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The Language of Flowers

References to flowers and their fragrances have enriched English Literature for centuries with Shakespeare as possibly the most famous playwright to adopt this device. Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 4 Scene V ‘’There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that’s for thoughts. There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it herb-grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end,–‘’

In this moving scene, Ophelia has gone mad. And Shakespeare gives her a speech heavily enriched with the images of flowers; in fact, she was speaking the language of flowers, or floriography. In the Victorian era, flowers and plants were used to send coded messages, often to express forbidden or socially unacceptable feelings providing an elegant, eloquent method of communication. Floriography had originated in Persia and was brought to Europe in the 17th century. Shakespeare’s audience would have known exactly what Ophelia was talking about. Today the hidden meaning of many flowers has been lost although even the most unromantic of men will be clear that red roses are a symbol of love or at the very least know that they are an appropriate gift for Valentine’s Day!

Below is a translation of the flowers’ meaning that Shakespeare so expertly employed to express Ophelia’s feelings. Rosemary means remembrance; Ophelia must have been remembering her father as well as Hamlet. Pansies are for thoughts, as Ophelia says; specifically “you are in my thoughts.” Fennel is strength, seen as strength in the sense of hardness. Columbine is folly. Rue means regret, of course, and is also a variant of the name Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. Violets are for modesty, virtue, and affection. Some useful meanings:

Iris - Faith; hope; wisdom and valor
Daffodil - Regard, Unrequited Love, Sunshine, Respect
Ivy - Fidelity and friendship
Calla lily – Magnificent Beauty
Oak leaves – Bravery
Olive branch – Peace
Parsley - Useful Knowledge
Poppy - Eternal Sleep, Oblivion, Imagination
White Rose – Innocence, Purity, Humility, I am Worthy of You, Secrecy, Silence
Cattail- Peace, Prosperity
Red Rose – Love, I love you, Respect, Beauty
Rose bud Love; I love you; Desire; Passion; Courage; Respect; True Love; Romantic Love; Congratulations; Job Well Done
Rhododendron- Danger, Beware, I am Dangerous
Freesia - Sweetness, Friendship and Trust
Sweet Pea Delicate pleasures; Goodbye; Blissful pleasure; Departure; Thank you for a lovely time
Mimosa, Bloom Concealed love; Sensitivity
Peony Bashfulness; Happy marriage; Prosperity;
Gardenia Purity; Sweet love; You are lovely; Secret love; Refinement
Bluebell Humility; Everlasting love;

It seems an extra special meaning can exist in the choice of a fragranced gift if the scent selected not only carries a pleasing aroma but also can convey a deeper meaning to the lucky recipient…perhaps there is more to the saying ‘’Say it with Flowers’ than we realise!

We hope that each scent in every gift range at Heathcote & Ivory carries that extra special feel good factor to delight the person who gives as well as the lucky person who receives. We like to think of it this way, ’’I like the gifts I get but I love the gifts I give.’’


Happy Shopping from us all at Heathcote & Ivory x

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