With the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, just days away, 42 per cent of the nation will buy flowers to show loved ones we care. 16 per cent will treat their wife, 11 per cent their girlfriend and eight per cent their mum. However, men aren’t left out – five per cent of husbands and four percent of boyfriends will receive a bouquet of blooms. Five per cent will buy them for a friend.
But many flowers have unexpected symbolisms. Lucy Matthewson, Horticulture Buyer at Waitrose Florist said: “Developed by the Victorians, ‘floriography’ was commonly used to convey secret messages that etiquette of the day deemed unacceptable to share openly. Over time, opinion and understanding of flower symbolisms has changed and developed, but it’s incredibly interesting to look back at some of the messages our ancestors were trying to give through their bouquets.”
To mark Valentine’s Day, Waitrose Florist asked 2,000 Brits whether they can identify the meaning of blooms, to help the nation understand the original symbolisms of some of our favourites. Here’s what they found:
Perhaps predictably, as the go-to romantic flower of choice, 70 per cent of people rightly identified the original symbolism of red roses as being ‘love’. However, one in ten (10 per cent) still had no idea what this colour of bloom represented. And many people are unaware that different colours of roses have alternative meanings – pink blooms symbolise ‘grace’, orange mean ‘fascination’, burgundy signify ‘unconscious beauty’.
Tulips originated in the Middle East, before being brought to Europe in the sixteenth century. However, 39 per cent of Brits don’t know what tulips symbolise and a further 20 per cent think they symbolise nothing. Only five per cent of romantics identified their true meaning – ‘a declaration of love’.
Freesias are named after German botanist and doctor Friedrich Freese and were brought to Europe from their native home of southern Africa, in the eighteenth century. 34 per cent of respondents don’t know what freesias symbolise and a further 19 percent think they have no meaning. However, nearly one in 10 (nine per cent) rightly chose the meaning of ‘lasting friendship’.
Orchids were well known in the Victorian era, when almost 2,000 species were in existence – coming to Europe from Central America, Africa, India and the Far East. 31 per cent of people are unaware of what orchids symbolise, but 14 per cent rightly guessed ‘refined beauty’ as their meaning – perfect as an alternative to red roses as a Valentine’s choice.
The white Madonna lily is one of the oldest in cultivation and was thought to have been dispersed throughout Europe by Roman soldiers. 39 per cent of people think lilies mean ‘sympathy’, when in fact, their original meaning is ‘majesty’, which is best described as ‘impressive beauty’. Only five per cent correctly identified this and a further 17 per cent had no idea of the symbolic meaning of the bloom.
Carnations originated as a plant from southern Europe and the Victorians were particular fans. Pink carnations could be a choice for a lost love, or the one that got away – their true meaning is ‘I will never forget you’, which only eight per cent of the nation rightly identified.
Irises have been in Britain since the sixteenth century. They have an unusual meaning – ‘message’ which only 4 per cent of people rightly guessed. In Victorian times, this translated to ‘My compliments. I have a message for you.’ 38 per cent of people couldn’t identify what they symbolised and 17 per cent thought they had no meaning.