The Language Of Flowers – Part 1

“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 Let’s take a look inside for some ideas to personalize your Valentine’s Day floral gifts!

Flower power
Flowers in NYC from Starbright Floral Design

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!


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Looking for flowers in New York City? Visit our Event Gallery for inspiration. Or see our daily selection at


Carnations – The Comeback Flower of January

Birth Flower of January
The flower of choice for January Babies!

Welcome to our new feature that will appear once every month… We will introduce you to the Birth-Flower-Of-The-Month.  Much like there is a Birthstone for every month, there is a Birth-Flower too!  January is the month of the Carnation.  Over the years this is a flower that has truly taken a bad rap.  “Too FTD”, “Too common”, “Grandma’s flower”, “No carnations please!”.  As florists we hear this all the time…  BUT with new breeds of carnations coming out, new hot colors (purple, green, fuscia, and more) and with the evolution of design styles, carnations have made a big comeback, not to mention that they are the “Official Flower of January Babies”!

We did a little research on the history of the carnation, its origins and how to care for them… Read on!  We hope you like the thoughts we have to share.

The birth flower for the month of January is the Carnation. Its scientific name, Dianthus Caryophyllus, is derived from the Greek-“dios” and “anthos”.  The literal translation being “The Flowers of God”.  Carnations have been around for about two thousand years longer than the person receiving them.  Carnations are known for their sweet clove like fragrance, their ruffled appearance, hardiness and wide array of colors.

Carnations will grow up to 3 feet high with green-gray foliage.  They bloom mainly during the cool times of year, particularly early winter.  The cut flowers have been known to last up to a month with proper care.

Carnations are utilized for festive occasions as well as somber ones.  You’ll find them at birthday parties, weddings, parades, festivals and funerals.   Accordingly, carnations are the top producing crop in the floriculture worldwide.

Thinking about sending someone carnations?  Don’t forget the significance of the color beyond its aesthetic value.  Carnations take on many meanings depending upon their color.  Pink Carnations signify a mother’s love.   Deep red carnations indicates love.  A white carnation indicates friendship.  However, be careful of the yellow carnation.  It signifies disappointment or disdain.

Six easy steps to keep your carnations looking fresh and bright:

1)  Clean out a vase with soap and water. Bacteria left in the vase from a previous floral arrangement may cause the carnation to wilt prematurely.

2) Pour 1/2 cap of bleach into the vase. This should kill any bacteria missed while cleaning.

3) Pour 1/2 can of lemon-lime soda into the vase. Fill the empty can with warm water and pour the water into the vase and soda. The combination of lemon-lime soda, bleach and water will act as a preservative.

4) Remove any leaves from the stem of the carnation that are below the water in the vase. Cut the leaves with scissors or pull them off.  Hold the stem of the carnation under the water in the vase. Cut 1 inch off the bottom of the stem with the scissors. If the vase is too narrow to cut the stem in, use a separate bowl of warm water to cut the stem.

5) Place the carnations in the prepared vase. Set the vase in a cool room away from bright sunlight for 24 hours. This encourages the carnations to take in as much water and preservative as possible, which helps the blooms last longer.

6) Replace the water and preservative every three to four days or if it becomes cloudy or dirty. Remove any dead leaves that fall into the water and remove and dispose of any flowers that begin to wilt.

Hey you receivers of yellow carnations just jump on Facebook and let us in on the reasons you generated such passion in a negative way.

Starbright Floral Design is the “Official Florist of Romance” and most of the time we deliver flowers, love, passion and hope everywhere in Manhattan and worldwide.  Sometimes we deliver yellow carnations.

Give us a call, visit our website or pop on in!  We would love to meet you….

Passionately yours,

The Official Florist

Starbright Floral Design

Located in the heart of New York City’s Historic Flower District

150 West 28th Street, Studio 201.

T. 800.520. 8999

Web: www.

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