In doing some research for my novel, I came across a book called The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway. It was originally published in 1884 with a reprint done in 1978, which is the edition I have obtained. The book is only 62 pages but contains some of the prettiest illustrations. The focus of the book is obviously, well, flowers, and their meanings.
Speaking with flowers was a form of communication between the genders, especially when courting or flirting. Of course we send each other flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Valentine’s day, etc; but do we really put thought into what the flowers mean that we are giving our loved ones? I never did. I mean, if the flower was pretty then guess what, I bought it. Not so in the 1800s. Careful consideration and attention was given before a flower was chosen.
Nowadays, roses are given because we believe they’re a symbol of love. However, there are so many varieties of roses that it’s possible we are giving a type of rose that means something entirely the opposite of the endearment we wish to convey.
For example, according to Greenaway’s The Language of Flowers, a deep red rose means “bashful shame,” while the Japanese rose means “beauty is your only attraction.” Quite insulting when you think about it, isn’t it?
There is a brief clip below from one of my favorite films that helps demonstrate the sincere thought that gentlemen put into choosing flowers. In Kate and Leopold, Hugh Jackman stars as a 19th century duke who gets transported accidentally to modern day New York. For those of you who have never seen the movie, there is a scene in which Leopold (Hugh Jackman) assists a young man avoid a major faux pas regarding the type of flower he wishes to have delivered to a girl he admires.
So the next time you want to send flowers to that special someone, do some research on what you plan to put in that bouquet before it’s delivered. Unless, of course, you have your very own time traveling English duke to help you. Seriously, what girl would not love flowers picked out by the likes of Hugh Jackman?
Happy Flower Sending!
Christine Maria Jahn