How to Say “You’re Cute!” (or, “Let’s Pretend That Never Happened”) in the Victorian Language of Flowers

Photo by Ryan Benoit

As my on-again-off-again Tumblr page will attest, we’re big into the Victorian language of flowers. Especially when it’s applied to modern living; who can resist a tussie-mussie (i.e. small bouquet) of rue, campion, Provence rose, strawflower and buckbean that essentially says, “Chill out, you ambassador of love — fine, okay, let’s hang out tonight”? It’s the horticultural equivalent to texting.

So it was exciting to stumble onto Cryptofloricon, a London-based site that lets you translate sentiments like, “Kiss me, you fool!” and “You’ve gotta be kidding me” and “I see what you did there” and “Aaaaaaaaaa!” into virtual bunches of flowers. The pencil-drawn blooms depict only chrysanthemums, lilies, roses, carnations and gerbera daisies, so the translations may be inexact, but they are charmingly presented.

If you want to keep mining the meanings of plants — from acacia (chaste love) to venus’s car (“fly with me”) — Katherine Bryant’s database is an invaluable online resource, complete with date annotations. In print form, Flora’s Dictionary by Kathleen Gips is a slim but nimble volume.