Introduction to Language of Flowers

Introduction to Language of Flowers
John Parkinson, who served as the physician, gardener, and herbalist to King Charles I, wrote about tussie mussies in the garden book he published in 1629, called “A Garden of Pleasant Flowers. He called tussie mussies “nosegays with a message” and “word posies.” Folks in England used tussie mussies and other floral arrangements to express messages.

The Language of Flowers really began to catch on in the West in 1763 when the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague were published after her death. The letters contained details on her observations of Turkish life while she and her husband, the English ambassador to Turkey, lived in Turkey. One of the things she revealed was that the women in the Sultan’s harem used flowers to send messages as a means of communication since they were pretty much illiterate.

Although this system is referred to as the Language of Flowers, the symbolism of the plants also extends to trees, herbs, and vegetables as well. This system is also called floriography. Both men and women used this flower code.

The Language of Flowers reached its height of popularity during the Victorian Era. Couples who were courting used this code as a means of communication. When using this language, it was necessary for both parties—the sender and the recipient-- is to be using the same flower dictionary or flower book. Otherwise, the meanings of the plants became unclear.

Around Valentine’s Day, one can expect for articles on the meaning of flowers to appear as this happens year after year.

Over the years, a number of flower dictionaries and other books about the Language of Flowers were published. Most of the early ones have long been out of print. However, there are at least three fairly new publications on this
subject. These include “Nature and Its Symbols” by Lucia Impelluso, published
by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2003.

Renowned artist and garden writer Peter Loewer wrote “Loves Me, Loves Me Not-the Hidden Language of Flowers.” This was published in 2006 by Cool Springs Press.

Roni Jay wrote “Sacred Flowers-Creating a Heavenly Garden.” This was released by Beyond Words Publishing in 1997.

Gretchen Scoble and Ann Field wrote “The Meaning of Flowers-Myths, Language and Lore.” It was published by Chronicle Books in 1998.

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