Roses are a classic symbol of love and romance, giving voice to feelings of tenderness and passion without the need for saying a word. Red roses have long been synonymous with true love, but did you know that in Victorian times, the symbolism of flowers and their meanings was taken so seriously there were many published dictionaries of "The Language of Flowers?"
Called floriography, flower language ascribed meanings not just to roses, but also to the majority of common flowers. Great significance was attached to the color of the flowers, the way they were arranged, even which hand was used to hold the bouquet. While different floriography dictionaries assigned somewhat differing meanings to various flowers, the general themes remained the same.
As the Queen of Flowers, roses held special significance for conveying feelings, particularly love and passion. Each color of rose held a slightly different meaning, and could be combined in a bouquet to present a range of tender emotions. Open expression of such feelings was frowned upon in repressive Victorian society, giving even more impact to the coded gift of roses.
Today, we have no need of codes or floral languages to convey feelings of tenderness, but the tradition lives on in the commonly understood meanings behind the gift of flowers. Next time you give or receive a bouquet of roses, consider choosing colors beyond pure red to convey the subtle nuances of your affections.
While a bouquet of roses alone is traditional and beautiful, a mixed bouquet is also lovely, and can carry a multitude of meanings beyond those given to roses. Assemble a display of flowers that speak without words, and then write a card to accompany them giving the traditional meaning of each flower.
Here are the most commonly ascribed meanings of the various colors of roses, as well as flowers frequently combined with roses in floral arrangements.
Red roses: True love
Pink roses: Grace, friendship, happiness
Yellow roses: Friendship, joy, gladness
White roses: Innocence, humility, purity
Orange roses: Desire, passion, enthusiasm
Peach roses: Grace, togetherness
Pink carnations: Remembrance
Red carnations: Pure love
White carnations: Innocence, love
Baby’s Breath: Happiness
Sweet William: Gallantry, perfection
Heather: Beauty, luck, protection
White lilies: Purity
Daisies: Gentleness, innocence
Red Chrysanthemum: Love
White Chrysanthemum: Truth
Yellow Chrysanthemum: Unrequited love
Sweet Peas: Blissful pleasure
Iris: Faith, wisdom, friendship
Purple hyacinth: forgive me, sorry
White hyacinth: Loveliness
Daffodils: Unrequited love