Red roses for love, yellow ones for friendship and daisy to wish happiness but did you know that all flowers have meanings, and they are not all that hard to find? You may be growing them, or plan to or maybe just want to grab a bunch to share or enjoy so this week, let’s explore the fascinating Language of Flowers.
People of the Victorian period (1837-1901) made the 'language' of flowers extremely popular. Blooms were used for secret messages between friends and lovers, and even between enemies. It was a time when communication between each other was dictated by social standing and the expected morals of the day played a huge part. The Language of Flowers was used as a code, to pass these messages on to each other. Flowers were also used in their jewellery, furnishings, artworks, textiles, and in gardens and floral displays. Not many not many people of the Victorian era would dream of organising a dinner centrepiece without careful consideration of the meanings of each blossom.
In Victorian times it was that fascination with the connection of science and nature, along with the arts that helped them explore these meanings, which had related to herbalism for centuries. The way a flower and its plant looked, smelt, tasted, its medicinal properties, all of these things lead to defined ‘meanings’. In the past the meanings of flowers were commonly known because people lived within nature but these days, unfortunately, the closest that many come to, for example, a chamomile flower will be chopped up in a tea blend.
The messages of flowers or even just their presence is comforting in times of grief and stress. Personally, I had a really hard time when my grandmother passed away as we were very close. Coincidently I was making a military house move of my own at the time and the new home had a horribly barren backyard, except for one plant. It was a gardenia, her favourite flower. So, whether a coincidence or just that my heart was looking for comfort, seeing that divine white flower in this rather empty garden was such a huge comfort to me.
When it comes to love, picking flowers that express your admiration for someone, longing and passion would naturally entail flowers that were precious, perhaps rare, red of colour to indicate passion, sweet smelling to swoon the recipient and the meanings that the accepted ‘language of flowers’ of your era and area had already bestowed would make it a lot easier to get it right. Important if you were wooing the person of your dreams and didn’t have the skills of the written word or might upset the etiquette of the time.
How to Buy Flowers
When choosing a bunch of blooms for someone else, it is important to think of them for a minute before walking into a florist's shop. A problem with most people is they choose what they like, not what would suit the other person’s taste or needs. A simple way to get this right is to look towards the recipient's personality. If they have a bright and happy personality or they are feeling sick or a bit down, maybe a bunch of sunflowers would be fantastic. They mean power, strength, happiness, and good health. Now you could google this or look it up in a book but just look at them! They look like big bright happy suns and that’s exactly what they mean.
Although you may want to say I love you this week, this handy reference guide will help you connect with other flowers and their meanings. You can give them to others, buy or even better, grow them for yourself.
New Job - Delphiniums mean new opportunities, possibilities and even leadership, so they are good to use as gifts or decoration when seeking a new job as well as celebrating landing one.
Get Well - Sunflowers are wonderful flowers for those who are unwell or facing health challenges. They mean strength, happiness, confidence and generally "get well soon".
Birthday - Gerberas are the perfect birthday flower. They mean happiness, celebration, appreciation and wishes for a happy life.
New Home - Cornflowers are wonderful to add to an occasion celebrating a new home because they speak of protection, new home blessings and new friendships.
Funeral - These are very personal occasions, but should you wish to give flowers which offer support then heartsease are a compassionate way to say that you are thinking of those affected and that you are there for them.
Wedding - If you would like to give flowers to someone to celebrate news of a wedding then you might consider a flowering cactus. They mean love which will always endure.
The Meanings of a Few Popular Flowers
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): get well, strength, happiness, confidence
Red Rose (Rosa): love, courage, respect, passion, lust, relationship, beauty
White Rose (Rosa): truth, honesty, purity, protection
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus): victory, support, vitality, independence
Dahlia (Dahlia): encouragement, dignity, generosity, faith, resiliency
Violet (Viola): faithfulness, answers within, subconscious, modesty
Pink Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus): love, encouragement, gratitude
Daffodil ((Narcissus pseudonarcissus): hope, inspiration, respect, renewal
Red Tulip (Tulipa): desire, passion, declaration of love, belief
Peony (Paeonia officinalis): happy marriage, honour, wealth, health, nobility
The Language of Australian Flowers
While the traditional Victorian Language of Flowers focuses on blossoms that were popular in the Northern Hemisphere, a close study of the botanical history of the plant and ethnobotany, (the uses humans have made of plants) can reveal to us the meanings of any flower and plant, including our Australian Natives. For example, a bright bunch of Billy Buttons (Pycnosorus globosus), are the perfect way to say sorry. A pathway lined with Bottlebrush is perfect for busy families to walk through before coming into the home to leave the troubles of the day behind them.
Boronia (Boronia spp.) “Good luck in your exams”, “Can we work this out?”
Billy Buttons (Pycnosorus globosus) “I’m sorry”, “I want to begin again”
Everlasting Daisy (Rhodanthe spp.) “I’d like to be your friend”, “I hope this last forever”
Flannel Flower (Atinotus helianthin) “I love you”, “I trust you”
Flowering Gum (Eucalyptus spp.) “Get well soon”, “I will not do it again”
Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium spp.) “You can do this”, “Be mine”
Grevillea (Grevillea spp.) “Good luck”, “I wish you well in the future”
Gymea Lily (Doryanthes excelsa) “I believe in you”, “I’m proud of you”
Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos spp.) “Please forgive me”, “I forgive you”
Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus spp.)”Bon voyage”, “I wish you well in the future”
Waratah (Telopea spp.) “I wish you strength”, “I am by your side”
Wattle (Acacia spp.) “Congratulations”, “You make me happy”
You & Your Garden
How Do I Make My Cut Flowers Last?
Wendy of Long Jetty asked me this week via social media and whether they are cut from your garden or bought from one of our lovely florists, we all want the love to last as long as possible. As soon as you receive your flowers, remove all foliage from the stems that will sit below the waterline in a vase. Rinse the stems and cut on an angle. Place away from full, direct sunlight and heat and away from drafts. Change water every second day, remove any dead flowers and recut stems that look dried.
GARDENING GUIDE FOR TEMPERATE AREA GARDENERS LATE SUMMER
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, marrow, mustard, onions (spring), parsnip, potato tubers, radish, rhubarb crowns, salsify, silverbeet, swede, sweetcorn, turnips, zucchinis, ageratum, alyssum, boronia, begonia, calendula, cleome, cyclamen, forget-me-not, nasturtium, pansy, poppy (Iceland), stock, verbena, vinca, viola, wallflower
HAVE YOU GOT A GARDEN TO SHARE?
Down in the Garden is looking for Central Coast gardeners who would like to share their garden with us.We are particularly looking for: Home Nursery Businesses, Hanging Basket Gardens, Water Feature Gardens, School/Children Gardeners, Commercial Kitchen Gardens, Medicinal Plant Gardeners but all gardens and gardeners are welcome to have a chat with Cheralyn: 0408105864
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963. She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly botanical history & gardening podcast with Victoria White.
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]
Article first published in Central Coast Newspapers - The Coast News and The Chronicle