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Say It With Petunias: or, Too Early for April Showers

March 2, 2007

Mood:  rosy

Song: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”

*Warning: This Post is Slightly Belated*

white roses by modotti

Since my darling husband and I both worked on Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. “Singles Awareness Day”), we made the prudent decision to celebrate the day beforehand.  I had no idea what he intended, but I was quite content to go along for the ride.  We ended up at the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum for a romantic morning spent tiptoeing through the tulips and rambling among the roses.  I was also treated to a history lesson thanks to a display covering the long-forgotten language of the flowers.

That’s right; even this English major acknowledges that there are ways of speaking without words.  Some sources believe that the practice of assigning meaning to particular flowers originated in Persia and the near east.  Perhaps King Charles of Sweden, who visited Turkey in the 1700’s, brought the tradition back with him; possibly Crusaders carried the secret significance of flowers back with them to the courts of Europe.  

The language of flowers spanned many cultures, each contributing meanings to local blooms; in fact, though modern minds may think it strange, great expense was poured out to obtain just the right flower to signify a desired meaning.  In certain instances the order of flowers was set by a long ribbon so that the message would be read properly and in order.  During Victorian times the Medieval tradition was revived, allowing young lovers to communicate despite strict cultural mores.  While sceptics (both Victorian and contemporary) will scoff at the idea that flowers can bear meanings, be assured that the language is still alive today; what clearer token of romantic love can sweethearts exchange than a deep red rose?

Here are some of the traditional meanings assigned to flowers; I’ve included only a few, but there are many more*:

Acacia: elegance

Almond: virginity and fruitfulness

Anemone: forsaken; sickness; expectation

Baby’s Breath: purity of heart; festivity; gaiety

Bachelor’s Button: celbacy; hope in love; felicity; delicacy

Begonia: beware; fancifulness

Carnation: fascination; admiration; unfading beauty

Columbine: desertion; folly

Crocus: do not abuse; beware of excess

Dandelion: coquetry; faithfulness; wishes come true

Dogwood: durability; love undiminished by adversity

Eidelweiss: daring and noble courage; purity and immortality

Eglantine: poetry; spring

Forget Me Not: faithful love; undying memory; pure love

Foxglove: statliness; insincerity

Fresia: innocence

Gardenia: secret love

Geranium: gentility; folly; stupidity

Goldenrod: encouragement; treasure; good fortune

Heather: solitary beauty

Holly: foresight; defense; domestic happiness

Honeysuckle: fidelity; generosity

Iris: faith; wisdom; valor; hope; light; power

Ivy: fidelity; marriage

Jasmine: amiability; admirability

Jonquil: desire; violent sympathy

Junipur: succour; protection; asylum

Kingcup: ingratitude; childishness

Larkspur: lightness; levity; haugtiness; fickleness  

Lavender: distrust; acknowledgement; sweetness; undying love

Lilac: humility

Lily: purity

Lotus: mystery; truth; creation; past; present; future

Magnolia: high-souled; splendid beauty

Marigold: despair; grief; jealousy; sorrow

Morning Glory: affectation; farewell; perseverance

Narcissus: egotism; self-love; good fortune

Nasturtium: patriotism; conquest; victory

Orange blossom: marraige; fruitfulness; chastity

Orchid: magnificence; nobility; scholarship

Parsley: festivity; feasting; useful knowledge; death

Peony: shame; bashfulness; anger; virility

Petunia: anger; resentment

Rhododendron: danger; beware

Rose: love; beauty; congratulations

Rosemary: remembrance; constancy; fidelity; loyalty

Sage: esteem; domestic virtue; wisdom; health; longevity

Scarlet Pimpernel: change

Shamrock: lightheartedness; luck

Snapdragon: presumption; desperation

Sunflower: hope; devotion; infatuation

Thyme: activity; thriftiness; courage; strength

Tiger Lily: wealth; pride

Tulip: fame; perfect love; consuming love; imagination; dreaminess

Umbrella Tree: dissention

Verbena: enchantment; superstiontion; sensibility

Violet: modesty; simplicity; steadfastness

White Rose (my screenname  ): unity; silence; love; respect; purity

Wisteria: welcome; helplessness; delicacy; youth; poetry

Wormwood: absence; separation; torment

Xanthium: rudeness; pertinacity

Yew: sorrow; faith; immutability

Zinnia: thoughts of absent friends.

*all flower meanings from “The Language of the Flowers” by Carol D. Crosswhite, 1998

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