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.
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.
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.
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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