January 17, 2016

A Lady's Language

The Victorian era was full of flounce and finery. Sometimes it can be a bit too frilly for me, (which must mean it is very ornamented indeed) but when tasteful, the Victorian era is absolutely lovely in both England and America. The fashion, hair, art, dancing, and etiquette are all beautiful. But I digress! What I'm here to talk about today is an interesting Victorian fad: The Language of Flowers.

                                         All flowers have a meaning. The Victorians used to use flowers as a symbol to express their feelings. Here is a list of different flowers and their meanings.:
That's right: Victorians discovered and perfected the art of floriography, or the idea that every flower has a meaning. They sent flowers in bouquets or in letters, and with the use of a handy dandy flower dictionary, could decode "secret" messages! Isn't that just a splendid idea? What could be more pleasant than a language based on flowers?
Hollyhock represents fruitfulness and ambition.
           What first drew my attention to this pleasant practice was a little dictionary/book illustrated by Kate Greenaway (who, by the way was a great artist and probably should have been on my favorite illustrators list). My mother gave me the copy she received on her 16th birthday, and I've put it in my hope chest to save.
This isn't the cover I have, but it's prettier!
     Oftentimes the meanings fit the flower or plant quite well. For instance, an apple signifies temptation; a flytrap, deceit; lemon, zest; and olive, peace.
     It's not all love and friendship in the meanings, though. One can send some pretty nasty messages, such as "I declare war against you" with Wild Tansy, "Revenge" with Birdsfoot Trefoil, "You will be the death of me" with Hemlock (which is very poisonous), and "Hatred" with common Basil!
Birdsfoot Trefoil:
Revenge, I Say!
           Some meanings are not just one or two words: some like "For once may pride befriend me", "Your charms are engraven on my heart", and "Your qualities, like your charms, are unequaled". In fact, there are so many meanings for every thought and emotion, it makes me wonder how much one could say with flowers alone!
     I think it would be fun if we all started using the language of flowers with our friends. Wouldn't it be neat, if at the end of a letter (or a blog post, for that matter!) we included a certain flower that could express our sentiments in a charming way? Here I'll start the tradition: the flower below is called volkamenia. Can you find out what it means? (I mean every word of it!:))

         Have you ever heard of the language of flowers?
          Were you surprised with any of the meanings?     
                                              Did you find out what volkamenia stands for?                                                       


  1. This is so cool, Abby. I've heard of flower meanings before, but I don't have any of them memorized. They're very intriguing, though. I wonder if you really could have a whole conversation using flowers alone. That would be amazing! :)

    Haha! "You will be the death of me." Now that is quite a message! :P

    I looked up volkamenia, and I say "same to you!" May you be happy, Abby! :D

    This was a darling post!

    ~Miss March

  2. Why thank you, Miss March! You are too kind.;) That would be quite a conversation indeed! That could be an interesting feature in a novel, actually.
    I know! That would be awful to get in the mail!
    Oh, good, I'm glad you found the meaning! I was hoping there wasn't some nasty alternative translation that I was unaware of. Some flowers have two very different translations!

    1. An interesting feature in a novel? TOTALLY! You just sparked my imagination! A conversation in flowers could make an extremely interesting scene in a story! :)

      Haha! I'm glad I got the right one, too. I was wondering if they might not have multiples meanings, so I was very much hoping I'd hit on the right one! :)