2018-02-08 / From The Garden

Valentine Flowers Can Speak Your Love

By Cynthia Gibson


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Valentine’s Day is almost here, and with its approach come thoughts of flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

Most of us associate the holiday with love and romance. Before Pope Gelasius intervened, changing it to a Christian holiday, it was indeed a heck of a Bacchanal, with more wine and nudity than you can imagine.

There is a more refined, enchanting way to look at this special day. The Victorians had it right, with candlelit dinners, lovely bouquets of flowers, and rich chocolates, whose lavishly designed boxes were more important than the candy they held.

The bouquets of flowers were actually used to send messages to the recipients.

Mostly dressed in a white paper doily and placed in a cone-shaped posy holder, the “nosegay” was a highly discreet and very romantic gesture. The coded message allowed the sender to express feelings that could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society.

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), in the book, "Language of Flowers," matches flowers with sentiments. For example, the jonquil represents, “I desire a return of affection.” Cedar leaf? “I live for thee.”

There have been scores of books written about what different flowers symbolize, and the thought of these small “love message” nosegays is charming to this day.

Not only did a type of flower have a special meaning (the study of this is called “floriography”), but the color of the flower also had its own significance. So, choose the color, this Valentine’s Day, that matches the emotion.

The colors translate as follows: red (passion, love, romance), white (innocence, purity), yellow (friendship), pink (sweetness) and lavender (charm). Any one of these colors would make a lovely bouquet and send your message, which you can also deliver in person upon presentation of the bouquet.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, it truly is the thought that counts. Even a single red rose and a tiny box of sweets, or a lovely card, can say it all. Just do not forget!

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