Columns, In the Garden

Valentine Flowers Have Special Meanings

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Pink roses have many different meanings, conveying romantic love and affection, but also gratitude and appreciation, especially for mothers, aunts and other female relatives.

by Deborah J. Benoit, Extension Master Gardener, University of Vermont

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show those we care for just how much they mean to us. Often, that means a gift of flowers. Throughout history flowers have held special meanings, making a gift of flowers more than just a pretty present.

Floriography, also known as the language of flowers, dates to the Victorian Era (1837-1901), where flowers were used to pass messages wordlessly. Even today the meanings associated with flowers can serve as a subtle form of communication or add an extra layer of sentiment. Their implied message can even add a bit of fun.

Roses symbolized the Goddess of Love (Aphrodite in Greece and Venus in Rome), making them a natural selection for Valentine’s Day. If you want to give the classic Valentine’s flower, select the red rose, sometimes called the lover’s rose.

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While a bouquet of red roses has long been associated with romance, a single red rose has deeper meaning, representing love at first sight or that its recipient is the one and only for one’s love and devotion.

The traditional dozen red roses send a clear message of love and passion. It’s sure to communicate your romantic intentions even to someone unfamiliar with the language of flowers.

A dozen red roses symbolizes a declaration of complete love. A single red rose can represent love at first sight or say its recipient is the one and only object of your love and devotion.

Different colored roses can impart different meanings. A purple rose conveys a message of mystery, enchantment and fascination. White roses, often referred to as the bride’s rose, speak of new beginnings and an open heart. Pink roses can convey romantic love and affection, but they can also show gratitude and appreciation and are often given to mothers and other female relatives.

If you’re looking for something a little different to show your affection, white chrysanthemums symbolize truth and fidelity, and you can say “I love you” with a bouquet of red chrysanthemums. Likewise, red tulips send a message of romance, dedication, admiration and passion.

If it’s friendship you want to convey, say it with a yellow rose. Yellow roses also convey admiration, happiness, warmth and positivity. Sunflowers are another good choice, sending a message of admiration, sunny days and loyalty.

Ranunculus will tell the recipient that you are dazzled by their charms. Say “I’ll never forget you” with pink carnations, or speak of beauty and attraction with calla lilies. Gardenias whisper of secret love, while daisies bring thoughts of innocence or new love.

A mixed bouquet can combine any of these sentiments. Add baby’s breath (eternal love), fern fronds (fascination and sincerity) or ivy (fidelity and affection) for added meaning.

To make Valentine flowers last as long as possible, give those flowers the tender loving care they deserve. Start with a clean vase filled with room temperature water. Add the packet of flower food provided by the florist.

Next, remove all leaves that will fall below the surface of the water. Then, using a sharp knife, give the bottom of each stem a fresh diagonal cut and put the stem immediately in the water.

Display the arrangement out of direct sunlight and away from hot drafts. Check the water level daily and refill as needed. Replace the water completely if it appears cloudy. 

With a little TLC, flowers can continue to reflect your message of love, friendship or gratitude long after Valentine’s Day.

(Deborah J. Benoit is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from North Adams, Mass., who is part of the Bennington County Chapter.)

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