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Green Acre #230: You Can Say That With Flowers?!

Peonies (above) and pink roses, perfect to send to your best girlfriend. Oh, hell, anyone would be thrilled to receive such a floral tribute, if you can find the precious stems. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.


So you think saying it with flowers couldn’t be easier. You’re wrong. There are plenty of potential pratfalls in posies.  

Red roses mean love, this I think we know, but dark red—think Chanel’s Vamp nail polish—signifies mourning. One would think yellow roses would always be cheery, but in flower-speak they shout infidelity. White roses are for purity, innocence—something I trust none of us share—but can also mean starting over fresh. 

Say you’ve strayed and you’re sorry: Just hand your lover a white rose. How easy!

Roses aren’t the only flowers that have hidden meanings; most do. This Valentine’s day, consider making bouquets that speak.

Let’s start with love, shall we?

Red roses are not the only symbols of amour. For a floral combination offering a cacophony of divine scent and color, toss in some asters, lily-of-the-valley, red chrysanthemums, white carnations, white jasmine and yarrow. All speak of love, love, love.  

If you’ve really got the hots, up the passion with red tulips. Add a touch of fern, just to prove you’re sincere. 

For your best girlfriend: Happiness is a bunch of pink roses and peonies.

Daisies are lovely for a child. Innocence and hope is their meaning—mix with yellow tulips for sunshine, and lilac for youthful joy. 

Just friends? You may not even have to visit a florist for this one. Take a few branches of green arborvitae (steal from a neighbor if you don’t have any in your garden), mix with geraniums (any color will do) and add a dribble of ivy, which means friendship. 

When you wish you were more than friends, express that secret devotion with a base of pure white gardenias, then accent with camellias: the red ones if you’re champing at the bit; pink ones if you’re simply longing; and white if you adore them. Clover says, Think of me. 

Feeling more meh than affectionate? There are good wishes in basil; chives say you’re useful, and hyssop means cleanliness. A bouquet that says you’re useful and clean—best wishes! Ouch. But! You’ve been so thoughtful.  

If you’re ready for a break-up, butterfly weed says Let me go, lover. 

But if you’ve been dumped for another, the passive-aggressive approach might be a combo of yellow roses and hyacinths in purple for sorrow (and yellow if you’re jealous). Red carnations say your heart aches, anemones read forsaken, and marigolds express your grief. Forget-me-nots are self-explanatory. 

If you’re feeling a bit hostile about it, add some black-eyed Susans, which say you’re hoping for Justice. 

Cursing with flowers can also be great fun. 

For a bitch of a boss, tansy is lousy with hostility, and a symbol of war. Add yellow carnations to show your disdain, and crabapple blossoms . . . well, you can guess. To ensure the sentiments don’t come back to bite you, a few sprigs of dill are powerful against evil.

Send the Mother-in-Law From Hell a clutch of daylilies. True to their name, these last a day, then shrivel. Again! So thoughtful of you. 

My Agatha Christie Collection is for your darkest thoughts. Start with a base of rhododendron leaves: The flowering shrub howls Danger ahead. Add begonias—oh so pretty, yet they indicate dark thoughts. And belladonna? This pretty poison says: silence. Sure does.  Just ask Lucretia Borgia.  

Happy arranging!

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” clearly has a lot of things to say and a lotta ways to say them.

2 thoughts on “Green Acre #230: You Can Say That With Flowers?!

  1. Carol says:

    Clever woman that you are!

  2. Maggie Hall says:

    Day Lillies! Never cared for them. Now I know why…and happy I’m not the only one.

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