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The language of flowers - Natalia Willmott

The language of flowers

Flowers around the world take on different meanings, bring different stories, create traditions and are part of rituals. With time they have increased in symbolism. They have been used to brighten peoples homes and have been immortalised in various art forms and homeware.

In the Victorian period a favourite pass time was Floriagraphy or the language of flowers, through flowers and arrangements secret messages could be sent and sentiments revealed.  Kate Greenaway’s Floral Poetry and the language of flowers was one of  the most widely referenced floral dictionaries of the period.

When Van Gogh painted his sunflowers, some which adorned the walls of this home in Arles little did he know how symbolic and how recognised they would become. It is crazy to think that some of these paintings he was paid the equivalent of £60 for and now they fetch millions!




“If roses tried to be sunflowers, they would lose their beauty; and if sunflowers tried to be roses, they would lose their strength.”

  Matshona Dhliwayo



The spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro was the first European to discover the sunflower in Tahuantinsuyo, Peru in 1532. The Incas revered the sun god Inti and worshipped the sunflower as that symbol.

Sunflowers are the National flower of Ukraine and symbolise the strength and the power of the sun. They are often depicted painted on houses and on everyday homeware as can be seen in the village of Petrykivka where this folk tradition started.

They today are the symbol of Ukraine and the strength of that nation.

A Ukrainian woman in the port city of Henichesk has won widespread admiration for her bravery after the BBC posted footage of her offering sunflower seeds to an armed Russian soldier on 25 February 2022. She told him: "Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here."



"One Perfect Rose"

A single flow'r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet--
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
"My fragile leaves," it said, "his heart enclose."
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it's always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

Dorothy Parker






Roses are a way to say "I love you" and symbolise romance, beauty and courage. There are so many meanings attached to the rose and each colour too. It is one of the most painted flowers.

Aphrodite, the goddess of Love, in Greek mythology, is said to have created the rose a combination of her tears and the blood of her lover Adonis when he was gored by a boar and dying in her arms.

It's no great surprise that so many countries have the rose as their national flower including the US, the UK and the Maldives.




“If I had grown up in that house I couldn't have loved it more, couldn't have been more familiar with the creak of the swing, or the pattern of the clematis vines on the trellis, or the velvety swell of land as it faded to gray on the horizon, and the strip of highway visible -just barely – in the hills, beyond the trees. The very colors of the place had seeped into my blood(...)

Donna Tartt


The clematis grows easily on walls and trellises and can grow up to 40 feet and they can represents the beauty of mental strength. Originally from China, they came to Europe via Japan in the early 19th century.



“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.” – Masaru Emoto



The lotus flower represents spiritual enlightenment and rebirth. It's roots are latched in mud, it disappears in the river every night, a process called nyctinasty to reappear in the morning all beautiful and white.

It is the National flower of India and is considered sacred in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Hindu deities like Brahma the god of creation, Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and good fortune and Saraswati the goddess of knowledge are depicted sitting on a lotus flower. 



Through the dancing poppies stole A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul.
John Keats


With the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th centuries poppies grew over the grave of soldiers in barren lands of Flanders. The same thing happened during the First World War where they churned up on the fields where fighting happened. 

 Poppies represent everything from sleep to death and more recently are a symbol of remembrance and hope for peace.



I was left alone there in the company of the orchids, roses and violets, which, like people waiting beside you who do not know you, preserved a silence which their individuality as living things made all the more striking, and warmed themselves in the heat of a glowing coal fire..

Marcel Proust



The orchid has meant to have appeared nearly 200 million years ago in the Jurassic period.

It is the national flower of Singapore  and in particular the Vanda Miss Joaquim which was created in the 1890's  by Singapore-based Armenian horticulturalist, Agnes Joaquim from cross-breeding two flower species. Singapore's National orchid garden has more than 1000 species.

'Orchidelirium' in the early 19th century became a trend in the rich European high society to collect orchids.  William Spencer Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire was one of the first to adhere to this craze. sending his gardner across the world to collect wild and rare species of orchids.  


Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains - daisy chains - of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridicilous, always strange.Andy Warhol


  The daisies are a symbol of innocence and purity and often represent new beginnings. They are often said to be the National Flower of Denmark as they are loved by Queen Margrethe II and were imported from the Canary Islands. According to a Celtic legend, whenever an infant died, God sprinkled daisies over the earth to alleviate parents pain.



I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
William Wordsworth


The Welsh for daffodil is ‘Cenhinen Bedr’ which means St Peter’s Leek. It is worn on St David's day on the 1st March. Daffodils have an uplifting significance around the world , one of the first flowers to appear in spring and reappear year after year. Shall we finish on this good note?


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