Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine’s Day with flowers

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I want to take us back to the Victorian era and the language of flowers, sometimes called floriography. At that time, messages were popularly conveyed using flowers, with secret lovers sending seemingly innocent bouquets to each other to convey their feelings.

Particularly during the Elizabethan period, strict rules of moral conduct gave rise to subtle ways of getting around them.

Romantic liaisons were conducted with the help of flowers, which evolved into a language to convey romantic gestures and true love. This language was most commonly conveyed using tussie-mussies, or small hand-held bouquets, an art which still has a following today.

Victorian flower dictionaries help shed light on this secret flower language. Poetic symbolism was assigned to the shapes and colours of flowers and just about any message could be passed on in floral form. The language of flowers was as important to the Victorians as being well-dressed.

This language is mostly forgotten, but red roses still imply passionate, romantic love; pink roses a lesser affection; white roses suggest virtue and chastity; and yellow roses still stand for friendship or devotion.

Gerbera (daisy) means innocence or purity. Iris, named for the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, represents the sending of a message. A pansy signifies thought, a daffodil, regard, and a strand of ivy, fidelity.

A combination and arrangement of flowers could be altered to convey specific messages. A red rose combined with white rose buds, for instance, meant something different than a single, blooming red rose.