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Nature Wisdom

With Pat Tuholske;
Naturalist

The Language of Flowers

In 1982, almost one hundred years after it was first published, I was gifted three copies from three people “The Language of Flowers” by Kate Greenway in the same year. That certainly got my attention and my life-long study of the hidden meaning of plants began.

Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years and cultures all over the world were captivated by the practice. The Japanese call it Hanakotoba, and the Victorians coined the word Floriography. The art form was brought by King Charles II to Sweden from Persia in the 17th century. It then spread to the courts of Constantinople in early 18th-century Turkey, extending throughout Europe and Asia.

Sparked by renewed interest in botany and exotic plants, using flowers as a means of covert communication intensified during the Victorian Age in England and the U.S. Blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing the sender to express feelings which could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society.

Flowers afforded the strict Victorians a silent language allowing them to communicate many sentiments that the propriety of the times would not normally allow. Fresh flowers, potted plants, wreaths, an embroidered handkerchief, greeting cards, flower gardens … all sent a secret communication.

Flowers have always had religious, legendary and metaphorical meanings. From the origin of a flower’s name to its distinctive characteristics and rich mythology, flowers are infused with symbolism and significance.

A small sampling from Kate Greenaway’s “The Language of Flowers” published in 1884 at the height of the Victorian Age:
Amaryllis… Splendid beauty. Azalea…Temperance. Bachelor’s Buttons…Celibacy. Bee Balm…Sympathy. Bay Leaf… I change but in death. Beech Tree… Prosperity. Birch…Meekness. Bluebell … Constancy. Butterfly Weed…Let me go. Camomile … Energy in adversity. Cedar Leaf… I live for thee. Chrysanthemum, White… Truth. Clover, Four-leaved … Be mine. Clover, White…Think of me. Coreopsis …Always cheerful. Corn…Riches. Daisy… Innocence. Dock…Patience. Elder… Zealousness. Elm… Dignity. Fennel… Worthy all praise. Geranium… True friendship. Grape, Wild… Charity. Grass… Submission. Hazel… Reconciliation. Hemlock…You will be my death. Hemp…Fate. Holly…Foresight. Honeysuckle… Generous and devoted affection. Hydrangea… Heartlessness. Iris…Message. Ivy…Fidelity. Jasmine… Amiability. Laurel…Glory. Lilac…First emotion of love. Lily of the Valley…Return of happiness. Magnolia… Love of Nature. Marigold…Grief. Mint…Virtue. Moss… Maternal love. Mugwort… Happiness. Oak… Bravery. Oleander… Beware. Orange Blossoms…Your purity equals your loveliness. Parsley…Festivity. Peach… Your qualities, like your charms, are unequalled. Pear… Affection. Periwinkle… Friendship. Persimmon… Bury me amid Nature’s beauties. Rose… Love. Rosemary… Remembrance. Sage… Domestic virtue. Shamrock… Light heartedness. Sycamore… Curiosity. Tansy…I declare war against you. Tulip… Fame. Vervain… Enchantment. Violet… Faithfulness. Walnut… Intellect. Witch Hazel… A spell. Yew…Sorrow. Zinnia…Thoughts of absent friends.

While its original translations may have shifted over time, the Language of Flowers remains strong to this day. We sense the personalities of different flowers and intuitively choose one over another to fit our mood or the occasion. We pick a bunch of bright yellow lilies to bring cheer or declare our passion with a dozen deep red roses.

Unravel these hidden mysteries and open up to a whole new language. The power of intention ignites this sacred communication between you and Nature. Create your own intimate Language of Flowers.

See Pat’s Wild Wreaths, Wheels, and Twig Art crafted from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com and at Green Door Art Gallery. Check out her Field Journal for her musings on the Human-Nature relationship.

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