Today, I’d thought I’d share an excerpt from the Secret Language of Flower Tour I’m giving at the Wilbur D. May Arboretum, this Friday. It’s a sample of the kinds of fun and free things we offer to the Reno community. It’s all about promoting interest in nature, educating families, our local history, and just having a good time outdoors.
This is one of our Good Nature Tours that we offer on the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month. Our last tour was about beginning birding and covered birds native to Nevada. It gave a introductory lesson in using binoculars and as well as showing some of the best places to locate active birds in the Arboretum.
The Language of flowers is a limitless topic and in this tour we are covering the basics of how flower language came to be; how it was used; and some of the meanings of the more familiar plants and trees. Then we’ll go through the botanical garden and create messages of our own.
Here are some of the highlights, the tour itself goes into a lot more detail:
The History of communicating through flowers goes back to Asia and Turkey. A message could be communicated without saying or writing a word; by careful selection and arrangement of plants and flowers. While King George of Sweden was in Turkey, he learned of this special way of and brought it back to Europe. But it is Lady Mary Wortley Montegue who actual shared it with the English speaking world.
In Victorian England, the gentry loved puzzles, secrets and their gardens. In the language of flowers, each plant had a distinct meaning associated with it. By combining specific flowers together in the same arrangement, a person could convey a message to another like minded soul.
Flowers were used in many ways at the time.
They were commonly arranged in Tussy Mussies, or nosegays: small little bouquets that were sometimes attached to a lady’s wrist as she walked through town. While the nosegay was pretty, it was also practical. The streets were foul smelling places at the time. When the odors got to be overwhelming, the bouquet would be held up to your face and you would inhale the pleasant scent of the flowers, instead aromas around you.
Another version of odor avoidance was the use of a solid form of perfume, which was dabbed under the nose.
Oils from flowers and herbs were diffused and carried in amulets around the neck to ward off disease.
Pressed flowers were used a lot in cards and decorations. As well, they were put into books as secret memory keepers.
Many formal gardens hid their own secrets of mourning for lost family members or tales of unrequited love.
Laurel wreaths were given at athletic events and graduations to signify knowledge or excellence on the part of the receiver.
Container gardens formed portable, yet permanent messages that could be given as a keepsake.
The way a flower was presented and handled could alter a flower message.
A flower facing backwards when given, has the opposite meaning.
If the recipient touches a flower they were given to their lips, it means “yes!”
Taking a petal off a flower and crashing it means “No, absolutely not!’
A rose devoid of thorns and leaves means “there is no hope or fear”
A bouquet handed on the right means “I.”
A bouquet handed on the left means “You.”
A Laurel leaf wrapped around a bouquet means “I am.”
Similarly, a Virginia Creeper vine around a bouquet means “I offer you.”
Flowers and their meanings
Here is just a partial list of some common flowers and their meanings. What messages can you create?
Alyssum Worth beyond beauty
Baby’s Breath Pure of heart
Bluebell Sorrowful regret
Calla Lily Magnificent beauty
Carnation Bonds of affection
Daisy I share your sentiments
Forget-Me-Not True love
Hollyhock Female ambition
Honeysuckle Generous and devoted affection
Hyacinth Game; play; sport
Ivy Friendship; humility
Larkspur Brightness; levity
Lavender Distrust; failure
Lilac Humility; first love
Lily Modesty; purity
Marigold Grief; pain; trouble
Michaelmas Daisy Afterthought
Mock Orange Counterfeit
Mullein Take courage
Parsley Feasting; festivity
Pasque Flower You have no claims
Pea (sweet) Departure
Peony Anger; bashfulness; shame
Periwinkle Sweet memories
Poppy (red) Consolation
Primrose Early youth
(white) I am worthy of you
(pink) Sweet love
(burgundy) Unconscious beauty
(bridal) Happy love
Shamrock Joy in sorrow
Sorrel Parental affection
Spearmint Warmth of sentiment
Strawberry Perfect excellence
Stock Lasting beauty
Sweet Basil Good wishes
Thyme Courage; thriftiness
Vetch I cling to thee
Virginia Creeper Sweet neglect
Water Lily Purity of heart
Wheat Stalk Prosperity; riches
Zinnia Thoughts of absent friends
It’s a fun topic and a great activity during the summer for kids of all ages: creating secret messages to share with friends.
Until next time, tread joyfully through your garden!