Nearly every sentiment can be expressed through flowers of different colors. In fact” flower color meanings, symbolism and myths are a big part of floral history or Floriography as it is known. Right since the Victorian Era, flowers were used for representing and expressing various emotions. Over time and across different cultures, these flower color meanings underwent many changes. Today, flowers do not have the same meanings that they once did. Let us study the impact of winds of change on floral symbolism and also the different flower color meanings.
Flower color meanings in the Victorian era
In the early 1800s, learning flower symbolism was a favorite pastime, and almost every house had conservatories built for housing exotic and local plants and flowers. Besides this; many homeowners in this period also had books in their libraries which discussed the ‘language of flowers’. The earliest book on Flower color meanings was written and published in 1819 by Charlotte De Latour.
During this era, sending or receiving flowers was a way in which prospective suitors or romantics conveyed secret messages to each other. Likewise, flower color meanings could also indicate lack of interest to turn away unwanted attention. Thus, if a lady received a red rose from a person she was not interested in, she could send back yellow carnations to express ‘disdain’.
Some of the other common flower color meanings in this era were as follows:
- Bluebells– Kindness
- White violets– Innocence
- Rosemary– Remembrance
- Peony– Bashfulness
- Tulips– Passion
- Wallflowers– Faithfulness in adversity
Flower symbolism could also be negative in that; Rhododendrons symbolized ‘danger’, pomegranates meant ‘conceit’ and aloe as ‘bitterness’. As early as 1903, pansies represented homosexuality and dressing over-elegantly was termed as ‘pansying up’. Through Edouard Bourdet’s play, The Captive, violets came to be associated with lesbianism for decades.
Flower symbolism across cultures and pop culture
In Hinduism, flowers represent different elements. The word Pushpa (which means flowers in Sanskrit) stands for ‘ether’. Flowers of various colors are used for appeasing the hundred odd deities in this culture. Red hibiscus flowers are used for worshipping Lord Ganesha, while Lord Vishnu likes white fragrant flowers such as jasmine, white lilies etc.
In Buddhism, the red or pink colored lotus is very important symbolically. In Christianity, flowers of different colors symbolize springtime or even ‘children of light’. In European countries, right since the pre-renaissance era, various flowers color meanings were depicted by great artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Georgia O’Keefe in their paintings, which are studied extensively today in Art schools for their hidden symbolism.
Flower color symbolism has been depicted in children’s literature (Grimm Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson), stories, poems and love songs. Which flower is found most in songs? You guessed it-The rose! Kiss from a rose, Red Roses for a Blue Lady and Paper roses are just a few songs with this popular flower mentioned in them.
Popular flower symbolism today
Today, flowers are gifted or sent on various occasions and for many reasons. Flowers are almost always appreciated and they can express many things which words cannot. You can also have cakes decorated with flowers made from icing sugar in different colors. Some of the modern flower symbolism today includes:
- Roses- Red roses indicate love, romance and passion. Yellow roses mean joy. White and red roses mean Unity.
- Orchids symbolize rare beauty and strength.
- Lilacs are for first love.
- Sunflowers can be gifted to spouses to show happiness and joy. These flowers always face the sun and thus express true adoration.
- Tulips- These have different meanings for different colors. Yellow tulips give tribute to a person’s sunny smile and red tulips symbolize love and fame.
We already know how influential colors can be on our emotions and feelings. The colors we select for our hair, clothes, or décor can reveal our personalities or even how we are feeling at a particular time. Color selection can vary with season, the occasion or moment as well as the person being gifted or doing the gifting. Likewise, flower color meanings are steeped in traditions and some of this symbolism dates back to Biblical times, or even earlier. The right mix of colors can enhance and emphasize. Choosing the right flower color meanings can make all the difference between “like and love”.
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