Communicating with flowers became the height of fashion under
Queen Victoria, when nineteenth century publishers produced dozens of
dictionaries explaining "floriography" as "The Language of Flowers."
Lovers used the guidebooks to gather nosegays, bouquets and tussie-mussies
--from the medieval tussie (knot of flowers) and mussie (moist moss used
to keep flowers fresh) The Victorians also created special holders for
these bouquets so that a lady could carry her flowers with her, just as
she would her purse.
From the time of Solomon,
the rose has been the flower most closely linked with love. The rose was
sacred to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and was connected to her
messenger, Cupid. In one myth, Cupid was hurrying to the council of the
gods, carrying a vase of nectar for them to drink. When he
stumbled and spilled the nectar, it bubbled onto the earth and sprang up
in the form of roses.
Another myth said that the
rose was created by Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers. Chloris
fashioned the rose from the body of a lifeless nymph she found in the
woods. The three Graces encircled the flower and bestowed on it gifts of
brightness, charm and joy. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, gave it a
portion of her beauty, and Dionysus, the god of wine, poured forth nectar
to give it fragrance. Even Zephyr, the west wind, blew a clearing in the
clouds so that Apollo, the sun god, could make the flower bloom. The gods
hailed their new creation and immediately crowned the rose the Queen of
The rose has since been dedicated to all lovers and goddesses and is said to signify love and beauty. A red rose means "I love you." but a yellow rose stands for jealousy and infidelity. A white rose symbolizes purity, while the rosebud suggests young and innocent love. A Persian tale tells how the rose became red one evening. It seems that a nightingale fell in love with the flower and flew blindly towards its fragrance. Pierced by a thorn, his blood flowed over the white petals, turning them red.
But Romans believed that Venus blushed when Jupiter, the king of the gods, caught her bathing. It's said that the white rose turned red in her blushing reflection. Another Roman tale tells how Venus's tears, shed over unrequited love of Adonis, fell on a white rose and turned it red.