Maybe orchids?

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  18. I love carnations! My hubby likes to joke that he is relieved that I like something cheaper than roses! Thank you for sharing the meanings.

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  19. Interesting post, Shana! I carried yellow roses at my wedding, just because I like them. I wasn't aware of the friendship significance, but it fits.:)

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