Say it with Flowers - by Alison Bruce

"To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat." 
Beverly Nichols

In the social circles where marriages were arranged to further the power, position and fortunes of the family, love was not the leading cause of weddings. Since flowers were an innocent gift, as likely to be given as a gesture of thanks, they made discrete messengers between star-crossed, or more likely parent-crossed lovers.

Flowers were the 
emoticons of the past. Each had a meaning which ranged from "affection" to "you may hope". And like emoticons, they could be misinterpreted.

A Floral Love Story

He sent her a posy of red daisy, red carnation, cedar, and nutmeg geranium.

"You are more beautiful than you know. My heart aches for you. Think of me. I expect a meeting."

The next day, she picked a striped carnation and dropped it near him when she was out walking with her sisters.

"I can't."

Undeterred, the next day he sent a pure white gardenia with white daisies and maidenhair fern.

"Ours is a secret love. I will be discrete. I'll never tell."

Since daisies also mean innocence and gardenias can mean beauty, her mother never suspected her daughter's admirer of unbridled lust.

She dropped a solid colored carnation.


Secret meetings followed, with each falling hopelessly in love with the other. However, she was a slave to family duty. As her arranged marriage neared, she vowed never to meet him again. She tried to find trumpet flowers, but they weren't in season.

However, roses are always in season as long as one has access to a hot house. He sent her a dozen coral roses, a sign of his ardor and deep pockets.

"I desire you."

Overcome, she tried talking to her parents. Her lover had wealth, but no position. They wanted both. In fact they had a wealthy lord lined up to marry her. He sent her white carnations for the innocence and purity she didn't quite possess.

All the flowers her lover sent were, from then on, discarded before she saw them.
At this point, life threw the couple a twist. 

She put a vase of pussy-willows in the front window.

"I'm with child."

"What child?" he thought. Then he went pale.

The next day he wore huge spider chrysanthemum on his lapel. He waited outside her house until she answered his question.

"Will you elope with me?"

She nodded, yes.

Flower meanings from


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