In honor of the first day of spring, here’s another post about how you can fill your day with lolita-esque things. This time, I’m going to talk about the Victorian language of flowers, or floriography. This version of the secret meanings behind flowers was introduced to Europe in the 18th century from the court of Constantinople of Ottoman Turkey, but the craze really took off in England and America in the 19th century.
I have a reprint of the 1884 version of Kate Greenaway’s The Language of Flowers that functions like a little translation dictionary, with one half the book being organized by flower and the other half being organized by meaning. This last half is particularly fun to play with. Want to know what flower to give to someone to convey remorse? Just flip to the back and find out you should get them some raspberry. My favorite flower meaning belongs to the delightfully snarky Japan rose: beauty is your only attraction. (My housemate and I refer to pretty but pointless/stupid/bad movies as Japan roses.)
While every lolita can learn and use the language of flowers in regular life, lolitas who live in spaces that have a country/rustic or classic lolita vibe probably will be able to use it the most. A big vase of yellow roses or acacia might be wonderful to have (in terms of sentiment) in every home, but they probably wouldn’t go with every decor scheme. (Keep reading to find out what they mean and what they look like.) Back in the days when more people knew the language of flowers, it even came in to play when choosing a perfume, as the scent of a flower still carried the meaning, which I just think is absolutely fascinating.
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Similar to how my book is set up, I’m going to have two sections. The first will be based on flowers I picked because they appear on lolita prints or in lolita accessories. The second section will be a list of meanings particularly suited to lolita matched with the corresponding flowers.
- Love, generally, but they are very nuanced
- White rose – I am worthy of you, innocence
- Burgundy rose – Unconscious beauty
- Yellow rose – Jealousy, declining love; other sources say friendship (Make up your minds, interpreters of flowers!)
- Pink rose – Appreciation, admiration
- Peach rose – Sincerity, gratitude
- Blue violets – Faithfulness
- Yellow violets – Rural happiness
- Sweet violets – Modesty
- A boaster, heartlessness
- I also found sources online saying they can also mean heartfelt emotions or gratitude for being understood.
- Red tulip – Declaration of love
- Variegated tulip – Beautiful eyes
- Yellow tulip – Hopeless love
Fantastic extravagance – Scarlet poppy
You are radiant with charms – Rannunculus
Courage – Black poplar
The perfection of female loveliness – Justicia
Ill-natured beauty – Citron (Chinese/Buddhist symbolism says that this flower stands for luck and happiness.)
Rudeness – Clotbur, Xanthium
Reconciliation – Filbert, Hazel
Betrayed – White catchfly
Disappointment – Carolina Syringa
Misanthropy – Aconite/Wolf’s Bane, Fuller’s Teasel
Horror – Mandrake, dragonswort (My book and other online sources say that snakesfoot also signifies horror, but I absolutely cannot find pictures of the snakesfoot plant or any hint as to what the modern common name might be. If anyone knows this, please tell me!)
Friendship – Acacia, yellow rose (Yellow roses are tricky. See above.)
Elegance and grace – Yellow jasmine
Modesty – Sweet violets
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I hope you all liked this fun little post. Maybe next time you want to get flowers (or fake flowers) to decorate, you can make the decision in terms of sentiment instead of looks. Maybe if you buy perfume, you’ll pick a floral perfume and be conscious of its meaning. Maybe now you’ll coordinate your garden to have only happy, well-meaning flowers. Maybe you won’t ever do anything with this knowledge, which is fine, too. I just really like learning this sort of thing, and hopefully some of you do, too.