Floriography: The Language of Flowers
What is Floriography?
Floriography, or ‘The Language of Flowers’ is a way of communicating a message, greeting or story through the symbolism given to certain flowers. This could be simply a single flower, or an arrangement of flowers with a number of different meanings combined to tell a more complex story.
Where do flowers get their meanings?
Meaning has been applied to flowers for centuries and the symbolism we use today can be from many sources - Greek mythology, references from lines in a Shakespeare play or a use in religious ceremonies. Often the characteristics of the flower itself are the reason for the plant to be given a certain meaning. For example, shape and number of petals, the colour, or the time of the year they bloom.
Who knows why certain symbolism is carried through time and some lost, but in Western culture, there has become a consensus of the common meaning for the popular flowers. Daisy for innocence, Rose for Love etc.
It is still true, however, that many flowers have a number of different meanings attributed from various cultures and often they can mean wildly different things depending where you are in the world!
History of Floriography
While flowers had been used to convey messages and meaning long before, the “Dictionnaire du language des fleurs” by Joseph Hammer-Purgstall's, first published in 1809 is said to be the first published work of floral symbolism.
Unsurprisingly, the Victorians built on the idea of flower symbolism and elevated it. (Whenever I research anything it’s always Ancient Greeks and Victorians!)
Throughout the 19th century floral arrangements were popular gifts. The flowers used were picked carefully to convey feelings and messages which may be unpopular to speak aloud in Victorian society.
Many works have since been written on the subject, with entire dictionaries of flower meanings published. The earliest being Madame Charlotte de la Tour’s Le langage des Fleurs (1819) and most recently, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s 2009 bestselling novel ‘The Language of Flowers’ inspired by floriography was accompanied by it’s own dictionary.
There have also now been lists of birth flowers created, attributing certain blooms to birth months much like birth gemstones. Usually, these are flowers that bloom in the same month.
Using Floriography today
Many people have a favourite flower simply for it's scent, colour or other aesthetic qualities and there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, however, especially for a special occasion like a wedding, or for when giving a personal gift, it's nice to add a little more meaning. Sometimes it's worth researching what it is you want to say in a gift and see which flower may represent that, much like the way gemstones are given a meaning or certain materials symbolic of anniversaries.
Many florists use the symbolism, alongside the colour, size and texture to create arrangements and bouquets but it does not have to be restricted to simply the flower itself. Use of floral motifs in design can add the same symbolism to any object. Yes, you know where I'm going with this - like jewellery!
Flowers have also been adopted by charities, businesses and organisations where the symbolism matches their values and objectives.
Flower Meanings: Examples
When creating pieces in the flower collection, I research the meaning behind each flower and include a little information card with each piece which gives fact about the flower itself but also meanings associated with it. I'm starting to compile my own Floriography dictionary, entirely by accident! Here's the list so far:
In Greek anemōnē means ‘daughter of the wind’ and the name ‘windflower’ is commonly used for all species of anemone. A symbol of anticipation and a protection against evil.
See Anemone Jewellery
Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
A precious spring flower that it's forbidden to pick, with meanings of humility, constancy, gratitude and everlasting love.
See Bluebell Jewellery
The word Cosmos in Greek means orderly. The uniformity of the petals echoes this meaning, along with harmony and peace. Birth flower for October and the most popular flower of 2021.
The daffodil symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings. It became associated with new beginnings (and the coming of spring) because it is one of the first perennials to bloom after the winter frost. Narcissi flowers are also seen to represent; creativity, inspiration, awareness and inner reflection, forgiveness, and vitality. Birth flower for March.
Daisy (Bellis perennis)
It's latin name means ‘pretty’ and ‘everlasting.’ Considered to be the flower of children and innocence. Birth flower for April.
See Daisy Jewellery
A flower with a name originating from a character in Greek Mythology, with a meaning of romance, simply because it blooms close to St Valentine’s Day.
See Daphne Jewellery
Perhaps this one needs no explanation. This is my bestselling flower collection because this popular flower says so much without needing to say anything at all. It's been adopted as the flower representing Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Considered as a symbol of strength, friendship and longevity and is given to newlyweds in some cultures.
The flower has long been symbol of love and romance, with Ancient Greeks associating the flower with the goddess Aphrodite. The flower has importance in both Christianity and Islam, as a patriotic symbol for England, Catalonia and the United States. Birth flower for June.
The snowdrop is synonymous with 'hope', as it blooms in early springtime. Also associated with purity and religion. Birth flower for January.