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flower symbolism - the language of flowers

Floriography: The Secret Language of Flowers

Looking for a more meaningful floral fabric? There’s a Liberty print for that. Here, discover the language of some of our favourite flowers
By: Charlotte Olby

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Floriography: The Secret Language of Flowers

Floriography: The Secret Language of Flowers

Looking for a more meaningful floral fabric? There’s a Liberty print for that. Here, discover the language of some of our favourite flowers

By: Charlotte Olby

You probably already know the basics, that red roses symbolise love, orchids beauty, and forget-me-nots mean, well, don't forget me. But did you know that narcissus is the flower of unrequited love? That violets represent daydreaming? And while a single daffodil is thought to bring bad luck, an entire bunch actually signifies good luck. Nearly every sentiment imaginable can be expressed with flowers – including those found within the Liberty print archive, naturally. Once you uncover the true meaning behind some of our best loved florals, you can start experimenting with fabrics that actually let you wear your heart on your sleeve. Make floriography, aka the language of flowers, your guide to really saying it like you mean it with all your future #LibertyCraftClub endeavours.

What Is Floriography?

Flower enthusiasts may already be familiar with this term. Mythologies, folklore, sonnets, and plays are peppered with flower symbolism, and for good reason. While it may all sound a little new-age, floriography has been used to communicate since the Victorian era. Back then (in a time of illicit glances and unspoken longing) flowers were used to deliver top secret coded messages, allowing a society governed by strict etiquette to express its true feelings. For example, if you had a crush on someone, you’d send a single red rose. But if they returned back a yellow carnation, it was clear they weren’t interested. Not as simple as swiping left, we’re afraid.

In the decades that followed, floriography dictionaries became a household item, cataloguing the meaning of each and every bloom. We've rounded up some of the most well-meaning flowers featured in Liberty designs to help you choose the perfect print…

Flowers for Love
Red roses
Red tulips
Red carnations

Flowers for Friendship
Yellow rose
Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily)

Flowers for Sympathy
White roses

Flowers for Gratitude
Pink roses
Sweet peas

POPPY - Love, Peace, Dreams, Success, Magic & Fertility

Best for: decadent sleepwear

The poppy flower is a popular wildflower that has been used to represent everything from peace, imagination, messages delivered in dreams, beauty and success to death and sleep. While the poppy is best known as a poignant symbol of remembrance, or as a powerful pain-relieving sedative (hence the connection to sleeping), it also has a rich history, playing a significant role in ancient mythology and medicine.

Victorians attributed numerous meanings to the flower, depending on the colour, but it was most commonly used to symbolise loss and deep sleep. However, Japanese and Chinese cultures view poppies as a representation of passionate, deep love. The Ancient Greeks regarded poppies as a source of fertility and strength and even had Greek athletes consume a mixture of poppy seeds, honey, and wine to improve performance. So legend has it, the Greek gods are believed to have given Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and harvest, poppies to help her sleep after Hades abducted her daughter Persephone. Subsequently, poppies sprang up from her footsteps – making her known as the Poppy Goddess. Nyx, the goddess of night, and Hypnos, the god of sleep, are also associated with the poppy flower symbol. Demeter Tana Lawn™ is part of the Earth story of our autumn/winter 2023 collection: A Liberty Odyssey. A tribute to the earth’s bounty, this design features scattered poppies, daisies and cornflowers framed within ears of corn in reference to the goddess.


DAISY - Hope, New Beginnings, Love & Innocence

Best for: cute kidswear

There’s a lot to say about the ever-so-small daisy. From memories of making daisy chains as a child, to the first signs of summer when you see daisies springing up, it’s certainly a flower to make you smile. And with their cheery, sunny faces, the symbolism seems quite fitting. The name daisy, which derives from the Anglo Saxon ‘daeges eage’ aka day’s eye, is named as such because the flower opens in the day, but closes at night. Ever heard the term ‘fresh as a daisy’? Well, this is where it came from.

In Victorian times, it was said that if you stepped upon seven daisies at one time you knew that summer had arrived – and that dreaming of daisies in spring would bring good omens, but bad if dreamt up in winter. Such legend inspired our print Dreams of Summer Tana Lawn™, a magnificent display of blooming daisies, primroses, cornflowers, daffodils and forget-me-nots to create a vibrant, multi-layered wild meadow. Long associated with love and hope, it was believed that if you slept with a daisy under your pillow you could encourage the return of an absent lover.

Having a significant connection with children and childlike innocence, with daisy chains and games of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, wearing daisies was also thought to ward off abduction by fairies. In Norse mythology, the daisy is known as the sacred flower for the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Because of this, daisies symbolise childbirth, motherhood and new beginnings so they’re a great flower to welcome a new baby. Why not try your hand at making a baby grow or even a daisy-filled patchwork quilt for an expectant new addition?


ROSE - Love, Romance, Passion, Admiration, Friendship & Purity

Best for: date night attire

The rose, a timeless and beloved flower, holds many meanings known across different countries and cultures. Not only do roses symbolise different things depending on who you ask, their meanings can also vary depending on the colour. We're not sure there’s any flower whose meaning is more well-known than the red rose – and we have Valentine's Day to thank for that.

Red roses are famously given to lovers and partners as a symbol of romance and affection on the 14th February, with just a single rose doing the job (but a large bouquet being even more lovely). Pink roses, in fact, are said to represent gratitude and work as a thoughtful gesture of thanks – while yellow roses symbolise friendship, and white (unsurprisingly) denotes innocence and purity, making them a popular choice for brides.

Roses feature in a number of legends in ancient Greek mythology and as a result, the Romans made the rose a symbol of beauty and love, a sentiment that endures to this day. If the scent of rose is in the air, then it must be the season of Aphrodite: the ancient goddess of love, romance, intimacy and, of course – roses. Taking influence from Aphrodite herself, our new autumn/winter 2023 print Aphrodite’s Rose Tana Lawn™ was created using digital manipulation, to give the illusion of roses submerged underwater. Why? Because when the goddess was born from the sea, roses sprung from the sand as she stepped shore.


BLOSSOM - Spring, Renewal, Abundance, Growth & Good Fortune

Best for: an alfresco table

Of course, when we think of blossoms the first thing that springs to mind is cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are some of the most symbolically significant flowers in the world. Also known as Sakura, these exquisitely beautiful blooms are one of the highlights of spring, especially in Japan, and carry huge cultural significance. Known as hanami, or ‘flower viewing’, the appreciation of cherry blossoms has been practised in Japan for centuries. Due to the bloom’s popularity in Japan, it is widely accepted as the most popular symbolism for the flower but it is not the only one.

In China, blossoms are linked to sexuality and the beauty of women. Exclusively designed for Liberty by Emile & Chen, a Shanghai-based wallpaper studio, Eastern Trellis Tana Lawn™ is a refreshed interpretation of traditional Chinoiserie patterns with a romantic trellis decorated with blossom, berries and Chinese physalis.

In a nutshell, blossoms of all varieties represent spring. But, they can also represent the fleeting nature of life, since their blooming season is so short-lived. Although the beauty of blossom flowers will no doubt take your breath away, you’ll find that these blossoms sadly die back after a few short weeks. Of course, here in the UK we’re much more accustomed to seeing various buds from different fruit trees such as the delicate white flowers found on plum trees, or the sturdier flowers of the pear tree. For dark pink buds that open to reveal sweet pinkness, you’ll be more familiar with apple blossom while lemon trees produce lovely, white, fragrant flowers that may appear all year round, but will live forever immortalised in our Lemon Blossom Crepe de Chine – the perfect backdrop to any start of summer hosting when whipped up into a tablecloth complete with ruffle trim.


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