Think about having an intimate conversation with a loved one. Would it be possible to have that conversation without speaking or writing? Suppose you found someone you’d like to know better. How could you develop that relationship without speaking or writing?
That was the situation in 1800’s Victorian England. They had a very strict etiquette. Extreme discretion was demanded at all times. Romantic conversations, even in a whisper or in writing, were off-limits. Emotional expression however, will not be denied. People soon found ways around the rules as they attached hidden meanings to many otherwise normal gestures and objects. Flowers in particular were given special meanings.
The result was “secret” messages hidden in bouquets of flowers. Different meanings were attached to every type and color of flower, how they were presented, and how they were received. Many of the messages were romantic in nature. Some messages were rejections, and even insults. An exchange of flowers became a complete conversation.
Together with the language of flowers, small bouquets, known as tussie-mussies, became a secret way to declare intentions and make refusals, acceptances and rejections. Flowers allowed Victorians a way to express their emotions and thoughts without speech or writing.
Eventually the symbolism became so complex that help was needed to decipher the messages. Dictionaries and even whole books were written to ensure that the messages were properly conveyed and clearly understood.
Over time, many cultures have used flowers to express emotions. The Greeks, Persians and the Japanese, for example, have all created their own flower language. The meanings change to fit the need of the specific culture but the need to express emotions with flowers has continued to this day.
Many cultures had elaborate and lengthy courtship rituals. The giving and receiving of flowers was often an important part of the process. Those practices led to the prominent place of flowers in our modern culture. Valentines Day, Mothers Day, and Easter, among others, simply wouldn’t be the same celebrations without flowers and plants.
Although we don’t use flowers in quite the same way as the Victorians, we still use flowers to express our emotions. For Valentine’s Day this year, rather than sending a simple message, such as “I love you” with roses, think about using a hidden message with a bouquet of mixed flowers. Search online for “language of flowers” to jump start your ideas. Don’t forget to add a note to explain the hidden message. Remember to order Valentine flowers in advance for a timely delivery.
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