8 Valentine Flowers and their Victorian Meanings

"The orange lily implies extreme hatred. The begonia and lavender, danger and suspicion . . . every flower has a meaning.” --Leopold (Hugh Jackman) from the movie "Kate and Leopold."

Modern day Americans believe that nothing says “I love you” better than a dozen red roses. But what about the rest of the garden? Do they say something too? 19th century Victorians had a whole dictionary of meanings for each flower and weed that could be gathered into a bouquet. Thankfully, most of these meanings have been forgotten or buying flowers would be a whole lot harder.

Patch visited to see what flowers are going to be popular gifts this Valentine’s Day. Staff at the florist said that most men are sticking to traditional bouquets of roses and carnations this year.

Rose: Red roses haven’t strayed far from their Victorian meaning, as they stood for Respect, Love and Beauty. Pink roses could mean anything from Sweetness and Grace to Secret Love while white roses stood for Purity. They had a different take on yellow roses, which meant Jealousy.

Carnation: Carnations are another popular Valentine flower and they also stood for love in the Victorian days. Red carnations meant “My heart aches for you” while white ones stood for Sweet and Lovely. The Victorians must have really despised yellow, for a yellow carnation meant Rejection and Disappointment.

Lily: Lilies are showy tropical flowers offen included in a Valentine bouquet. To Victorians the flower generally represented Purity of Heart. But watch out for the orange ones, those meant Hatred.

Tulip: Today tulips just make us think of spring, but the Victorians felt they symbolized Perfect Love. Tulips seem to be the only yellow flower they liked, for a yellow tulip said “There’s sunshine in your smile.”

Daisy: If a Victorian gentleman wanted to say, “I’ll never tell” he’d send daisies.

Baby’s Breath: These tiny filler flowers are always included with a nice bouquet. The Victorians thought they stood for Innocence.

Greenery: The Victorians also used greenery in their bouquets to help show off the flowers. But even foliage needed to be carefully selected. A sprig of Maidenhair Fern means “Secret bond of love,” Ivy stood for Wedded Love or Fidelity, and bits of grass meant “Submission.”

Herbs: The Victorians loved assigning meanings to botanicals so much that they didn’t stop at flowers and greens. Garlic stood for Courage, Strength or Get Well, mint said Virtue, and moss stood for Maternal Love. Monkshood stood for Beware, nuts could mean Stupidity and Dill meant Lust.


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