“I’ll Be The One Wearing A Red Carnation, Because I Find You Fascinating”: How Flowers Can Send Secret Messages
Flowers aren’t just beautiful blooms with pleasing scents – the variety of plants available has led to the use of flowers to send coded messages at many points throughout human history. The practice of sending flower messages is called floriography. NYC flower lovers have been practicing floriography since before there was a flower market in NYC. The messages may be seem subtle and cryptic but Valentine’s Day flowers in NYC by Starbright delivers the message loud and proud for all to see “I love you!”.
References to flower codes go back as far as the Ancient Greeks, but very little is known about what the codes actually were – chances are the codes were passed on orally, their meaning transferred from one illiterate message-sender to another by word of mouth. Romans, Egyptians and Persians also used flower-codes to send messages, but just like the Greeks we know little about the codes themselves.
The Victorian-era world was obsessed with flowers – and Victorian-era England was obsessed with the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire, in the early half of the 18th century, was going wild for tulips – and had started using tulips to send very complex notes, with colors standing in for words and arrangement standing in for grammar. As England’s interest in botany grew, so did interest in the more dramatic side of flower history.
Lady Mary Morley Montagu is the woman credited with bringing flower codes to the British court. From 1716-1718 Lady Mary lived in the Ottoman Empire with her husband Lord Edward Montagu, British ambassador to the Ottoman Court. She wrote wildly-detailed letters back home to friends in London, capturing Ottoman life with a deeply revealing lens. Her letters detailed many mysteries – bath houses, women’s rights and flower codes. The flower codes captured Georgian-Victorian era attentions – by 1809, Joseph Hammer-Pugstall’s Dictionnaire du Language des Fleurs would present the formal code used by nobles across Europe, driving further adoption (and further dictionaries!) There were literally hundreds of dictionaries about – we found one digitized on archive.org. Let’s take a look inside for some ideas to personalize your Valentine’s Day floral gifts!
Calla Lily – Magnificent Beauty – It’s clear how these flowers got their symbolic meaning, they’re simply magnificent!
Yellow Tulips – Hopeless Love – These are the perfect gift for your partner-in-life – sometimes, “hopeless” can be a good thing. If these are for you check out Solar Flair.
Amaryllis – Pride, Timidity, Splendid Beauty – These are a great gift for someone who likes to grow flowers inside their New York City apartment. Uptown, downtown, East Side, West Side – these flowers will do great anywhere. Starbright offers these blooms in both arrangements and potted. Check out this post for tips on taking care of an amaryllis plant in NYC.
Red Roses – Pure and Lovely – Note that these meanings are typically intended for lovers…if you’re giving roses to a family member, according to this book, it’s best to go with white (which means “innocence”) or bouquet of mixed colors. No matter the color, size, or shape – roses in NYC are a Valentine’s Day favorite. Check out this post for a look at the value of roses through history.
Dwarf Sunflower – Adoration – They must’ve chosen this one because the lil’ guys are so adorable! These guys are available in summer and fall, but they’re such a favorite that we wanted to include them anyway.
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the floriography traditions from Asian cultures!