In Defense of Flowers

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel


Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, with all of the candy hearts and ribbon-bound boxes of chocolate associated with the occasion. Social media marks the 14th of February with a barrage of jewelry ads, Instagram posts of perfectly posed kisses and public love letters punctuated with emojis.

For civility’s sake, I am reluctant to say that there is anything inherently wrong with that, but just for a moment, I would like to step away from the devotional time we pay to all of the screens in our lives, and advocate an old-fashioned, forgotten way to share feelings without uttering a word. I am speaking of the language of flowers.

If you’re familiar with the phrase, it may very well bring to mind sentimental drawings of Victorian women swooning at the sight of a bouquet. Personally, I find that image no more ridiculous than gushing over a candlelit dinner in a lengthy Facebook post.

Photo courtesy of Christina Reinwald/

Even without knowing the subtleties of each flower’s meaning, flowers are beautiful, living gifts capable of conveying thoughtfulness and affection throughout many stages of life. Flowers are arranged at births, marriages, anniversaries, graduations, performances and occasions of consolation and sympathy. Their colorful petals are versatile enough to fit any circumstance, yet we give so little thought to the rich meanings each individual bloom once held, especially for two people summoning the courage to pursue love.

This is a gorgeous, romantic form of expression that deserves to make a comeback. Our generation is blessed with the ability to communicate instantaneously with the world around us. But when it comes to saying something truly important, there is a place where words (and emojis) fail us. Relationships are complicated more than ever in a world dominated by hook-up culture and heartache, but flowers are simple.

In the hope of inspiring someone to craft a love message of their own this Valentine’s Day in flowers, I have here a short list of sentimental messages with their corresponding flowers from Kate Greenaway’s “Language of Flowers,” written in 1884.

  • Admiration: Amethyst
  • Amiability: Jasmine
  • Anxious and Trembling: Red Columbine
  • Glorious Beauty: Morning Glory
  • Color of My Life: Coral Honeysuckle
  • Declaration of Love: Red Tulip
  • Early Friendship: Blue Periwinkle
  • Elegance and Grace: Yellow Jasmine
  • Enchantment: Holly Herb
  • First Emotions of Love: Purple Lilac
  • Unchanging Friendship: Arbor Vitae
  • Happy Love: Bridal Rose
  • Hopeless Love: Yellow Tulip
  • I Will Think of It…: Wild Daisy
  • Let Me Go: Butterfly Weed
  • Marriage: Ivy
  • Pleasures of Memory: White Periwinkle
  • Reconciliation: Hazel
  • Return of Happiness: Lily of the Valley
  • Secret Love: Yellow Acacia
  • True Love: Forget Me Not
  • You Will Be My Death: Hemlock

The last may not sound romantic, but once I read it, I had to include it somehow. Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day.