Though most popular in the Victorian period, the symbolic use of flowers to send coded messages dates back to antiquity. It’s a language based on a combination of Chinese, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman folklore, literature, mythology and religion, as well as the plant’s physical characteristics.
In the Victorian era, each bloom and its arrangement in a bouquet carried a specific meaning. For example, strands of ivy signified fidelity and friendship; gardenias bespoke a secret love; and
forsythia meant anticipation. Even today, it’s no coincidence that baby’s breath and ferns are included with your red roses. While the roses say passion, the baby’s breath means everlasting love,
and the ferns add sincerity.
With Mother’s Day approaching, why not send your Mom a personalized floral message of love and appreciation? Begin with her birth flower — if its meaning is appropriate — and
choose accent stems that signify her most admirable qualities.
Carnations are traditionally worn on Mother’s Day, either in pink to honor a living mother or white in memory of one who has passed on. In a bouquet, this flower stands for pure love, devotion and
dedication. Just don’t include any yellow carnations. (That would be “flowerese” for disdain.)
The warm, deep color of the iris is a harbinger of spring and symbolizes respect, honor, wisdom, hope and valor.
Sunny, yellow daffodils bring the spark of life to the early-spring landscape and symbolize rebirth, friendship and domestic happiness.
Ancient legend says that a nymph wanting to escape unwanted attention from a satyr transformed herself into the daisy. Ever since, this flower has been the symbol of simplicity, innocence and
May: Lily of the Valley
According to folklore, Eve’s tears after being evicted from the Garden of Eden turned into lilies of the valley. This delicate bloom stands for purity, sweetness and humility.
Ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, gave a rose to Eros, the god of love — hence the rose’s traditional association with that emotion. Depending on its color, a rose
can symbolize one of many facets of love. Red roses signify passion; dark pink, gratitude; light pink, admiration; and white, innocence, purity, secrecy and friendship. Rosebuds express purity,
youth, beauty and girlhood.
Perhaps because its flowers tend to be fragile and relatively short-lived in the vase, larkspur symbolizes fickleness and levity. (You might want to skip this one in your Mother’s Day arrangement.)
Named for the gladiator’s sword, which its long, graceful stalk resembles, the gladiolus signifies preparedness and sincerity.
In ancient times, it was believed that burning aster leaves would drive away poisonous snakes. This classic autumn bloom is associated with patience and daintiness.
Once considered the most sacred of flowers, marigolds were placed around the necks of holy statues in India. The blooms signify comfort in times of pain and grief.
Chrysanthemums, grown by the Chinese for more than 2,000 years, symbolize the sun, compassion, friendship and secret love. This flower is also a powerful antiseptic and antibiotic used in
traditional Chinese medicine to treat high blood pressure and angina.
Though the mythical Narcissus was notorious for his self-absorption and vanity, the pure white flower named for him symbolizes respect, modesty and faithfulness.