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Language of Flowers

ritau
05-25
The significance assigned to specific flowers in Western culture varied — nearly every flower had multiple associations, listed in the hundreds of floral dictionaries — but a consensus of meaning for common blooms has emerged. Often, definitions derive from the appearance or behavior of the plant itself. For example, the mimosa, or sensitive plant, represents chastity. This is because the leaves of the mimosa close at night, or when touched. Likewise, the deep red rose and its thorns have been used to symbolize both the blood of Christ and the intensity of romantic love, while the rose's five petals are thought to illustrate the five crucifixion wounds of Christ. Pink roses imply a lesser affection, white roses suggest virtue and chastity, and yellow roses stand for friendship or devotion. The black rose (actually a very dark shade of red, purple, or maroon) has a long association with death and dark magic.

"A woman also had to be pretty precise about where she wore flowers. Say, for instance, a suitor had sent her a tussie-mussie (a k a nosegay). If she pinned it to the 'cleavage of bosom', that would be bad news for him, since that signified friendship. Ah, but if she pinned it over her heart, 'That was an unambiguous declaration of love'."

*In literature*
William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, and children's novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett, among others, used the language of flowers in their writings.

Shakespeare used the word "flower" more than 100 times in his plays and sonnets. In Hamlet, Ophelia mentions and explains the symbolic meaning of pansies, rosemary, fennel, lilies, columbine, rue, daisy, and violets. In The Winter's Tale, the princess Perdita wishes that she had violets, daffodils, and primroses to make garlands for her friends. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oberon talks to his messenger Puck amidst a scene of wild flowers.

In J. K. Rowling's 1997 novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Professor Severus Snape uses the language of flowers to express regret and mourning for the death of Lily Potter, Harry Potter's mother, according to Pottermore.

Chuck Palahniuk's 1999 novel Survivor features a discussion of Victorian flower language.

Flowers are often used as a symbol of femininity. John Steinbeck's short story "The Chrysanthemums" centers around the yellow florets, which are often associated with optimism and lost love. When the protagonist, Elisa, finds her beloved chrysanthemums tossed on the ground, her hobby and womanhood have been ruined; this suffices the themes of lost appreciation and femininity in Steinbeck's work.

In 2009, Vanessa Diffenbaugh published a New York Times-bestselling novel centered on floriography, The Language of Flowers, as well as her own flower dictionary.

In the poetic anthology Vivere e non vivere (2018) by the Italian writer Sabrina Gatti, Julie, the protagonist, is identified in the Lilium or in the Hydrangea, using the language of flowers, a topic to which the same writer in 2019 dedicates an essay entitled Florigrafia. Il linguaggio dei fiori.

*In art*
Several Anglican churches in England have paintings, sculpture, or stained glass windows of the lily crucifix, depicting Christ crucified on or holding a lily. One example is a window at The Clopton Chantry Chapel Church in Long Melford, Suffolk, England, UK.

The Victorian Pre-Raphaelites, a group of 19th-century painters and poets who aimed to revive the purer art of the late medieval period, captured classic notions of beauty romantically. These artists are known for their idealistic portrayal of women, emphasis on nature and morality, and use of literature and mythology. Flowers laden with symbolism figure prominently in much of their work. John Everett Millais, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, used oils to create pieces filled with naturalistic elements and rich in floriography. His painting Ophelia (1852) depicts Shakespeare's drowned stargazer floating amid the flowers she describes in Act IV, Scene V of Hamlet.

The Edwardian artist John Singer Sargent spent much time painting outdoors in the English countryside, frequently utilizing floral symbolism. Sargent's first major success came in 1887, with Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, a large piece painted on site in the plein air manner, of two young girls lighting lanterns in an English garden.

Contemporary artist Whitney Lynn created a site-specific project for the San Diego International Airport employing floriography, utilizing flowers' ability to communicate messages that otherwise would be restricted or difficult to speak aloud.Lynn previously created a work, Memorial Bouquet,utilizing floral symbolism for the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. Based on Dutch Golden Age still-life painting, the flowers in the arrangement represent countries that have been sites of US military operations and conflicts.
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