Discover the Secret Language of Flowers

Lucy Mercer
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Red roses, either in a bouquet or a single elegant stem, send a pretty clear message. After all, roses have symbolized love and beauty since ancient times.

But do you know the secret language of flowers? The symbolism behind the colors and blooms enhances the gift of flowers on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

No matter the occasion, you can’t go wrong in selecting roses, tulips and carnations for true love.

Choose red for passionate love, pink for warm affection, white for purity, and yellow for friendship.

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The custom of communicating through flowers flourished in the Victorian era, when gentlemen and ladies exchanged small bouquets, known as tussie-mussies, or nosegays, with blooms carefully chosen to express their feelings.

These days, we’re more familiar with relationships played out on social media. Back then, flowers were dispatched back and forth to convey the positive messages of love, friendship and admiration, and even the difficult emotions of jealousy, anger and indifference.

Roses, of course, carry the message of love from friendship to romance. In the beginning, a single rose leaf lets the recipient know “You may hope.” Further along, a single, perfect rose means “I love you.” Finally, brides carry red roses to symbolize joyous love on their special day.

On other occasions, white roses are for innocence and secrecy, while yellow conveys joy and friendship. Petite rosebuds speak of beauty, youth and innocence. Dark pink roses stand for thankfulness and lavender roses mean enchantment.

Creamy white gardenias are known for their fragrance too

Roses are just one category of floriography, the official name for the language of flowers. In Victorian times, dictionaries were published to categorize the various floral meanings.

Today, you can take a stroll through your landscape for more floral conversation:

  • Exquisite camellias are for romantic love.
  • Gardenias are for newly budding romance.
  • Rhododendrons, on the other hand, speak of danger.
  • Innocent-looking hydrangeas have two denotations: either gratitude or heartlessness.

Elsewhere in the garden, the evergreen strands of ivy stand for everlasting friendship.

And ferns, some of the oldest plants on earth, speak of magic and secret confidences.

Look for sprigs of ivy and fern in floral arrangements; they bring their own meanings to bouquets.

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From the herb garden, pine-scented rosemary is for remembrance, thyme for happiness and courage. Sage symbolizes long life and good health. Share a few sprigs of summertime basil for love and good wishes.

More from the language of flowers:

  • Forget-me-not, of course, means to remember.
  • Holly stands for defense and domestic happiness.
  • Magnolia symbolizes nobility.
  • Primrose means “I can’t live without you.”
  • Violets convey modesty or faithfulness.

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The thoughtful gardener can pluck blooms and herbs from his or her garden and create a tussie-mussie, with or without store-bought blooms.

As you choose flowers for your tussie-mussie, consider color, shape and fragrance. Traditionally, tussie-mussies were held to the nose to bring a sweet fragrance to disguise less-than-pleasant aromas. Click through for a step-by-step guide to making a tussie-mussie.