Floriography and The Meaning of Rose Colours

Floriography and The Meaning of Rose Colours

March 5, 2019 Off By Keep It Green

The language of flowers. A means of communication through the use or arrangement of flowers.

During the 19th century Florography was particularly on trend. In Victorian society, covert floral messages would communicate feelings to a suitor which were simply not to be spoken aloud in civilised society. Small bouquets known as tussue-mussies would be used to conceal a private dialogue between the furtive couple. As well as boldly presenting the suitor with more recognisable declarations of hope and intentions, such as the rose. Although how these messages were supposed to remain invisible baffles me, as by all accounts those in high society were all at it. They carried floral dictionaries with them on the off chance, and wore the posies like broaches and fashion accessories for all to see and interpret. Sort of bragging about it really.

I prefer the idea of such coded shenanigans concealed in something more practical, such as the nosegay, a small collection of flowers and strong scented herbs to mask the stench coming up from the unsanitised, fetid city street life. 

The symolism of Rose Colours

The Meaning of Rose Colours in the UK

Not a pro-Brexit statement, but as with any language, a phrase or word can be interpreted in many different and sometimes opposing degrees depending on the country in which they are delivered. The same applies when giving roses. You have been forewarded traveller.

The Red Rose

The traditional symbol of love and romance … The colour of lust, beauty and perfection. A flower given to change lives. Talked about in more detail here.

A Single Red Rose is commonly given as a decloration of love for “The One”. Simply stating “I love you”.

A dozen red roses.

Other than being rather fancy and opulent in bouquet size, a dozen roses signifies a declaration of love for every month of the year. 

The number twelve itself being one of the most powerful numbers throughout history. To highlight just a few, hours on a clock, signs of the zodiac and there were twelve recorded supreme Olympian dieties, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes and Hestia (or Dionysus. It get’s complicated and far too casually incestuous). 

The Pink Rose

Gratitude, admiration, grace, gentleness, gracefulness (very shabby chic these days).

Pink is also the adopted colour in association with the fight against breast cancer. 

Pink roses are an expression of friendship and platonic love. Given as a gentler expression than that of the boudoir red, nothing subtle there.

The Yellow Rose

Bright, cheerful and joyful. Happiness and sunny. Excellent for cheering people up. Yellow roses make a great ‘Get well soon’ gift.

The colour of friendship and freedom. Some say ideal for new mothers and newlyweds, but I’m not so sure. Read on.

Accordign to legend, it may also be interpreted as the colour of infidelity and jealousy. 

You see, apparently, the Prophet Mohammed was tormented by the idea of his wife Aisha being unfaithful, whilst he was away fighting a war. To test his concerns the archangel Gabriel told Mohammed that the next time he saw Aisha he should ask his wife to drop whatever she was carrying into the river, if she was unfaithful it would change colour. When he retuned she greeted him with a bouquet of red roses (we all know what that means). Although confused she did as she was asked and dropped them into the river, where they instantly turned yellow. Well the story goes that he eventually forgave her, so all was good in the end. But when giving those yellow roses of betrayal and infidelity, it may be wise to include a card to make your sentiments of happiness and good will as clear as the blessed waters of a holy river.

The White Rose

The traditional symbol of purity, chastity innocence and charm. 

A spiritual symbol and the bridal rose, signifying new beginnings. The pureness of love and associated with reverence and honour. Which also makes the white rose fitting for departed loved ones and rememberance. We planted the Iceburg white rose on top of our cat’s grave. He was also white.

Orange Roses

A colour which envokes energy, entheusiasm and excitement. 

Perhaps a tussue-mussies centre piece for a somewhat firey, exciting relashionship communicating enthusiasm and desire. 

Lavender Roses

Characterising mystery. The lavender, lilac or purple rose would sybolise passion and enchantment. Love at first sight. 

Providing an atmosphere of majesty and velvety splendor.

Peach Coloured Roses

A warm and caring colour, one of gratitude and appreciation.

Cream Coloured Roses

Charm, thoughtfullness and kindness.

Not as loaded with symbolism as the white rose, the cream tones are softer and offer a respectful calm. Although easily moving into the yellow spectrum, so be sure of what you buy.

Keep it simple or you may present a mixed message, although don’t be afraid to play a little with your rose bouquet, adding a little mystery and intrigue to your tussue-mussies.

Ever wondered how the Rose came to be a Rose? I explore Mount Olympus and find some interesting stories about the Greek Gods in my post about Roses here. Hope you like it.

Oh, and this month I am mainly planting Roses. I went a little overboard and found that one by one, I’d bought quite a few rose bushes, about 12 I think and then got some for my birthday, which was lovely. So the garden is very much rose themed this year and for ever more. Some in pots and others in the ground. I shall document it all.

You know what, apart from the Red Rose and it’s loaded lushes ruby symbolism, I don’t think you need bother about the translation of rose colours very much. People are generally happy to receive flowers at any time for any occasion, especially when unexpected. It’s a lovely gesture all said and done, and only the cynical and suspicious or the guilty would question their motives.

What I am finding very interesting in all of this, is that colours have adopted traditional social meanings, representing emotions, thoughts and deeds. That such an abstract language has been accepted at every social level and throughout history is fascinating. I may need to dig deeper and consult further with the Olympian Gods and Mohammed.

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