Mother nature has had some good and some bad ideas. I'm not sure what she was thinking when she created wasps and tsunamis but she must have been having a good day when she thought about flowers.
Floriography is the language of flowers. We use flowers to decorate our homes, furniture, clothing, china and much more. They play a part in our celebrations, births, marriages and deaths. We give them as gifts knowing they will bring a bit of sunshine into peoples lives.
Flowers and herbs have been given meanings and symbolism for centuries, but it was the Victorians who really perfected the art. At a time when the legs of pianos were covered for fear that people would get ‘excited’ at the sight of them, an outlet for expression was needed. Ok, ok... I know that the piano leg thing is a myth (my mother always says, "never let facts get in the way of a good story"), but there's no doubt they were emotionally repressed, in public at least. The language of flowers allowed people to convey messages without overtly saying what they were thinking/feeling.
How very British!
A Christmas Dance by Lucien Davis
Each flower and herb has a very specific meaning, Rosemary for remembrance, Apple for temptation, Beech Tree for prosperity, bluebell for constancy, snowdrop for hope, a red rose for passion and a pink rose for friendship. By combining the relevant flowers and herbs, a message could be conveyed.
Tussie-Mussies (also know as Nosegays) were small bouquets which were a popular means of conveying the desired message but it didn't have to be a physical flower, a card with illustrations of the relevant flowers, or an embroidered handkerchief could also be used. The manner of their acceptance held a message for the giver. If held at heart level they indicated happiness and acceptance, but if held upside down they conveyed the opposite message.
Dictionaries were written on the subject; they were however sometimes conflicting, which must have made for a few misunderstandings! One of the most familiar is Routledge's edition, illustrated by Kate Greenaway. First printed in 1884, it's been re printed many times. I have a 1977 revised edition; it's a dear little book with beautiful illustrations.
If you can't get hold of a book, there are lots of websites listing flower meanings, this is one of my favourites:
I love to make leaves using silver clay and assign them meanings from the language of flowers. Silver clay is a mix of silver, water and an organic binder, when fired in a kiln or with a blow torch it leaves you with pure silver. It's such a wonderful material as it picks out all the little veins and character of the leaf. Here are a few examples of past makes.
The video below shows the making of a pair of honeysuckle leaf earrings. Honeysuckle means 'Bonds of Love' or 'generous and devoted affection' in the language of flowers. I wore silver honeysuckle leaves on my wedding day.
Each one is made from a real leaf, so no two are ever exactly the same. They're only available while there's honeysuckle in my garden. If you would like a pair, the link is HERE.
And if you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend this novel. It’s a great read, the sort that you can't take your nose out of. I walked around house trying to read it whilst cooking supper and hoovering.
So, what message would you like to convey with the language of flowers?
"Beautiful, sometimes eccentric jewellery for beautiful, sometimes eccentric people."