SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Do You Know What Your Flowers Are Saying?

By Sharon Allen


March 27, 2006

April is almost here and Spring is fast approaching. And although Deer Mountain will most likely have a snowcap for a while yet, the snow has almost melted from the low-lying areas. It won't be long before we'll be seeing the first buds of the season and everyone will be feverishly planning, planting, weeding and buying all kinds of seeds, sprouts, sod, mulch, bulbs, plants and bouquets.

jpg plant Hens-and-Chicks

"Hen-and-Chicks" which is a variety of Christmas Cactus. The Echeveria Agavoides is a member of the Crassulaceae family of cactus . This is the same family as the Jade Plant. They are very hardy and require well drained soil. This one lives outside in an old leather boot all year and gets very little attention.
Photograph by Paul Perry - Ketchikan ©March 2006

But the question is: as we go about our yearly ritual of growing green, do we have any idea what our flowers, herbs and plants are saying to, for and about us?

Shakespeare may be right in saying that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but the COLOR of the rose, its condition and its position may MEAN completely different things. For example, everyone knows that a red rose says "True Love" but did you know that a yellow rose reveals "Jealousy" or "Infidelity" and a withering rose signifies "Fading Beauty?" Or that an upside-down rose indicates "The Love Affair Is Over?" Even rosebuds have their own secret meanings. A rosebud with leaves, but no thorns say "I fear no longer; I hope." A rosebud with no leaves and no thorns means, "There is nothing to hope or fear" and a full-blown rose placed over two buds signifies "Secrecy."

And that's just roses. . .

Believe it or not, there's a whole dictionary for flowers, plants and herbs in existence. It's called Floriography and it is actually quite an art.

Floriography started a long time ago. In ancient times, people believed strong smelling herbs and spices such as garlic and chives would ward off evil spirits, bad luck and ill health.
Later, Romans used floral garlands on their heads during marriage rituals to signify hope for fertility. But it wasn't until the Victorian era that this budding practice of talking in blossoms bloomed.

During the reign of Queen Victoria in England, (1837 to 1901), flowers were found everywhere. They were gardened, depicted, garnered, displayed, gifted, distilled and worn. The scent of a recognizable scent on a handkerchief could send a unique message to a man if dropped in his presence. A woman could be swept off her feet or into a rage depending on which flowers where picked for a "Secret Message" bouquet by her lover.

And it didn't stop there. Color and size mattered too, as did how they were held, arranged, grouped together, or given. Upright meant positive thoughts, upside-down meant negative ones, right hand meant, "Yes" and left hand meant "No." Another way to imply "Yes" was to touch a flower to the lips and "No" was declared by pinching off a petal and casting it away. And if you wanted to used the words "I am," "I have," or "I offer you" in your message, you would wrap a laurel leaf around the bouquet, fold an ivy leaf together or include a leaf of Virginia creeper, respectively.

These "Tussie-Mussies" as they were called, were usually small bouquets of flowers wrapped in lace and tied with ribbon or, in more prestigious relationships, placed in a small cone-shaped pewter or silver holders. It was a very fashionable pastime back then, and though it is not as trendy today, it is gaining in popularity.

Of course, surveys state that Brides still lead the rest of us in this interest. Florists are quick to inform of the practice and are quite helpful in enlightening them as to which flowers mean what. Often, the bouquet in a wedding will hold blooms chosen very carefully in order to give good luck or send a secret message of love, fertility and fidelity.

But you may notice flowery verbiage grouped together elsewhere as well. For instance, in a bouquet, you may find a striped carnation and a red rose which says, "I love you truly and I wish I could be with you," or you may see a rhododendron in a flowerbed alongside some Marigolds, which means, "Cruelty, Grief and Jealousy - Danger, Beware." So, the next time you buy that pretty wreath, wear that flowery dress or use that Paris perfume, think about what it might be silently saying about you.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on buying a flower dictionary at the bookstore or even lug home a stack of books from the library, although it's a sure bet there are plenty of nice printings available on the subject. If you're interested in reading up on it, the Internet has an abundance of information on Floriology.

A recent Yahoo search turned up over six million sites for the keywords "flowers" and "meanings." Most of the sites do have the same or very, very similar meanings listed for each herb, plant or flower and it can be a lot of fun getting others involved in looking up the definitions of your posies on the web. Not to mention the fun a reciprocal bouquet can be.

So have a great time transplanting, transposing and translating Springs' sprouting buds, blooms and bouquets!


Sharon Allen is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska. A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews. Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)

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