The recent wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, now the HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, has re-ignited interest in the meaning attributed to different kinds of blossoms. A press release from Buckingham Palace noted that floral designer Shane Connolly to represent several facets of William and Catherine’s life together composed the Duchess’ bouquet.
Lady Mary Wortley Montague, wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), brought the Turkish text “Secret Language of Flowers” back to Europe in the early 18th Century. Not long afterward people, especially clandestine lovers, began sending one another bouquets that had secret or symbolic meanings to them. Long a sign of romance, Lady Montague’s innovation brought even more symbolism to the practice. Not only did the blooms themselves have meaning, their arrangement also helped to form the message of the mélange.

The French particularly took this new romantic practice to heart. In 1819 Louise Cortambert, a French woman writing under the pen name of Madame Charlotte de la Tour, published a book titled “Le Language des Fleurs” (“The Language of Flowers“). Her compendium advised people on which blossoms to send, depending on their message and season, and how to arrange the bouquets to convey the message.

The practice reached its height during the Victorian era. Sending blossoms arranged in certain ways became the most popular form of romance, as well as of romantic intrigue. Sometimes called “floriography,” sending a bouquet to one’s paramour allowed individuals to express coded messages that otherwise might not be spoken. The bouquet most often took the form of a nosegay, also known as a posy or Tussie-Mussie, a floral art that has had a revival of interest. These nosegays conveyed not only the primary message, but sent in ways that conveyed many nuances of communication.

Of all the blossoms used for romantic nosegays, roses were the favorite, so much so that a secret sub-language developed around them. Shades of colors also changed the significance. According to some experts, red symbolized passion, while pink conveyed a devotion of less intensity. However, deep red blossoms symbolized grief, particularly for widows.

Among other colors, a white blossom indicated chastity or an unconsummated love, while yellow blooms bespoke either jealousy or friendship, depending upon their arrangement. Red and yellow in a single nosegay communicated joy, happiness and excitement. Coral or orange indicated desire, while lavender spoke of love at first sight. Red and white mixed together signified unity, a tradition harking back to the “War of the Roses” fought by England’s feuding Lancaster and York clans for possession of the throne. The ultimate symbol of their unity was the Tudor rose, created by combining red and white petals together.

Other blossoms have similar meanings. Daisies, also known as gerbera, signify innocence or purity because of their cheerful blooms. Sunflowers, the favorite flower of St. Julie Billiart, can mean either pride or respect. The iris, named for the gods’ messenger in Greek mythology, represents the act of sending a message.

Today a professional florist such as is the best guide for choosing a bouquet or arrangement that will convey a distinctive message. Consulting with a florist will ensure that any floral gift sends the perfect sentiment.

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When it’s time to send flowers, choose first. Expert florists at can help select the ideal arrangement for any occasion, from cheerful, innocent daisies to passionate roses.