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Floriography: the language of flowers

It’s finally spring in D.C! The cherry blossoms are blooming and so are our hearts. Daffodils, hyacinths, pear trees, periwinkles, and magnolias are popping up everywhere and reminding us why we love this city in the first place. However, did you know that many of these flowers have hidden meanings? Floriology is a term describing the language of flowers. Throughout history, different cultures have used flowers as subtle symbols in art and even used them to convey secret messages. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Europeans, and many more all have developed their own language of flowers.

In Egypt, flowers were very abundant along the Nile. The lotus flower was culturally important, symbolizing Upper Egypt while papyrus was the symbol of Lower Egypt. Lotus flowers or water lilies symbolize rebirth, as they close at night and bloom again during the day. They were also associated with the sun god, Ra. Flowers in general represented the divine, and were used as offerings or worn during important ceremonies.

In China, flowers are important themes in art and literature. Lotus flowers are also important in Buddhism, symbolizing love and unity. Lilies and orchids are very popular, symbolizing happiness and good luck. The color of flowers is also important to their meaning. For example, pink usually means celebration, yellow is wealth, white is for purity, and red signifies compassion or longevity. 

In Victorian times, flowers were used to send chaste messages and even carry out complex secret conversations in a society with strict social guidelines. They allowed flirtation and gossip without detection or judgment. Handing someone a flower with the left hand meant “no,” while handing it to them with the right hand meant “yes.” Presenting it upside down reversed the traditional meaning of the flower. For example, a hydrangea could mean either gratitude or heartlessness depending on how it is arranged. Different ways of tying the bouquet could change the meaning of the message as well to refer to the giver or receiver. Specific types and colors of flowers have their own meanings as well. A bouquet of flowers can convey a whole bunch of meanings. 

Read below to find the Victorian meanings of some of your favorite flowers!

Carnation  -  Love

White clover  -  Think of me

Crocus  -  Youthful gladness

Daffodil  -  Love and respect

Daisy  -  Innocence and hope

Goldenrod  -  Good luck

Hibiscus  -  Beauty

Purple hyacinth  -  Sorrow

Yellow hyacinth  -  Jealousy

White hyacinth  -  Sending prayers

Lavender  -  Mistrust

Lilac  -  Youth

Lotus  -  Purity and enlightenment

Marigold  -  Grief, jealousy

Morning glory  -  Affection

Pink rose  -  Happiness

Yellow rose  -  Jealousy, infidelity

Sunflower  -  Adoration

Violet  -  Loyalty


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