Life And Style: The Victorian Language Of Flowers (Lesson Two)

As Valentine’s Day is very nearly upon us, Behind The Past has decided to aid and abet you in your romantic endeavours. And what better way to woo your beau than with the language of flowers? While some might claim that French is the language of love, this is only really helpful if you listened to your governess, or to your teacher in the schoolroom. No, the language of flowers is readily available to us all. And, it allows you to express your feelings, without in any way compromising that stiff upper lip you’ve spent so many years perfecting.

The first part of today’s lesson will consist of an overview of potentially useful flowers for Valentine’s Day. Then, we will move on to considering some hypothetical romantic intrigues, and how they can be dealt with using the language of flowers.

  • Acacia (Yellow): Secret Love
  • Ambrosia: Love Returned
  • Catchfly (Red): Youthful Love
  • Cedar Leaf: I Live For Thee
  • Chrysanthemum (Red): I Love
  • Coreopsis Arkansa: Love At First Sight
  • Daisy (Wild): I Will Think Of It
  • Honey Flower: Love Sweet And Secret
  • Honeysuckle: Generous And Devoted Affection
  • Lemon Blossom: Fidelity In Love
  • Lilac (Purple): First Emotion Of Love
  • Orange Blossoms: Your Purity Equals Your Loveliness
  • Rose (Austrian): Thou Are All That Is Lovely
  • Rose (Maiden Blush): If You Love Me, You Will Find It Out
  • Tulip (Red): Declaration Of Love

So, now let us ponder these following, possible situations:

A well-established gentleman has been a long-standing acquaintance of a lady, and is a good friend to her family. He believes he has fallen in love, and wishes to make this known to the lady.

In this instance, it might be prudent for the gentleman who declares himself in this manner to convey the depth and consistency of his feelings. Perhaps, then, he might send a bunch of yellow acacias and lemon blossoms. If he wishes to really push the boat out, so to speak, he might add hawthorn or ivy. In this way, he is saying that his love is both constant and secret. If he chooses to add hawthorn, he is hinting that he is hopeful. If he adds ivy, he underlines the fidelity of the lemon blossoms. Ivy also refers to marriage.

The lady, in turn, holds the gentleman in very high regard. Once aware of his feelings, she would do nothing to injure them, but feels she must carefully consider her own before committing herself to an engagement. 

The lady, if she feels it prudent to send a token to the gentleman, could send back some wild daisies. This way, she lets him know that she is thinking. If she wants to be kind, she could add some honeysuckle, to remind him that she has a ‘generous and devoted’ affection for him.

A gentleman finds that he has fallen in love with a lady who has only recently ‘come out’ into Society. He has made his affection known, and she fled the scene of the declaration, not knowing how to respond. The young gentleman is of an understanding disposition, and wishes to reassure the lady that he still holds her in high regard.

To begin, we would caution the hypothetical young lady to be more circumspect in her actions. A lady should not really run away if a kind and respectable gentleman makes a polite proposal; it’s not kind. She can refuse him, of course, but she should try and remain dignified, courteous and seek to spare his feelings.

Nevertheless, the gentleman might consider sending some orange blossoms and maybe some ox eve. If he is feeling bold, or wants to push his suit, he could add some forget-me-nots. The orange blossoms will praise the young woman’s purity and the ox eve will tell her that he is willing to be patient. The forget-me-nots, naturally, are a plea not to be forgotten and suggest true love

Other flowers which might also be appropriate are white rosebuds and white lilacs. The white rosebuds will recall her recent girlhood and the white lilacs her youthful innocence.

Lastly, a gentleman has grievously offended his intended bride. She is refusing to see or speak to him. He decides that he will send flowers, to try and win back her affection.

In cases such as these, a gentleman really ought to ‘go all out’, to use the modern turn of phrase. He should also strongly resolve not to get himself into such a scrape in the future.

Behind The Past would suggest red tulips, as a declaration of love. He should also consider adding Austrian roses, to let her know that she is all that he considers lovely. Cedar leaf might also be a good idea, letting the lady know that he lives for her. While normally frowned upon, obvious flattery real is acceptable in situations such as these.

To conclude, Behind The Past wishes you all the best of luck and every happiness on Valentine’s Day. We cannot, however, accept any responsibility for failed declarations of love and affection.


Greenaway, Kate, The Language Of Flowers, (London: George Routledge and Sons) [First Published 1884].

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