Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Language of Fall Flowers

I have a lovely little book titled The Language of Flowers, by Margaret Pickston. It was written, so the flyleaf says, by her father as a gift to her mother, and there is an inscription signed F.W.L., August 8, 1913. My copy is a reprint made in England around 1973.

In Victorian times, floriography was quite popular. The assigning of meaning to various blooms is an old custom dating as far back as early Christianity and Judaism; even Shakespeare included it in Hamlet:

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.
Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, 
that's for thoughts. […] 
There's fennel for you, and columbines. 
There's rue  for you; and here's some for me; we 
may call it  herb of grace o' Sundays. You must wear your 
rue with  a difference. There's a daisy. I would 
give you some violets, but they withered all 
when my father died.

Here are some of the meanings given to the flowers and plants of autumn by F.W.L. All illustrations are from The Graphics Fairy.

from The Graphics Fairy


Aster: variety
Chrysanthemum: cheerful under adversity
but different colors of chrysanthemum also had different meanings--
Red Chrysanthemum: I love

Chrysanthemum from The Graphics Fairy

Yellow Chrysanthemum: slighted love
White Chrysanthemum: truth
Cranberry: hardness
Dead leaves: sadness, melancholy
Goldenrod: precaution, encouragement
Holly: foresight
Marigold: grief, despair
Michaelmas daisy: afterthought
Moss: eternal love
Mountain ash: prudence
Nasturtium: patriotism

from The Graphics Fairy

Oak leaves: bravery
Oak tree: hospitality
White Oak: indepedence
Pears: affection
Pear tree: comfort
Persimmon: bury me among nature's beauty
Pine: pity
Spruce: hope in adversity
Potato: benevolence
Pride of China: dissension

Christmas Rose from The Graphics Fairy

Christmas rose: relieve my anxiety
Rosemary: remembrance
Sunflower, dwarf: adoration

Sunflower from The Graphics Fairy

Sunflower, tall: haughtiness
Walnut: intellect, strategem
Witch Hazel: a spell
Wormwood: absence
Yew: sorrow
Zinnia: thoughts of absent friends

Reading through this list, it seems endurance, memory, melancholy and strength seem to be
the theme for this time of year. Which makes sense, as we look back and remember, as nature begins to draw in and die off for the winter months, and as we gird our loins as well for cold weather.

Some other reading on the topic of floriography:

Floral Poetry and the Language of Flowers, an 1877 book now online

Language of Flowers in Emily Dickinson's Poetry

Language of Flowers Project

Flower Meanings

Victorian Bouquets encoded messages


Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Interesting stuff. I remember hearing about it when studying Shakespeare at school when, as now, I thought some of it made some sort of sense while other associations seemed completely random.

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