In short: floriography is a symbolic, colourful and bizarrely complicated way of having a chat. Although an ancient idea, the conditions were just right in the 19th century for floriography, the ‘language of flowers’, to bloom.

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Young lovers needed a way around the rules and etiquette of their repressive society, so flowers were each assigned a meaning or emotion, which were then given in bouquets – also known as a nosegay or tussiemussie – to spell out a clandestine message. There was no way of learning every single meaning, and they weren’t standardised anyway, so a heap of dictionaries were published to help.

Yet great care was still required. Love could be expressed in hundreds of ways, including with red carnations – but not striped ones. Those were tantamount to a rejection.

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This article was taken from issue 65 of BBC History Revealed magazine

Authors

Jonny Wilkes
Jonny WilkesFreelance writer

Jonny Wilkes is a former staff writer for BBC History Revealed, and he continues to write for both the magazine and HistoryExtra. He has BA in History from the University of York.

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