Meaning of Flowers

“Say it with flowers” is an ad slogan dating from 1917. Apparently the slogan strikes a chord with us, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted almost a hundred years, but what, exactly, are we saying when we say it with flowers?

Roses Yellow Rose with Ladybugsay “I love you,” but each color has a has a secondary meaning:
Red roses — Love, passion, respect, courage
Yellow roses — Joy, friendship, freedom
Pink roses — Happiness, gratitude, appreciation, admiration
Cream roses — Thoughfulness, charm, graciousness
Peach roses — Admiration, fascination, enthusiasm
Orange roses — Desire
White roses — Innocence, purity, secrecy, reverence

Some flower meanings seem obvious, either because of their names, their common usage, or their natures:
Aloe — healing
Forget-me-nots — remember
Monkshood — beware
Narcissus — egotism
Orange blossoms — eternal love or fertility
Poppy — oblivion or eternal sleep
Sage — wisdom
Venus Flytrap — caught at last
Violets —modesty
White lilies — purity
Withered flowers — rejected love.

Other flower meanings seem haphazard, as if the symbolic language was assigned randomly without much thought:
Daffodil — regard
Hollyhock — ambition
Morning glories — affection
Peony — shame
Sweetpea — departure and/or thank you for a lovely time
Sunflower — false riches
Wintergreen — harmony
Wisteria — welcome

Most of us have our own meaning for flowers. For me, lilacs mean remembrance, but in the languange of flowers, lilacs mean first love. (Which works well for me, too, since the man lilacs make me remember is my first love.) And for me, big red poppies mean lack of luck since unluckily we can’t plant them anymore.

In the end, though, sending flowers always means the same thing: “I am thinking of you.”

It’s kind of odd, now that I think about it — the few times someone sent me flowers, I was truly touched, but never in my entire life have I been able to send flowers to anyone. Whenever I considered it, all I could think of were the soon to be dead blooms and the screams of agony of the flowers being so cruelly lopped off the plant.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

2 Responses to “Meaning of Flowers”

  1. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I don’t really understand why sunflowers would represent false riches. I prefer what was said about them in Calendar Girls. The flower of the sunflower follows the path of the sun and so is always reaching out to live, to be part of life. In Calendar Girls the sunflower stood for life and hope. I like that. Sunflowers are my favorite flower because the native birds of Australia, such as the cockatoo, love the seeds. Also I like the brightness they bring to the world.

    Flowers are still given to sick people in hospital as a get well soon. Flowers with strong scents such as roses are often presented. The idea of this dates back to the plague years in Europe. Sickness smells bad and flowers smell good. Therefore in combating bad smells with good you are helping the person to get better. Of course we don’t look at sickness the same way anymore thanks in part to the microscope. Even so the custom of flowers being given to someone sick remains. Lilies are said to be for the dead because they don’t have much of a scent.

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Funny you should bring this up, Pat. The novel I’ll be writing for my senior thesis in the fall will be utilizing flower language, both the kind above and the Japanese kind, which is called Hanakotoba. I look forward to writing it.


I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: