Ten Ways to Fail With Victorian Flower Emoji

Mostly it was the worst of times. Very few of us could successfully pull off wearing a stovepipe hat with a cravat and breeches. We wouldn’t handle the social customs, either. Blowing your nose in public was bad form, a firm handshake was a no-no, and eating a Philly Cheesesteak would make you unapproachable.

Plus your wife would have probably named your child something like Minty Badger or Farting McClackerty. (Some expectations were not so great.)

But among the strange customs, we wouldn’t have survived is the complicated system of flower messaging called Floriography. If you think trying to decipher your daughter’s emoji to her boyfriend is perilous, you don’t know the half of it. Imagine trying to send an emoji that grew in greenhouses, took hours to be received and replied to, could die without proper care and could mean any number of signals, depending on the context, sender, recipient, and region.

Some of it was simple. Red tulips meant “I love you.” Cactus flowers meant “I really love you.” Orange Lilies meant “I don’t love you at all.”

When you sent flower messages to a lady in the 1800s, she would rush to one of several and conflicting flower almanacs to decode your intentions. One false selection could spell disaster. Even more complicated was the packaging options: upside down flowers meant the opposite of their meaning. Flowers in response to a question could be given with the right hand (“yes”) or the left (“no”). Wait—your right? or hers?

So to give you some perspective, here are ten ways you could fail in sending these “flower emoji” under Victoria’s regime:

Moss Rose, Sweet Scented Violet, White Jasmine

“You’re so warm and well-mannered, I decided to give you some affection in return. Please don’t fall asleep.”

Yellow Pansy, Wild Rose

“Thinking of you brings me pleasure and pain. I clearly only meant one of those.”

Canterbury Bell, Iris, White Rose, Yellow Marquerile

“I got your message. I’ll get back to you. Or come visit. Or neither.”

Hyacinths (with a Ribbon on Your Wrist)

“Forgive me, I did something bad.”
“Would you like to play a board game?”
(It depends on which wrist the ribbon is on)

Delphiniums, Hydrangeas, Oleander, Basil, Birdsfoot, Bluebell

“Better watch your step, you remorseless harpy! Kindly yours.”

Ragged Robin, White Heather, Lupins, Hollyhocks

“Congratulations on the baby!”
“Better luck next time.”

Delphinium, Basil Trefoil, Birsdfood (Upside Down)

“I pride myself on not not being too haughty to stoop so low as to take revenge—unlike some people—so because I definitely don’t hold a grudge against you, this passive-aggressive bouquet is all you’re getting from me. Have a nice day.”

Peonies, Daffodils, Cabbage, Dame’s Rocket, Walnuts, Geraniums, a Pomegranate, and an Upside Down Aloe Plant

“Naturally, I’m too bashful to say it, but I would like to court you. I understand I have a rival who makes more money than I do. But the complexity of this floral arrangement should signify that clearly I’m more clever, and far less conceited. If you choose him over me, I won’t be bitter about it, I swear. But know this: I’m dangerous, and it’s in your best interest that you stop talking to him. See you at the next dance?”

Moonwort, Rosemary

“Sorry I missed your birthday, but at least I remembered that I forgot, which has to account for something. Also, I can’t remember if you were allergic to pollen or not. I’m such a doddy.”

Ranunculus, Kennedia, Houstonia, Dandelion (or is that Crespis?)

“You’re so smart and charming, it’s bedazzling. And I hope you’re content. Also, I will be your protector. Or maybe what I mean is I hope I can be, or in time I will be, or yay freedom, or life is so magical, or summer reminds me of when you were a kid, or long live the Queen, at least her mental health, anyway. Okay, honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing here, but I just bought four flowers that went across a steamship from three different continents so please just take these and be happy!”

So next time you feel like a tomtuck for dropping some spangle on a tussie mussie from some artful dodger, don’t get poked up in your coconut. Be grateful times are simpler now. Fancy yourself a gal-sneaker, the world of giving flowers is much easier than it used to be, and a lot less confusing.

Men will always have feelings for women, and sometimes it’s hard to say them out loud. But saying it right has never been easier. Don’t be a scrooge. Tell her you love her. Say it with flowers.

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