April 25, 2021: The Secret Language of Flowers
“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.”– Stevie Wonder
My earliest memory of my mother involved planting pansies. I was only three, but can vividly remember her sweet voice telling me how to “gently place each seedling into the prepared spot, give it room to grow and a drink of water, and most importantly, softly pat soil around the pansy, to “tuck it in”. Ever since that day, so many years ago, I’ve always loved the sight and smell of pansies. Their cheerful faces are a harbinger for Spring and for me, a symbol for loving memories of my mom.
“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions — so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”– Terri Guillemets
For centuries, flowers have been attributed with having symbolic meanings throughout Asia and Europe in myths, folklore, poetry and plays; where most emotions and sentiments can be expressed with flowers. During the Victorian Era, a popular pastime was to learn the “language of flowers”. Silent communication involved blossoms, not emails, letters or texts. In lieu of vocal communication, flowers were sent to deliver a message. To avoid mishaps, a sender had to know the correct meaning. For example, sending a red carnation was a message “I Love You”. But if one inadvertently sent a yellow carnation, the message was one of disdain, disappointment, and/or rejection.
It was also critically important on how these flowers were presented. If presented upside down, it message meant the exact opposite meaning of the flower. Even the ribbon had significance, designating the giver or recipient by the way it was tied. Receiving a wilted bouquet also sent a disquieting message.
Flowers also sent subtle messages determined by their color. In particular, roses, poppies and lillies had messages that were expressed by their color. An orange rose symbolized desire and enthusiasm, a white rose: purity, innocence, new beginning, and a lavender rose meant love at first sight. But if you received a yellow rose, it represented jealousy and infidelity.
You can see why learning the language of flowers was a popular pastime during this time. Along with a bible, guidebooks on flower meanings were a common stable in Victorian households. However, I do love yellow roses, and prefer to focus on their beauty and not the meaning!
“Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities in the world.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Even though their blossoms are ephemeral, flowers remind us of beauty and wonder of nature, a welcome alternative to the complex and technology driven world of our modern society.
What flower(s) have a special meaning for you? Share your thoughts and quotes that inspire you in the comments below.
Here are some additional inspiring quotes on flowers.
“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”– Luther Burbank
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.”– Buddha
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”– Zen Shin
“Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul.”– Luther Burbank
“A flower blooming in the desert proves to the world that adversity, no matter how great, can be overcome.”– Matshona Dhliwayo
Two links for more information on the meaning and symbolism of flowers:
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