Living the Sweet Life: Floriography

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and award-
winning columnist.

There’s lots of reasons we send flowers, usually for a celebration of a holiday or season, and in all cases when someone dies. Flowers signify a gesture of caring and thoughtfulness, but did you know each flower has historical heritage tracing back specific meanings for both the sender and the receiver?

During the reign of Queen Victoria, each bouquet was carefully planned because the chosen petals were a cryptic message for their recipient. How divinely splendid it would be today to receive an ivy geranium from a young man near prom rather than a text? In the olden days, the young lady would know that his message was to go to the dance! Emotions and intentions translated through the gift of flowers are not a new concept; however, today we often grab a bouquet and send a bunch without paying attention to the meaning. Shame on us!

The types of flowers chosen have meanings as do the colors chosen. For example, red roses declare passion and love, but selecting the same petal in a hue of yellow states jealousy and awareness of infidelity. Blue flowers are a wish of health and happiness and purple are full of enchantment and infatuation. White is always, as they say whishy washy, because they are a significant statement of purity and innocence, hence the bridal bouquets. But white flowers are also heavily associated with grief and death. Lilies, in particular, having a heavy fragrance made a nice aroma around a very dead corpse!

I have always loved flowers. I have loved to paint them, smell them and enjoy them in my daily life. Some of my favorites both in the garden and in the floral shops are the Peony, Lily of the Valley, Lavender and Hydrangea. The Peony represents riches, and her pink petals are associated with old-fashioned romance and modesty. The Lily of the Valley rings in my favorite time of the year with long warm days of summer ahead. It is associated with May birthdays, and both my parents and my Brian have those. Lavender reminds me of my Aunt Lona, as her favorite color was purple, and the scent is calming and induces lazy naps reminding me of childhood in the mountains. The Hydrangea symbolizes gratitude and sincerity. There was a huge bush that grew at the base of my deck at my childhood home that had been transplanted from my father’s childhood home. It was my Nana’s bush, and it bloomed its hearty petals with a burst of flamboyant purples and pinks, depending on what she put in the soil. Granny carried Hydrangeas tucked in her bouquet, and for me, it reminds me of both my grandmothers.

The next time you decide to pick a bouquet for a loved one, think about the message that you are sending. Although it’s a kind gesture to take the time to send flowers at all, it’s even more special when there’s a secret message behind the displays of pinks, reds, yellows and purples, and of course, white!

Take Care of YOU!