Category Archives: The Meaning of Flowers


“Flowers are love embodied. Look deeply at the color. Feel the vibrancy. Put your nose a little closer. Look deeply. Fall inside. Start your life over right here, right now, inside a flower.” ~ Lao TzuTulipWhat a tribute to flowers Lao Tzu makes in that quote! It makes me want to do just as he suggests: soak up the vibrancy and fall inside. Following are some further thoughts about the subject that I wrote for a page on my website to explain my chosen subject matter for photography.

Of all the extravagant beauty on our earth nothing is as colorful, varied, ubiquitous and downright flamboyant as flowers. They are not only lovely to look at, but our very lives depend on them. Most of our food comes from plants that flower, are pollinated and grow into fruits, vegetables and grains. Often the grains are then fed to animals that many people eat.

For a photographer flowers are perfect subjects. They can be shot on location or brought into the studio. They pose endlessly, don’t move around and need no breaks. Each blossom has its own distinctive characteristics. Their varied forms allow me to emphasize detail in a macro photograph, delineate abstract features in black and white, or portray a group of blossoms in all their brilliant color.

You need not be a photographer to enjoy flowers. Bring a bunch of spring daffodils inside to see how they brighten a room. Buy a bunch to give to your neighbor who needs some cheering up; surprise your spouse with his/her favorite blossoms. As Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.” Here’s to flowers!



Did you ever pluck petals off a daisy while chanting, “Love me? Love me not,?” Your answer was determined by the words uttered when the last petal was pulled off. A similar practice was taken much more seriously in Victorian England when adults gave a meaning to a particular species of flower, the color of the flowers, and how they were presented, This custom was referred to as “floriography.” Daisies Upper class English were schooled in correct behavior, and expressing strong emotion was not considered “genteel.” Hence, messages were often sent via flowers. If a woman were to receive a bouquet of red roses, the giver was expressing his love. However if the roses were yellow, infidelity was the message. (Did that mean the giver was ‘fessing up or accusing the recipient?)

The practice reached ridiculous extremes when the position of ones hand when proffering the bouquet had meaning, as did the position of the flowers themselves. If the flowers leaned to the right it meant one thing  and to the left the opposite. It can be fun today to be aware of the meaning of a particular flower, but fortunately most of us can say what’s on our minds without engaging in such indirect language.

Wear a smile and have friends. Wear a scowl and have wrinkles. George Eliot

If you’re interested in exploring the subject further,  The Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby is a good place to start.  A novel, The Meaning of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a contemporary story about how a young florist makes use of the old lore about flowers to satisfy customers. Worth a read.

The daisies at the top of the page denote “innocence,” while the hollyhocks below speak of “ambition.” Beware of receiving the peony directly above. Its message is “anger.”