The Secret Victorian Language of Love
by M. M. Genet
I have a confession to make. Behind this tough exterior of jaded writer and road weary musician is a mushy, Meg Ryan, romance junkie. Whether she’s playing Kathleen, the New York children’s bookstore owner or the full-of-hope romantic listening to a broken hearted widower on a radio show, I’m all in. While I may love the pairing between her and Kevin Cline in French Kiss the best, there is a scene in Kate and Leopold that tops them all.
Victorian time traveler, Leopold tries to explain to his modern contemporary that there is more to giving a woman flowers than grabbing a bouquet at the local supermarket. In Victorian times, each flower meant something specific. Along with Meg Ryan films, I also adore flowers. I buy them for friends to say thank you for dinner or for hosting me in their home for a weekend (along with a good bottle of champagne.) I send them to friends who’ve been dumped and I buy them for myself when I need to celebrate the little triumphs in life. I’ve even been known to send them to the man in my life on occasion.
Want to send your love a message that mere words can’t express? Let’s see which combination conveys what is brewing in your heart.
Acacia has stalks with tiny yellow flowers. It represents a secret love between two people. Have a secret crush? What if the two of you hang out every day in the break room and smile, blushing, but neither of you can summon the courage to ask the other out? Why not send a bouquet of Acacia? Card optional.
Cactus. Yes you read that right. Love isn’t always about tingles and giggles and holding hands. Sometimes staying together is tough. Sometimes life is so hard that all you have is each other. A cactus represents resilience. If your partner sends you a cactus, it means that they believe the two of you will still be standing together no matter what the world throws at the two of you.
Carnations are maybe one of the most commonly gifted flowers in the United States. They’re beautiful and often inexpensive. Did you know they represent the ultimate in feminine beauty as well as delicate emotion? If you love a woman for all the things only she can be; sweet, loving, gentle, a celebration of both happy and sad tears, then the carnation is the one to send her.
Gardenias and roses became associated with love thanks to the writing of Shakespeare. Gardenias have a heavy, sweet floral scent. White pedals surround a yellow center with delicate green leaves. Their specific meaning is, “You are lovely.”
Ivy was long used in wedding ceremonies called Handfastings during the Middle Ages. During a Handfasting, the couple holds hands and ivy is wrapped around their wrists (instead of the exchange of rings) to symbolize “two becoming one.” Hence, Ivy is a serious addition to any bouquet as it represents betrothal, fidelity and commitment.
Jealous much? No really. Is there a certain someone that you pine for? You (and everyone else) can see that the object of your affection would be much better off with you than the unappreciative idiot their currently with. Want to steal their heart? Send Lilly of the Valley. This stealthy little plant, with it’s delicate bell shaped, white flowers are beautiful but the legend says that the magic is in the scent. One whiff of its intoxicating perfume and you will steal another’s heart. That said, be sure to send a card.
Orange blossom is often used in floral bouquets to symbolize fertility. More recently, people in long term relationships hoping to have a baby will send it to their partner as a sign of hope. Send your love orange blossom particularly when waiting to hear the results of a fertility treatment, learning that it’s early days of a recent conception or to gently suggest that you’re ready to try to have a baby with them.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be an article about the language of love without mentioning roses. First painted in Renaissance portraits wrapped around the ankle of the Goddess Venus, roses were meant to represent femininity, beauty and the intoxication of love. While white roses imply very innocent love, pink roses mean maternal love and deep red roses symbolize long time, committed love.
However your heart is aching, express it by surprising that special someone (who may realize or not) in the language of flowers. The Victorians gave us some of the longest lasting stories about love and angst that have endured the test of time. In a modern world of text messages, swiping left or right and online profiles, flowers and their meanings need to make a comeback. The romantic in me needs to believe that there is something worth exploring in reserving a secret language reserved just for love.
M.M. Genet is the author of The Clever Courtesan. The book takes readers on a wild ride through the eyes of Cassandra Flemming, a Lady of Keys. Fighting the norms of Victorian high society, Cassandra challenges all the rules when it comes to women, power, sex and power of a lock and a key.