Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The secrets of Valentine's Day flowers

Particular meanings–from romantic to religious–have for centuries been attributed to different flowers, yet it was the Victorians who developed these ideas into a sophisticated language of flower symbolism.

Here, we look at the secret meanings behind two traditional Valentine's Day flowers; the crocus and the rose.

The Crocus

Lasting devotion; cheerfulness; gladness; Valentine’s Day flower

© CICO Books

The crocus is dedicated to St Valentine, the Christian martyr, after whom St Valentine’s Day was named. Valentinus was a Roman physician who dispensed natural remedies, and a Christian priest who prayed for his patients. Practicing Christianity was a crime in the reign of Claudius II, so Valentinus was arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. The jailor’s blind daughter was one of his patients and, just before his execution, Valentinus handed the jailor a note for the blind girl in which he had wrapped a saffron crocus, the source of the healing herb, saffron. As the girl opened the note her sight returned and the first flower she saw was the yellow crocus shining like the sun. The physician had written the message: “From your Valentine” and the day was February 14, 270 CE.

The saffron crocus has the most meanings attached to it around the world. It has spiritual associations for a number of faiths. In Hinduism, for example, saffron is associated with the Supreme Being. Saffron is also known for its culinary uses and for its medicinal properties—in some folk remedies it was believed to be an aphrodisiac.

The Rose

Love; romance; beauty; passion; courage

© CICO Books

The red rose is the ultimate flower symbol of love and the traditional romantic Valentine’s Day gift. For the Victorians, the number of red roses in a bouquet conveyed a particular meaning, and red roses might be combined with roses in other colors to offer further meanings.

Here is a guide to how many roses to send
a loved one to convey the right message:

A single red rose: “I still love you;” “You are the one;”
“Love at first sight”
Two roses, one red and one white: mutual love or desire; unity
—often symbolizing commitment, such as a forthcoming marriage
Three red roses: “I love you”
Four roses: considered unlucky

In any color combination:
Six roses: “I want to be yours”
Seven roses: “I am infatuated”
Ten roses: “You are perfect”
12 roses: “Be mine”
50 roses: “My love is unconditional”

Roses of other colors

White: “You’re heavenly;” charm; wisdom; secrecy; sympathy;
humility; youthfulness; and innocence
(a withered white rose means death or loss of innocence)
Pale pink: “Please believe me;” “You’re so lovely;”
grace; perfect happiness
Combining pink and white roses in a bouquet:
“I love you still and always will”
Deep pink: “Thank you;” gratitude
Orange: “I want you;” desire or enthusiasm
Pale coral: “Let’s get together;” sincerity; forming a pact; immortality
Yellow: “Welcome back;” “Remember me;” friendship and joy;
sent to a lover can also mean infidelity and jealousy
Lilac: “I am enchanted by you;” love at first sight

For more flower symbolism, including what the flowers you like say about you, buy The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray, with illustrations by Sarah Perkins from CICO Books for just £9.99