Plant a Victorian Talking Garden

Cultures have given meaning to herbs, flowers, and other plants since ancient times. These symbolic meanings became particularly well developed and socially important during the Victorian era. During this time, the language of flowers was formalized and published in many books of “floriography,” and people took great care in selecting what flowers to wear, to decorate their homes, to plant in their gardens, and to give to a loved one all based on this language. Imagination and Understanding The language of flowers became quite complex at this time. Small wearable “talking bouquets” called tussie-mussies or nosegays were popular gifts, with which the giver could convey a detailed message using the language of flowers. A young bachelor could convey not just his interest or disinterest in a lady by giving her a bouquet, but subtler messages as well.

The type of flowers, their arrangement, the size of the flowers and the bouquet, and whether he handed it to her with his left or right hand all imparted a particular meaning to one simple bouquet. No need to write a love note when you could convey a whole “letter” just by how you put together a flower arrangement! For example, here’s an interesting "thank you" talking bouquet to make for someone who helped you think through a difficult problem. Hydrangea is for understanding, and lupine is for imagination. Growing a Victorian garden in your own yard can be a fun way to create planting combinations that are both beautiful and symbolic. We still use this language when giving red roses to symbolize love. But with the Victorian language of flowers, you can develop that message with the addition of tulips for passion, phlox for soul mates, peony for a happy marriage, or lavender for devotion. A Young Man's Pleasure This simple arrangement of red corn poppies and bachelor buttons would be suitable landscaping for a young man’s garden. The red poppies symbolize pleasure, and the bachelor buttons are – as the name implies – the flower of single gentleman. When you read your garden according to the language of flowers, you’ll be glad for dandelion, which represent faithfulness and happiness. Grow some wisteria over your garden gate to say “Welcome!” to guests. Plant faithful iris and spiritual passionflower in a prayer garden. Devoted myrtle is great for a garden loveseat, but not deceitful mock orange!

Here’s a list of a few more flowers and their meanings for your garden:

  • Apple Blossom – good fortune Aster – love and daintiness
  • Carnation – devoted love (with the exception of striped, which meant a refusal)
  • Crocus – cheerfulness
  • Daffodil – chivalry
  • Daisy – innocence and purity
  • Flax – Domesticity
  • Hyacinth – consistency
  • Ivy – Affection Lilac – beauty
  • Love In A Mist – perplexity
  • Mint – virtue
  • Oak – bravery
  • Rosemary – remembrance
  • Sage – wisdom
  • Straw Flower – agreement
  • Sweet Pea – blissful pleasure
  • Sunflower – adoration
  • Violet – Modesty

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