Floriography ~ N, O, and P flowers

Today I’m bringing the sixth installment in my study into Floriography  —  the cryptological communication through flower use or arrangement.

Past posts can be read by clicking these links–
Floriography history & A and B flowers
Floriography C and D flowers
Floriography F and G flowers
Floriography H, I, and J flowers
Floriography L and M flowers

Nasturtium  ~  Conquest, victory in battle, patriotism. Since Nasturtium comes in variety of colors, it can also give off different meanings. A red nasturtium means courage, strength or passion. A yellow nasturtium best describes merriment, gaiety and joy, while the orange ones are more related to being energetic and creative. The botanical name comes from the Greek word meaning trophy because the flowers and leaves are shaped like helmets and shields.

Orchid  ~  Love, you are beautiful, you posses a refined beauty. The ancient Greeks saw the orchid as an emblem of virility, while the flower became known as a signifier of social clout and opulence in Victorian England. From the ancient Aztecs up to modern China, cultures valued the orchid for its medicinal purposes, viewing it as a restorative and healing entity. Taken together, one can see how the orchid has accrued its meanings: It is a rare, elegant, and cherished not only for its beauty, but also as a symbol of strength and prosperity. There are thousands of varieties of orchids, and they can take on any number of appearances, including bright purple, red, orange, white with lavender touches, or mottled colorations that resemble flames or brushstrokes.

Oleander  ~  Beware, caution. The Oleander plant is beautiful, but it is also highly toxic. Consumption of nearly any part of this plant can cause a myriad of ill effects from stomach ailments to irregular heartbeat, seizures to skin irritation. Despite this fact, for over 3000 years the oleander plant has been considered a potent curative. Because of the dual nature of the oleander plant – being both beautiful and poisonous, toxic and healing – it is not surprising that it is the emblem of caution. Although these shrubs may be presented as something of a warning, they are most often given as gifts purely for their natural beauty and intoxicating scent.

Orange Blossoms  ~ Your purity equals your loveliness (and vice-versa), chastity, innocence, marriage and fruitfulness. These fragrant blossoms have long been a part of wedding ceremonies. This tradition began in the Victorian era where they were frequently braided into wreath-like headpieces that were attached to veils, or woven directly into the hair. Orange blossoms represent faithfulness and eternal love, and thus, are given to both new and old loves alike to remind the recipient of the giver’s unwavering devotion.

O flowers
Top: Nasturtium and Orchid. Bottom: Oleander and Orange Blossom.

Peony  ~  Healing, protection, bashfulness. The Peony takes its name from the mythological Greek character Paeon, who studied with the god of medicine, Asclepius. Zeus had to transform the student into a beautiful flower when he showed more promise than his teacher and incurred his wrath. Greek myth says that nymphs used to hide their naked forms in Peonies to shield them from prying eyes. This led to the association of Peonies with shamefulness and bashfulness during the Victorian era. It was considered downright unlucky to dig up a shrub of Peony during the Middle Ages due to associations with less than kind fairies.

Petunia  ~  Your presence soothes me, anger and resentment. The petunia flower symbolizes anger and resentment especially when they are presented by someone with whom you have recently had a heated disagreement. They can also symbolize your desire to spend time with someone because you find their company soothing and peaceful.

Periwinkle  ~  Sweet memories, early friendship. The Periwinkle was a potent religious symbol tied to the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages, so it’s not uncommon to see the little purple blossom peeking out of a stained glass window. Victorian flower language users assigned it the meaning of a beautifully blossoming friendship. It also means sharing the recollection of a pleasant memory from the past.

Primrose  ~  I can’t live without you, young love. These flowers were frequently planted on the grave sites of small children in Victorian England, as they represented the unchanging innocence of the lost child. The flower’s myth, however, is not entirely somber. Primrose is associated with the Norse goddess Freya, who is the symbol of youthfulness, refinement, fertility and beauty. They are also seen in Celtic myth which states a patch of these flowers can mark the gateway to the fairy realms.

P flowers
Top: Peony and Petunia. Bottom: Periwinkle and Primrose.



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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