Why Do We Give Flowers?
We give flowers for a number of reasons. Where did the tradition come from?
Today we give flowers in appreciation of people for various reasons. The meaning of the flower is not as important now, as it was a century ago. However, the language of flowers is where the tradition began.
In Victorian times, people often had entire conversations without speaking a word simply by touching flowers. A married woman, for instance, might have left an arrangement of begonia and monkshood on her entryway table to warn a lover that her husband was home. Begonia signifies the need for caution and Monkshood warns of a deadly foe. A young man might have caressed the petals of a viscaria while making eye contact with a young woman. If she in turn touched a striped carnation, his hopes of a dance were dashed on the red and white petals of a lovely flower.
Victorian mobsters were much more elegant in delivering threats than today’s gruesome method of decapitating horses and leaving the bloody remains in someone’s bed. A bouquet of poppy and monkshood with a delicate sprig of heather snuggled inside said the same thing; grant my wish or die. While young lovers living under the eagle eye of disapproving guardians might have worn a spray of spider flower to show the desire to elope. Conversely, one may have worn the spider flower while the other wore a yellow carnation. Ah, the tragedies of young love, willing to throw everything away only to be thwarted by a heartless ‘no’.
The gift of a ‘single perfect rose’ keeps florists in business year after year. Do you know why? A single perfect red rose declares your love. Yellow signifies a loss of regard, white promises purity, and the leaf of a rose offers hope. No wonder people are enthralled with roses!
The Victorian widow is a feature of romance novels even today. In Victoria’s time, however, widowhood was not a good state to live in. Often widows rushed into a second marriage to secure the family’s fortunes or provide protection for their children. If the widow was not ready to remarry though she might have carried, a spray of zinnias to show that she still thought longingly of her deceased husband.
Today we give flowers for their beauty or scent. We do not need them to speak for us anymore. That, in some regard, is a sad thing. It would be so much easier to hide our reaction to a rejection in smelling a yellow rose or a striped carnation while we turn away than in trying to maintain our dignity in a conversation.
On that note, I will end this with by offering you a cyclamen and a cattail, and hope you have a wonderful day.