Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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The Language of Flowers

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I was sitting down in my studio yesterday to write about a George III sampler that has a beautiful verse about flowers. I have always associated flowers with the Victorians as flowers adorned everything , from wallpaper, china, textiles, hats, cards and the schoolgirls’ samplers. In reality flowers have been used as decoration through the ages.
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However, in was the romantic Victorians that used flowers as a silent means of communication to express sentiments that the strict propriety of the time would not allow voiced aloud particularly between lovers.
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The language of flowers pre-dates Victorian times, flowers have always had religious and symbolic meanings. Mme. Charlotte de la Tour penned the first flower dictionary in 1818 in Paris. Entitled Le Language des Fleurs, it was an overnight sensation. A Victorian lady, Miss Corruthers of Inverness, wrote an entire book on the subject in 1879. Her book became the standard source for flower symbolism both in England and the United States.
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A beau could convey his feelings by sending a certain flower to his lady or even a bouquet where mixing flowers can change their meaning.
Acacia–secret love
Apple Blossom–preference
Azalea–temperance
Bachelor’s Buttons–Celibacy
Basil–Hatred
Carnation, pink–a woman’s love
Chamomile–energy in adversity
Columbine–folly
Daffodil–regard
Daisy–innocence
Dogwood–durability
Fennel–strength
Forget-Me-Not–true love
Goldenrod–precaution
Holly–foresight
Honeysuckle–generous and devoted affection
Iris–message
Ivy–fidelity
Jasmine-amiability
Lavender–distrust
Lily–purity
Marigold–sorrow
Myrtle–love and marriage
Narcissus–egotism
Nightshade–secrets
Oak–hospitality
Oleander–beware
Orange Flowers–chastity
Pansy–thoughtfulness
Periwinkle–friendship
Primrose–consistency
Quince–temptation
Rhododendron–danger
Rose, single–simplicity
Sage–domestic virtue
Stephanotis–bride’s good luck flower
Sweet William–gallantry
Thistle–defiance
Tulip–fame
Violet, blue–faithfulness
Water-lily–purity of heart
Wisteria–I cling to thee
Zinnia–thoughts of absent friends
Valentine cards and handkerchiefs decorated with flowers were very popular. Queen Victoria believed in the language of flowers. Among other flowers, she had myrtle in her bridal bouquet to symbolize constancy in affection and duty. She later had it planted, so to this day, at every royal wedding in England, a piece of her myrtle is either tucked into the bride’s bouquet, or is added to one of the floral arrangements at the wedding breakfast.
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