Roses are red, violets are blue, we debunk the meaning of flowers, so you don’t have to.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, thousands of us will give or receive a bouquet of red roses to symbolise ‘love’ this February. But while we all know the meaning of one flower, research suggests that 85% of Brits don’t know the meanings of the most popular flowers in the country. So if you’re planning on giving flower arranging a go for your next special occasion, read this before you get started.
Lucy Matthewson, Horticulture Buyer at Waitrose Florist explains how the sentiments behind certain flowers have developed over the years: ‘Developed by the Victorians, ‘floriography’ was commonly used to convey secret messages that etiquette of the day deemed unacceptable to share openly.
‘Over time, opinion and understanding of flower symbolisms has changed and developed, but it’s incredibly interesting to look back at some of the messages our ancestors were trying to give through their bouquets.’
Lucy and her team have put together seven examples of floriography for us, so learn the meanings behind seven of the nation’s favourite flowers…
What do flowers mean?
‘Perhaps the most well-known meaning of all flowers, the red rose symbolises ‘love’. However, it is not just the variety of flora that has a symbolic meaning, but the colour too. For example, pink blooms symbolise ‘grace’, orange mean ‘fascination’, burgundy signify ‘unconscious beauty’ and yellow mean ‘infidelity’.’
‘It was in the seventeenth century that the tulip’s special role in the Eastern language of flowers became known. Traveller John Chardin found that the tulip was given by a lover to make his passion known to his mistress. The flower’s strong, bright colour shows that the suitor is on fire with her beauty, and the black centre indicated that his heart is burned to coal, so fierce is the heat of his love. The meaning of tulips is ‘a declaration of love’.’
‘Brought over from southern Africa in the eighteenth century, freesias are named after German botanist and doctor Friedrich Freese. Freesias symbolise ‘lasting friendship’ perfect if you’re looking for a bunch of blooms to celebrate “Galentine’s Day” this year.’
‘Orchids were well known in the Victorian era, when almost 2,000 species were in existence – coming to Europe from Central America, Africa, India and the Far East. Victorians were in thrall to the orchid and everyone wanted to possess a little of its elegant and exotic beauty. The true meaning of an orchid is ‘refined beauty’, making it a perfect alternative choice to red roses this Valentine’s Day.’
‘The white Madonna lily is one of the oldest in cultivation and is thought to have been dispersed throughout Europe by Roman soldiers, who carried it in their kitbags for its medicinal purposes. Whilst 39% of those surveys thought lilies mean ‘sympathy’, their original meaning is ‘majesty’, best described as ‘impressive beauty’.’
‘Originated as a plan from southern Europe, the Victorians were particular fans of carnations. Pink carnations symbolise ‘I will never forget you’, perhaps a great choice this Valentine’s Day for a lost love or the one that got away.’
‘Irises have an unusual meaning, which is: ‘my compliments. I have a message for you’. One of the oldest cultivated flowers in Britain, the iris is a floral herald and the bearer of good tidings and warm wishes.’