The Victorians were too shy to shout “I fancy the pants off you” and therefore said it with flowers. The craze for floriography would have been a boon to the swain who was too bashful to ask for a date. The meanings behind a posy gift were so diverse that I have a mental image of swarms of the smitten, clutching nosegays in their sweaty hands with volumes of floral dictionaries the size of Encyclopaedia Britannica cuddled under their arms. Differing references may have led to misunderstandings so then as now, best to append a card which clearly states your intentions, either laudable or lascivious.
Camellia “Nobilissima” in the conservatory
Be careful with Carnations, because they’re colour coded. Red says that your heart aches with admiration, yellow states emphatically “no”. White denotes sweet, innocent pure love and stripes, here I paraphrase, mean “only in your dreams and even then, it’s doubtful”. Other countries attach special connotations, including political and religious import. The French regard the whole genus as indicative of misfortune and bad omen. Apart from blond hues of rejection, Chrysanthemums are generally cheerful, you only have to look at them to see why. Fern is magical, fir stands for time. Forget-me-not does what it says on the tin. Garlic symbolizes courage and strength, which you are going to need if you put it in a bouquet.
Chaenomeles japonica (ornamental quince)
Hyacinth seem sporty, so you could be in luck there. Hydrangeas are heartless. Iris stand for all round positivity, being faithful, wise and full of valour. Ivy represents wedded love and day lilies are reserved for your mother. Tiger lilies suggest pride and other orange Lilium are for hatred. What do you do with a bunch of those, whack someone around the ear? Orchid denotes beauty and refinement and is the Chinese symbol for many children, so dish these out with care. Cattleya is a paean to mature charm, so don’t expect simpering thanks in return for a spray of those, necessarily. Roses mean whatever you want, from lavender enchantment and red for passion, to deep crimson representing mourning. Rosebuds all hold good portents and leaves infer hope. Snapdragon indicates deception, sweet pea is a farewell and tulip calls someone a perfect lover.
Galanthus nivalis “Flore Pleno” (double snowdrop)
This is a bit of fun, with as much basis in science as a horoscope. You can’t move to litigation if your message is misinterpreted, so the giving or receiving of spider flowers offering an elopement will not stand up in court. Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day full of warm fuzzy feelings, maybe some chocolates and perhaps some pretty blossoms. If you have a secret admirer, you could be in for a few surprises. I’m trusting that it all makes your heart beat faster.