Posted on January 17, 2017 in

Valentine's Day and the Language of Flowers

How did flowers become synonymous with romance and Valentine’s Day, once it had become popularized in the late 14th and early 15th centuries?

The use of flowers to convey messages to another person became popular in the first part of the 18th century. An Englishwoman named Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) brought this idea to England in 1717. She had lived in Constantinople as the wife of the British Ambassador to Turkey. Flowers were used in the court in Constantinople as a means of covert communication - and Mary Wortley Montagu was fascinated by this “language”. The first known published book associating flowers with symbolic definitions  (later known specifically as “floriography”) was Joseph Hammer-Purstall’s Dictionnaire du language des fleur, in 1809. The first true “dictionary”  of floriography, Le language des Fleurs appeared in 1819, written by Louise Cortambert under the pen name “Madame Charlotte de la Tour”.

In Britain floriography was very popular during the Victorian period, from 1820-1830, while in France it’s celebration lasted from about 1810-1850, and in the US from about 1830-1850. La Tour’s book caused a wave of publication in France, England, and the US, as well as Germany, Belgium, other European countries, and South America. Hundreds of editions of language of flower books were published in the 19th century.

Later, English language titles abounded in Britain and the US, with one of the most familiar books being Routledge’s edition, illustrated by Kate Greenaway, The Language of Flowers, first published in 1884, which continues to be reprinted today.

Now understanding how flowers became so popular for offering a symbolic message, what are the meanings of different flowers?

Red Roses: They say, “I love you” and are the ultimate symbol of romantic love and enduring passion. If that is the message you want to send, then red roses are the best!

Pale Pink Roses: Pale pink roses convey grace, gentleness, gratitude. They are a wonderful gift for someone on Valentine’s Day.

White Roses: Eternal love, purity.

Pink Carnations: Traditionally, a Christian belief was that carnations first originated with the tears of the Virgin Mary, thus pink carnations symbolize a love that is undying and devoted.

White Carnations: White carnations are associated with purity and luck.  

Which flowers will you buy for your loved ones this Valentine's Day?

Allison Addicott
Allison Addicott