Thursday, July 10, 2008


Apart from religious symbolism, the Victorians had a rich communication using plants in every day life. There is a book on my shelf (finally unpacked) called “Parson’s Handbook of Business and Social Forms; A Compendium of Business and Social Rules and a Complete Work of Reference and Self Instruction, 1902. There is a chapter entitled, “Dictionary of Floral Sentiment and the Flowers that Represent Them”. For several pages there are possible messages listed next to the appropriate flowers or plants that signify them. Here are some examples:

A deadly foe is near: Monk’s-hood
Advice: Rhubarb
Agreement: Lancaster Rose
Aversion: Indian Single Pink
Be Mine: Four Leaved Clover

And there are hundreds more. In a single nosegay one could write a whole letter I suppose.

The Church was no slouch in this either. In symbolism plants are used extensively and there had been certain plants for certain occasions even in altar decorations that many would have recognized as easily as we do today when we see poinsettias for Christmas and lilies for Easter. Somewhere I have an interesting list that I hope to unearth for you soon.

But continuing the thoughts from last week concerning Marian Gardens, marigolds named after Mary were said to once said to have adorned the dress of the Blessed Virgin and were used extensively for decorating her shrine in summer time feasts. There are also Our Lady’s Slippers, Lady’s Mantle, Lady’s Purse, Lady’s Seal, Lilies, Lilly of the Valley (my Mother’s favorite that still surrounds her house), Violets, Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, and Mint all have connections with Mary and are appropriate particularly for gardens in her honor.

For a more detailed description of plants and what they mean (I would just have to plagiarize in order to tell you more) I would recommend the book, “Catholic Traditions in the Garden by Ann Ball: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.

1 comment:

uncle jim said...

i have no green thumb - i don't do flowers

so no secret message come from me in that guise