They have been doing a lot of grounds work around campus this week and our neighbors have been having landscape work done too, so I was inspired to share my favorite flowers and their traditional meanings. As a girl I always found it a lovely idea that throughout history flowers had contained messages when they were shared between friends – it was like a beautiful secret language. One that my friends and I didn’t have to spend hours coming up with symbols for, but could just write the names of different flowers in our notes to communicate our hidden secrets.
Dahlias – When we decided to get married in October, I knew I wanted deep, wine colored dahlias as the heart of my bouquet – they just scream autumn to me! In Victorian times, the dahlia signified a lasting bond and commitment between two people; a perfect choice for a wedding flower!
Peonies – Is there any flower more feminine than peonies? In Victorian times the peony symbolized bashfulness and shamefulness, but in China the name for peony translates to “most beautiful,” and is connected deeply to honor and the many emperors.
Hydrangeas – I want hydrangea bushes in my yard so badly, but they are not a plant that does well in the desert west. In Victorian times hydrangeas symbolized a boaster or braggart, or chastised someone for the romantic frigidity. In Japan however, they are linked to apologies and gratitude.
Anemones – I love the white ones with blue centers best – such a gorgeous bloom for late winter and early spring! In Victorian times, these flowers represented a forsaken love, and these flowers have also played a role in the cultures of China, Egypt, and many of the countries of Europe. They are often associated with illness or death, and are common in funeral arrangements. Even with their less pleasant symbolism, I still love the look of them!
Lily of the Valley – This has always been a favorite flower, but when they were the main florals used in Duchess Kate’s wedding bouquet my love for them only grew! These sweet spring flowers symbolize humility, chastity, sweetness, purity, and luck in love. They are the birth-flower for the month of May and have also been said to mean “the return of happiness.” I love the sweet meaning behind these sweet flowers!
Lavender – I love the smell of lavender – it truly is soothing! I also love baking with lavender and a lavender lemonade! These pretty purple flowers symbolize love, devotion and purity.
Tulips – My mama always send tulips to my Grammy for her birthday and are my mama’s favorite flower. Tulips scream spring to me as I also associate them with Easter and graduation season. Classically tulips are associated with love, but the Victorians used it to mean charity. The flower was originally bred by Turkish people and were popular within the Ottoman empire before they became popular with the Dutch.
Ranunculus – These were the main flowers in my parent’s wedding! In Victorian times this flower told the lady you sent them to that she is charming and attractive. These are a native Middle Eastern flower with a fun Persian legend. I love that these can be planted in pots in my house too!
Magnolia – Magnolia is my scent. I exclusively wear perfumes that have a layer of magnolia in them and try to find body washes and lotions that do too. When we travel south I get so excited by the gorgeous magnolia trees and the fragrance in the air. In Victorian times, the magnolia represented dignity and nobility. In the south, they have come to symbolize purity and nobility, and in China they have been thought to be the perfect symbol of womanly beauty and gentleness.
Astilbe – I have always been attracted to the shape and texture of these flowers. Their symbolism means “I’ll still be waiting”.
Pansy – My sorority flower is a black & gold pansy and whenever I see them, I am reminded of the initiation services we held in college, celebrating my chapter’s centennial, our alumnae transition and every founder’s brunch I’ve attended. In Victorian times the pansy was used a message for secret courting, but today symbolizes the love or admiration of one person for another. The name comes from the French word penser, so it can also be used as a way to say you’re thinking of someone.