Reading Between the Flowers-What that bouquet is really saying

meadow with colorful wild flowers

The language of flowers is rich in symbolism, a secret code waiting to be cracked.

Hark whats that? There’s a ring at the door. A parcel for you!

Nestled in the folds of tissue paper is a bouquet from the young man you hope will be your beau, but what does it all mean?  Is it love? Is it friendship or kind regards? There must be some significance in someone sending you a slip of a nettle tree  and a sheath of oats right?

Right you are. This is a bouquet with a message.

Thankfully we have The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway at hand to help us read between the flowers.

The languageof FlowersSo give those geranium leaves a rub, if they are lemon-scented it signifies and unexpected meeting, how exciting. But if they are rose scented it means preference, that’s good too.

Rub, rub. Sniff, sniff. And again just to make sure.

They’re nutmeg geraniums, an expected meeting.  It looks like you might have an invitation.

Now for the thorny question of the nettle tree, concert, an invitation to a concert!

That explains the oats which naturally signify the witching soul of music.  

This is all very well but how does he feel about you? Is it merely an overture of friendship or something more?

It is your lucky day because the star of the show is a single thorn-less rose, early attachment, that is very promising. It isn’t love but it’s more than friendship. He always was the cautious type.

So with heart all a twitter you plan your posy for the concert, something to send a message of course. Cape jasmine perhaps? Or would it look desperate to say ‘I am too happy‘ about attending a concert? What if it turns out a dreadful bore, no better go with something safe.

Violets perhaps, modesty is always good, though modesty and purity are even better, white lilies, which will look striking with your dark blue dress, but there aren’t any left in the garden. What to do?

In the end you decide to keep it simple and wear his thorn-less rose adding a sprig of rose-scented geranium. A return of early attachment with a preference for him. It’s all settled.

The significance of Flowers

It is enchanting to imagine the messages that might be sent between lovers with the aid of this little book or coded messages between friends.  However I think the symbolism of flowers and was of more importance for coat of arms, art and poetry than for posies.  For example sheaves of wheat engraved on a silver tray a symbol of riches or plenty would make a good wedding or anniversary gift.

I am sure that young girls of a certain age in 1884, when this book was first released, would have had as much fun composing bouquets as my friends and I had when we chanced upon it in a used book store.

From time to time I will include a coded message for you gentle reader to muse over.

For this week what emotion should you call up if you find someone has slipped a French Marigold and sprig of Frog Ophrys on your pillow? And who would send such a message?

I’d love to hear your guesses.

The answer to be revealed next Friday.



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