Back in style is the covert Victorian language

Victorians could express affection, desire, or disdain thanks to the coded language of floriography, which allowed a society with strict etiquette to express its true emotions. According to Emma Flint, the language of flowers is currently back in style.

The habit of using flowers to express emotions is quite old. We rely on their beauty when words can’t adequately express our affection, joy, or sympathy. Emotional closeness has been made possible through the practice of floriography, a coded form of communication sometimes known as the “language of flowers,” in situations when it may otherwise be suppressed. The Royal Horticultural Society claims that despite being mostly forgotten for decades, this tradition, which dominated Victorian society in both England and the US, is gradually regaining favor.

King Charles’ selection of a funeral wreath for his late mother, the late Queen, is one of the most notable instances of contemporary floriography. Due to cultural pressure to keep emotions hidden, he chose English oak and myrtle, which are symbols of power and success, and other flowers to show his sense of loss. The wreath stood alone as a representation of familial loss to the uninitiated; its significance was acquired from its existence rather than its content. Only by dissecting the stems could the depth of his feelings be more clearly comprehended.

Such touching personalization is rooted on a shared cultural base. The practice of floriography has always existed, but it has diminished with time. For instance, most people are aware that a bouquet of roses represents romance, but few are aware of its symbolic meaning. Even if we might not view some stems as favorably or unfavorably as the Victorians did, we are nonetheless aware that some blooms are more appropriate for particular situations. But by moving beyond the straightforward act of sending a bouquet based just on its aesthetic appeal, we can access a richer, more complex emotional relationship.

“When used in the language of flowers, flowers given as gifts or for special occasions can be even more considerate. This could be based on the flower’s color, type, or both “explains Bloom & Wild florist Harriet Parry. Despite the fact that floriography has been practiced for thousands of years, customers continue to request flowers that have special meaning for them, either personally or symbolically.

Florists, including Bloom & Wild, have been able to make some fascinating observations about how floriography affects our decisions. One example is that red is the most popular choice among 29% of people who choose their flowers depending on the bouquet color. Red, the color of passion, is well-recognized as a symbol of love. Pink, however, has a variety of connotations depending on where you live; for example, in Japan, pink is thought to be a sign of good health while in Thailand, pink is symbolic of trust. There are numerous symbolisms included within a single hue, however, this only scratches the surface of floriography.

Consider the sweet pea, a flower of the summer that appears in a variety of hues but whose purpose is always the same: to express gratitude. When expressing gratitude to a host for a pleasant time in the Victorian era, sweet peas were the go-to gift. This thankfulness might be further communicated by combining it with other stems. Your bouquet would assist distinguish between a passing acquaintance and a close friend if it were combined with zinnias, a flower that stands for an unbreakable bond.

But as with everything in this world, there are some flowers that are used to symbolize unpleasant feelings toward the recipient. Even if you might believe yellow carnations are lovely, they have a long history of being associated with contempt. The buttercup is another flower that is best avoided because of its childlike reputation and its bright yellow petals. Additionally, red and white plants were long seen as unlucky combinations, with some people still holding on to the notion that doing so portended death.

Jessica Roux, a floriography specialist, examines the meaning of all these codes and linkages in her book An Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Language of Flowers. She tells BBC Culture that symbols of all types have long been a part of the culture. Since the beginning of human history, humans have incorporated symbolism by giving hieroglyphics and stylized iconography meanings based on what we often observe and encounter.

When decorum forbade overt and obvious displays of emotion, floriography arose as a covert means of communicating.

Roux examines the lengthy, complex evolution of floral language in her book, which was recently made into a calendar. “Literature, mythology, religion, medieval tradition, and even the shapes of the flowers themselves were used to derive flower meanings. Sometimes, flowers had multiple meanings depending on the place and time, and florists would create symbolism to go along with new items in their collection.”

Although the usage of floriography in modern times has a different origin, our desire to exclusively communicate some aspects of ourselves is not all that dissimilar from that of our Victorian forefathers. The majority of us may not be constrained by oppressive manners, but we are nonetheless constrained by how others perceive us. We don’t, adds Roux, “live in the same restricted world of manners today.” But I do believe that we only share some aspects of ourselves online. The language of flowers served as a way to get beyond restrictive etiquette during the Victorian era when maintaining a “stiff upper lip” was the norm for social propriety. Roux clarifies:

When decorum forbade overt and obvious displays of emotion, the Victorian language of flowers, also known as floriography, evolved as a covert means of communication.

Express it with flowers.

Le Langage des Fleurs, written by Charlotte de la Tour and published in 1819, was the first book of its sort to explore the extensive significance of flowers. This book had such a significant influence on 19th-century Western civilization that academics regard it as an important artifact for comprehending the customs of the period.

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