With Valentine’s Day upon us the shop windows are mainly adorned in red: hearts, roses and chocolate boxes. There will be huge sales in bouquets of twelve red roses. But why has this become the must-have Valentine’s gift?
Firstly roses have been linked with love throughout mythology and history: the Greeks used rose petals in love potions; roses are said to be the favourite flower of Venus, the Roman Goddess of love and beauty; Cleopatra reportedly covered her palace with petals to give off a beautiful scent. Rose petals were also costly. Vast amounts were needed to make perfumes and pot-pouris, so they also became synonymous with luxury.
But red is a strong colour, associated with passion, energy and strength and the Romans used red rose petals as confetti to greet returning armies.
Twelve is an important number in many cultures, forming the basis of completed cycles such as days, years and signs of the zodiac. So, a dozen red roses give the message of love, passion, luxury and completeness in one simple bouquet.
During the Victorian era, the giving of flowers conveyed a message. Both the colour and type of flower given had a meaning. This probably arose because much of the population were illiterate and it was a way to express feelings to others. The Victorians, with their desire for order, put all these meanings together in floriographies and the make-up of a bouquet became very important. Our use of red roses for love and white heather for luck has probably been passed down from these beliefs.
Either you or your loved one may wish to move away from the somewhat predictable red-rose symbol of love and look to other flowers to convey your romantic message. Here is a little guide (thanks to the Victorians) of what is appropriate.
What to send
Whilst red roses symbolised passionate love, pink roses meant friendship and white roses love and devotion. If red tulips were given it was a declaration of love and red carnations indicated that love was reciprocated. Bright yellow flowers also denoted strong feelings: the daffodil symbolised chivalry and the sunflower adoration.
A simple bunch of violets symbolises faithful love.
Interestingly pastel coloured flowers symbolised more romantic love. Lilacs were for first love, bluebells for constancy, violets for faithful love, primrose for young love, white carnations for endearment and forget-me-nots for true love.
What not to send
Of course there were many flowers that held a more negative message and they weren’t just the poisonous ones like hemlock. Snowdrops represented consolation, cranesbill envy and the white cherry, deception. The rather innocuous weed, common furmitory, represents hatred and woe-betide you if you give or receive marigolds as they symbolise despair, grief and jealousy!
So there you are. You might just want to check that you are not giving out a bad message with your flowers.