43774-The-Language-Of-FlowersIn my diffident youth the language of flowers always seemed like a good idea. Of course in those days we didn’t have the internet to enable us to check meanings, so you couldn’t really be sure how the recipient might receive your coded message, even if you could figure that out yourself. But I guess it’s always nice to receive flowers. Even now, there’s a bit of looseness around the meanings. Should I really send acacia blossoms to express my concealed love; or does that risk offense with the mention of retirement, and misunderstanding in the chaste area? And what if your red roses are interpreted as crimson — or vice versa?

According to Lady Mary Wortley-Montague, Atlas Obscura tells us, it all began in the harems of Turkey, though this romantic idea was pooh-poohed by the more serious Austrian researcher Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall. One way or another the Victorians took to it. Apparently by the early years of the last century there were 98 flower dictionaries available in America. Was it the adult coloring book craze of its day? The publishing phenomenon ran out of steam in WWI. The meaning of the poppy took on a different coloration.