Fat Hands

she used to sit in this cafe, and just face the wall. And it wasn’t coffee she was drinking

The Language of Flowers

Posted by Alix on 4 November 2007

More from the Shilling Cyclopaedia. Today – the language of flowers (Wikipedia to the rescue. Again). The main amusement here derives from the complexity and specificness of the sentiments expressed by various flowers. It was the Victorians who really went for this trend of expressing feelings through flower selection, although it’s thought to have originated in the Middle East. We still have it to a small degree – lilies for funerals, roses for love. The Cyclopaedia shows that there was a truly massive range of symbolism available for any Victorian who couldn’t manage to say what they wanted with words. I wonder just how seriously this was taken. I imagine Austen esque scenes where a character mulls over the significance of a flower gift for pages and pages, before deciding to starve herself to death because she received a yellow rose instead of a red one. It’s nice to think that there were these hidden undercurrents of emotion in that era, which is presented to us so staidly nowadays. There’s a bit more information here on this. I am also interested in the link between the qualities of flowers and their use in herbalism – are some of the sentiments are linked to the effect of ingesting certain plants? I’m not sure this is the case – for instance aspen is for ‘lamentation’ , however in herbal medicine aspen is used to ease anxiety. The entry for fumitory suggests some kind of corporeal link as this signifies ‘spleen’. More investigation needed here, I think.

So, if you need to express any of the following sentiments here are the appropriate blooms:

Misanthropy – Aconite
Vulgar minds – African marigold
Foppery – Amaranth
My regrets follow you to the grave – Asphodel
Touch me not – Red balsam
I change, but in death – Bay leaf (this is basically ‘over my dead body’, isn’t it?!)
Paternal error – Cardamine
I shall die tomorrow – Cistus gum
You will be my death – Hemlock (clear link to herbal use here!)
Beauty is your only attraction – Japan rose
The witching soul of music – Oats
You are the queen of coquettes – Queen’s rocket
Wit ill timed – Wild sorrel
Bulkiness – Water melon (!)
Dark Thoughts – Begonia
I declare war on you – Tansy

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One Response to “The Language of Flowers”

  1. theysaywordscanbleed said

    It’s amazing how intricate and complicated the history and language of flowers was in the past.

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