January 29 2021 – Mercantile London
Significance has been attached to certain flowers, plants, and herbs in many ancient cultures around the world. The Egyptians revered the lotus flower with its own feast day, and offered rose petals to the gods, Greek mythology included tales of Hyacinth and Narcissus, who both became associated with their flower form after death, and the Romans linked many flowers with their deities, honouring Flora the goddess of flowers, nature, and spring with her own festival of Floralia. These associations carried on throughout history until the Victorian era where the ‘language’ of flowers or 'floriography' gained popularity.
With the strict etiquette of the time determining behaviours, ‘floriography’ was a way to send subtle messages that might have been difficult to express in public. The more flowers, plants or herbs that were combined in a bouquet; the more complex the message, and the placement and number of blooms also added meaning.
Flowers that lent to the left in the arrangement were said to represent the sender, and to the right the object of affection. Two flowers in full bloom placed over two flowers in bud alluded to secrecy, roses given with or without thorns or leaves involved additional context surrounding the flowers original sentiment, and a 'reversed' flower was to be read in contradiction to the blooms original meaning.
Some bouquets were small enough to be worn as a corsage or held as a small posy, and the placement or how they were accepted relayed messages back, with a downwards position meaning ‘no’ and one held or pinned at heart level said to mean ‘acceptance’.
Nearly every flower had multiple meanings but the introduction and subsequent popularity of flower ‘dictionaries’ resulted in an accepted code beginning to be understood. Not many would have wanted to receive candytuft (indifference) wild tansy (I declare war against you) or a yellow carnation (distain) but would have been quite happy to receive striped tulips (beautiful eyes) white roses (elegance) or milkvetch (your presence softens my pains).
In order to compliment the flowers you may be sending this Valentine’s or as an alternative idea for your loved one, we have rounded up an edit of small gift ideas that as well as showing love to small, independent brands contain the messages of love, hope and encouragement you may just want to pass on this Valentine's.
Chamomile – Energy in adversity.
Jasmine - Grace & Elegance
Cedar - Strength
Wax + Wick Amber & Mineral Candle £24.00 (cedarwood base)
Lemon - True Heart
Oak - Bravery
Orange Blossom - Eternal Love
Yarrow - Everlasting Love
PF Candle Co No.33 Sunbloom Candle £24.00 (golden-rayed lily, yarrow, and tonka bean).
Rose Geranium - Preference
(Red) Tulip - Declaration of love
For more Valentine ideas shop here
Information on flower meanings taken from Language of Flowers Kate Greenaway, 1846-1901 (New York Public Library).