The Language of Flowers: Discover the Hidden Meanings Behind Floral Gifts & Centerpieces

By Brenna Kehew Sculley

by Elysian Magazine

Deciding on a thoughtful and meaningful gift is something that challenges us all. 

If you’re feeling stumped, look back to a popular British hobby from the Victorian era for inspiration. Called “floriography,” or the “language of flowers,” it is a tradition that gives meaning to every bloom. 

First published in 1819, Le Langage des Fleurs by Charlotte de la Tou, and further popularized by Miss Carruthers of Inverness in her 1879 book Flower Lore: flowers, historical, legendary, poetical & symbolical, this practice allowed those in the Victorian era to send coded messages in their little posies, professing love with roses and more under the guise of propriety. 

A returned bouquet of Candytuft and any striped flower to a suitor would send a clear message of indifference and refusal – so leave those out of your holiday bouquet! We do not need to be as coded these days… but a little secret meaning behind a gift is always fun. 

With everyone loving the vibes of Bridgerton and the Gilded Age, now is the perfect time to enjoy the society rules that could make you a part of Mrs. Astor’s famous “Four Hundred.” Embraced by the well-to-do of American society as well, floriography also is a great way to make your centerpieces matter. Adding some unexpected blooms to your Christmas centerpiece will allow you to tell the story of their meaning to your dinner guests. 

Much like birthstones, there is a flower for every month, and beyond that each flower represents an emotion. If you have a new friend, perhaps a small bouquet of periwinkle and acacia would be a nice choice, given to symbolize blossoming friendships. If you have a friend moving away, send them off with thoughts of absent friends and lasting affection via zinnias, along with some goldenrod for good luck. 

Of course, if you can’t get the bouquets you’re looking for this season, you can use the flowers representing the emotion you want to convey as an inspiration as you shop for jewelry, art, or any gift you choose. You can find floriography dictionariesposters and art, jewelry, and even a fiction novel featuring the story of a girl who uses this language to escape her challenging life. 

If you have a plant lover in your life, give a nod to their passion and show how your research into a simple gift reflects your love for them.

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