Did you ever pluck petals off a daisy while chanting, “Love me? Love me not,?” Your answer was determined by the words uttered when the last petal was pulled off. A similar practice was taken much more seriously in Victorian England when adults gave a meaning to a particular species of flower, the color of the flowers, and how they were presented, This custom was referred to as “floriography.” Upper class English were schooled in correct behavior, and expressing strong emotion was not considered “genteel.” Hence, messages were often sent via flowers. If a woman were to receive a bouquet of red roses, the giver was expressing his love. However if the roses were yellow, infidelity was the message. (Did that mean the giver was ‘fessing up or accusing the recipient?)
The practice reached ridiculous extremes when the position of ones hand when proffering the bouquet had meaning, as did the position of the flowers themselves. If the flowers leaned to the right it meant one thing and to the left the opposite. It can be fun today to be aware of the meaning of a particular flower, but fortunately most of us can say what’s on our minds without engaging in such indirect language.
If you’re interested in exploring the subject further, The Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby is a good place to start. A novel, The Meaning of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a contemporary story about how a young florist makes use of the old lore about flowers to satisfy customers. Worth a read.
The daisies at the top of the page denote “innocence,” while the hollyhocks below speak of “ambition.” Beware of receiving the peony directly above. Its message is “anger.”