How to Give Flowers Like a Victorian Gentleman

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 27, 2008 · 51 comments

in Dating, Marriage, Relationships & Family

Women often complain that the men in their lives are not romantic enough. But men sometimes have trouble expressing their feelings, often resorting to cheesy Hallmark cards or pricey bejeweled baubles to do the job for them. But there is a far better way to be romantic and it doesn’t involve spending a fortune or even opening your mouth.

In the days before courting consisted of hanging out and getting drinks, courting was a formal and dignified endeavor. Symbols were used to express feelings and thoughts deemed too special for mere words. During the Victorian Era, a whole romantic language developed around the giving and receiving of flowers. Everything from the type and size of the flower to the way it was held or presented conveyed layers of meaning and communicated a gentleman’s feelings and intentions. Each bouquet contained a secret message for a lady to eagerly interpret and endlessly dissect.

These days giving flowers has become a somewhat ho-hum cliché. Resurrecting this Victorian tradition will infuse the gesture with new life and romance and bring back some of the subtly, mystery, and fun of courtship. Your lady will swoon that you put far more thought into your selection of flowers than grabbing a bouquet out of the case at Wal-Mart. You’ll come off as a real gentleman and a hopeless romantic. It can become an amazing tradition you’ll both enjoy. Seriously. Women eat this stuff up.

Of course, even women nowadays have forgotten the meanings of flowers. So buy your lady a flower dictionary like this one. And keep a copy for yourself (it’s important that you both use the same reference, as the meanings were never set in stone and can sometimes vary from book to book). Then, each time you present her with a bouquet, she can search the volume to find what secret messages you have embedded in the flowers.

There are even bouquets that convey rejection or unrequited love, but having your soon-to-be former flame eagerly search through a book only to find out she’s been dumped is just plain cruel.

Here’s a partial list of flowers’ meanings to help you get started. Follow them, and you’ll be reviving throngs of women with smelling salts as they swoon for you.

Carnation- Fascination

Chrysanthemum- Friendship

Daisy- Loyal love

Orchid- Love and beauty

Lily- Purity and sweetness

Red rose- Romantic love

Pink rose- Secret love

Yellow rose- Friendship

White rose- Innocent love

Rose, Yellow & Orange: Passionate thoughts

Forget-me-not- True love

Baby’s Breath: Happiness

Lilac, Mauve: “Do You Still Love Me”

Honeysuckle – The Bond of Love

Ambrosia: Your Love is reciprocated

Camellia, red: You’re a flame in my heart

Camellia, white: You’re adorable

Forget-me-not: Faithful Love, Memories

Hibiscus: Delicate Beauty

Hyacinth, purple: I am sorry, Please forgive me, Sorrow

Oleander: Beauty and Grace

Periwinkle, White: Pleasures of Memory

For more flowers and their meanings, check out this site.

When to give flowers

Once you are versed in the language of flowers, you’ll be able to create bouquets that will add meaning and significance to any occasion. Here are some times when you’ll definitely want to warm your true love’s heart with flowers:

Her Birthday. It’s her day. Make it extra special by buying her a bouquet of flowers. It doesn’t have to be to elaborate.

Your Anniversary. Women associate flowers with weddings. You can’t go wrong with buying your wife a bouquet of the same type of flowers you had at your wedding. The very sight of them will create a wave of warm and fuzzy memories. And the fact that you remembered the right flower will send her heart aflutter and score you major romance points.

Valentine’s Day. My wife and I have this shtick. Every year she tells me she doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day. And like a sucker, every year I don’t get her anything. Come Valentine’s Day, I have an unhappy wife on my hands. I’ve finally learned my lesson. When women say they don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day, it’s actually a secret code. Buy her flowers. You’ll be glad you did.

New Baby/Mother’s Day Your wife just went through 9 months of pain and discomfort to bring forth your progeny. The least you can do is buy her some flowers. Plus, flowers are completely appropriate for a new birth. Flowers represent new life and you’ll be cradling new life in your arms. Later on, show your wife your appreciation for all the work she puts into mothering by buying flowers each Mother’s Day. (Note: Flowers aren’t sufficient by themselves for Mom’s Day. Mothering is hard work. She deserves something extra too.)

Get Well. If the woman in your life is sick, nothing will brighten her days and cheer her heart like flowers from the man she loves.

Saying I’m Sorry. You screwed up and now you’re in the dog house. If you want to stop sleeping on the couch, bring flowers along with an apology. The extra effort may show the lady in your life that you’re really sorry. But make that apology sincere. A bunch of flowers with only a weak or non-existent apology will backfire; your woman doesn’t want to be bought off with cheap gestures. Note: Don’t bother with flowers if you’ve been caught cheating. There aren’t enough flowers in the world to cover the stench of a douche bag.

A special date. Whether you are still dating or have been married for years, making time for special dates is essential to keeping your love burning brightly. When planning those romantic outings, put buying flowers on your list of preparations. There’s no better way to set the mood for a special night out then to show up at the door with a beautiful bouquet. She’ll melt.

Surprise her. Who says you need a reason to buy the woman in your life flowers? Surprise her! Make it habit to stop by the florist on the way home every now and then to pick up some flowers for your lady. Trust me. The investment will definitely pay off.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alex M. July 27, 2008 at 8:23 pm

Good idea. This isn’t something I had considered doing, but I know my wife would love it. I want to be romantic, but I can never remember to do stuff like that on my own, much to her chagrin. Thanks for the push.

2 Matt DeStefano July 27, 2008 at 10:10 pm

I liked the post, I think that we should all definitely think about bringing our lady flowers every once in a while. Brett, I really have enjoyed your blog and feel that your commentary is much needed. Although I don’t always agree with everything you have to say, I think it’s amazing what you’ve done with this blog.

Great job!

3 Will July 28, 2008 at 2:38 am

Wonderful.

4 Will July 28, 2008 at 2:45 am

Amazon’s out of the Greenaway book, but at the moment there are copies at abebooks.com.

5 Will July 28, 2008 at 2:47 am

Edit: that link to Amazon is to a version not in stock. Amazon has at least one other version in stock.

6 Yura July 28, 2008 at 3:41 am

I wonder if there are women, who would rather let flowers live, than cut them or use them anyway? What does one do not to get into this kind of trap?

Because, for example, as a vegan, cutting flowers for them to last only several days (instead of weeks under the sun) is pretty gruesome.

7 Art Gonzalez July 28, 2008 at 7:20 am

What a fantastic post! My wife has always been ecstatic when I give her roses. I will get that flower dictionary and start surprising her with new meanings and intentions. This post reminded me of the movie “Kate and Leopold” with Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan. The character, Leopold, is from that Victorian era and on certain scene he shows that he is an expert on the meaning of flowers. He is a true gentleman and my wife and my mother have always commented how that character is the epitome of elegance, knighthood and manliness. I recommend that everybody watches it.

Many blessings,

Art Gonzalez
Check my Squidoo Lens at: Quantum Knights

8 Matthew July 28, 2008 at 7:47 am

@Yura: There are – I dated a girl once who referred to a bouquet I got her as a “plant sacrifice.” It really wrecked my desire to give flowers as gifts. (Thank goodness, the relationship soured and I am now free to give flowers to a woman who appreciates them!)

A good way to discover this without using trial and error would be to take your SO to a walking garden and admire the flowers. Watch for his/her reaction. Later, when you’re out walking, pass by the florist. If your SO starts commenting negatively, there’s your answer.

IMO, we have enough going on without having to worry about whether or not the plants would have a “better life”, so to speak, outside in the sun than being admired. If you or your SO have issues with flowers in vases, get a bouquet that can be replanted in a flower box or garden outside your home.

9 Renaud July 28, 2008 at 7:50 am

Careful with some of these….
You wouldn’t give a Chrysanthemum to a French woman… they are mostly used to decorate tombs.
Similarly, white flowers are used at funerals in some Asian countries, so double-check those meanings for appropriateness in the country you live in or the country you beloved is from before offering a bunch of flowers that may end up having the opposite effect you desire…

10 mhb July 28, 2008 at 8:12 am

OK, I’m not a man, but I am married to one, and he recently converted from the guy who thinks I’m so practical I wouldn’t like a “wasteful” gift like flowers to a totally smooth flower-giver, and he basically did this in one fell swoop: last Christmas he gave me a beautiful hand-made card that welcomed me to his personal flower-of-the-month club. Each month on a random day (or a special day – February was Valentine’s Day, and he did this for our anniversary, too) I come home from work to find a lovely bouquet or potted flower plant waiting for me (Side note: I enjoy gardening, so I like getting potted plants as gifts – he knows this). I think especially for you fellows who have been in established relationships for a while, you should consider something like this. I’m frankly surprised at just how much the gesture means to me… and I already liked the guy plenty. :-)

11 liss July 28, 2008 at 8:34 am

Quote “Seriously. Women eat this stuff up.”

Mmm. Yummy. Please sir, may I have some more?

I hope it starts a revolution . . .

12 Brett July 28, 2008 at 8:45 am

@Matt-Thank you.

@Will-Thanks for the heads up. Really any book on the meaning of flowers will do. I liked the one I linked to because it was an original from back in the day. But modern ones will work. There was one called “Mussy Tussies” that looked good. But I couldn’t bring myself to recommend a book called “Mussy Tussies” on a men’s website.

@Art-I haven’t seen “Kate and Leopold” but any movie where the leading lady’s name is “Kate McKay” has to be pretty good.

@Matthew-Agreed.

@Renaud-Good point, I hadn’t thought of that.

@Mhb-Your man sounds like one heck of a guy. Thanks for sharing that idea.

13 Helen July 28, 2008 at 11:28 am

I haven’t been real big on getting a bouguet of flowers from a man. They don’t mean much to me. Now if the man wanted to take me out and together we bought my favorite flowers and some of his and he created a flower garden ,that grew back year after year, that would mean a lot. That would special.

14 Mike Bates July 28, 2008 at 11:56 am

I love the idea of a language of flowers, that you can say complicated and heartfelt things without words (which men aren’t traditionally good at using anyway). I had heard of this before, and am excited to check out the books to get a better idea of what to get the wife next time. Cool post.

@ Matthew

Shouldn’t the fact that she called your flowers a “plant sacrifice” be a strong indication that she was teensy-weensy nuts and that her opinions be taken with a shaker of salt from then on? Glad you got out of that.

http://www.the-common-man.com

15 santa July 28, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Great post. But men should also remember to not give flowers too many times throughout the year or she will be bored and it will become predictable. The best time is when she least expects it. Throw in a short hand written letter and she will melt.

16 Beat Attitude July 28, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Hmmmm. I can’t help thinking this is verging on, shall I say “exquisite…darling”

Yeah, OK it’ll do the trick probably, but man this stuff is pretty vacuous. It’s pretty much where hallmark came from, and I suspect there’s a fine line between putting some thought into it and taking it too seriously. It reminds me of those gift shop things, like a keyring that says “Linda: means everflowing fountain. You are a refreshing person… etc.” They make me puke. I love genuinely cute stuff, but I hate “cuddwy bunny” mentality.

Flowers are there to look nice and smell nice, and they die in about a week when you cut them. Try window boxes or hanging baskets, and commit to watering them on a daily basis: that’s not just a one-off, potentially empty gesture, but gives you a chance to show you genuinely care about tender things and that you are responsible. There’s nothing pansy about pansies…

17 Ed July 28, 2008 at 3:07 pm

I like the idea of having some meaning to the type of flowers to add depth to the act (it can also be cheaper than the standard roses, which means you can give them more often). I prefer to give flowers as a true expression of my feelings during the “off season” rather than when it is expected. I try to ensure there are some still in the house during some of the standard flower giving events or soon afterwards, but very rarely give them on those days.

18 Claire July 28, 2008 at 4:03 pm

“Seriously. Women eat this stuff up.”

Well…some women. I am a woman. Flowers are fine. But I am way, way too lazy to ever bother to look up the meanings of various flowers in a book. Is the bouquet pretty? Then I like it, even if its secret flower meaning is “I hate you; never look at me again.” To my mind, flowers only have meaning and depth to the extent that the relationship does.

So I guess the number one rule is “Know your lady.”

(I do like your blog, though, even if I’m probably not your target audience.)

19 Tyler @ Building Camelot July 28, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Nice list…the trick now is finding some of the flowers that you list. Good luck if you want the delivered…you’re more likely to find them at a local shop that doesn’t offer delivery,

I think the best time to give her flowers is when she’s not expecting any. I’d also like to throw in the idea of not sending roses on Valentines day. It will save you some money and will show off your creative side.

20 amy July 29, 2008 at 2:56 pm

there aren’t enough flowers in the world to cover up the stench of a douchebag…

amen. y’alls is funny.

i liked this post a lot and forwarded it to my husband, which i don’t do often, but i’m pretty sure i’d make a right good sucker if given the chance.

i am vegan and totally don’t get what dude was saying about vegans not wanting to give cut flowers. just sayin’.

21 Online Flower Delivery Pune July 29, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Yeah!! I like the idea of thoughts coming through flowers.. Because they can really touch you by so many ways..

22 wutho July 30, 2008 at 6:16 am

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Flowers are a great gift when given occasionally, and can charm and delight. However, there are some big gotchas when trying to use “the flower language” in the present day:

First, flowers whither and die. Given today’s concern for the environment, unless your lady is composting, this adds to one’s trash impact on the planet. Not the most manly consideration, sure. For sustainable flower-loving, one might be better served to spend time at the local arboretum or botanical gardens.

Second, WARNING! Flowers are crummy at communicating. The reason the Victorians used flowers as messages was because there were so many rules about how and where and what was appropriate to communicate. As such, they hid more tender communications behind the hints and suggestions of flowers.

Subtlety and mystery in a new relationship are fine, and can really win over one’s lady love, but if speaking through flowers replaces real communication about who each person is, you can find yourself in a mess of a commitment predicament. Beware getting caught in a wave of sentimentality, petals, and new relationship energy and don’t let mechanisms for obscuring communication replace a forthright and honest, manly discussion about who one is and what one wants out of a relationship and a partner.

That said, flowers are purty and girls like ‘em, true enough.

23 Anne July 31, 2008 at 9:54 am

I am a sane, healthy woman and I LOVE getting flowers. I have a lot of respect for guys who are confident enough with themselves to put some effort into romance. Women who don’t enjoy getting flowers are not fit to date…they have psychological issues that need to be sorted out in therapy first. Best of luck to them and their recovery.

I really don’t see what’s so wrong about cutting plants. They’re PLANTS, for crying out loud. They get ripped up by storms and chopped up and stepped on by animals all the time! That’s why smaller ones, like flowers and grasses, grow back quickly.

24 Dennis August 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Good article. This is the first time I’ve commented, but I’m loving this site. And about no amount of flowers making up for her catching you cheating: if you’re cheating in the first place, you really aren’t very manly.

25 Ian Bacon August 25, 2008 at 11:37 pm

‘Victorian gentleman’? Not criticising the idea of giving flowers—but, lets put the Victorian era and its gentlemen into context: sweat shops for women, long hours, low pay, discrimination, etc. Life in Vic times was not fun for women (nor it must be said, for many men). Lets not over glamourise.

26 Baxter A. O'Shaughnessey September 10, 2008 at 5:14 pm

You’re right – women often complain to men that they are not romantic enough… One good way to show them that you do care and are romantic is to know about flowers. This article is great but I found anhter great reference on the meaning of flowers – findflorists.com/meaning-of-flowers.cfm. From acacias to water willows, It gives more information on each type of flowers meaning. The perfect reference to dazzle that special woman in your life. From Baxter O’Shaughnessey

27 Baxter A. O'Shaughnessey September 10, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Oops people I gave the wrong article reference in my post. It is http://www.find-florists.com/meaning-of-flowers.cfm. Sorry.

28 It's me September 13, 2008 at 6:11 am

I know how to fold paper roses and I’m planning to fold roses for our teachers in school this teacher’s day… :)

29 Alan October 23, 2008 at 2:59 am

This is definitely a great idea!

Only problem is I cannot find the book that was suggested.

Any other good suggestions for books?

30 Avraham October 27, 2008 at 2:44 pm

I have always been a fan of flowers. I like to give them to women and I even like them in an empty bottle of Tequilla on my table, it can be very manly. In other countries were you can get flowers on the street, fresh from a flower boy or girl, the beauty of it is compounded. However, I agree with the comment that women no longer understand. They really don’t and it’s difficult to work with. I believe that giving her a ‘booklet’ is borderline unmanly and may cost the charm for then she knows that you are simply looking up code. I suggest a clever planting of the code through a friend or something. Complicated is always risky but it might be worth it for this.

31 amanda December 21, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I am so glad this article is posted. I have told my boyfriend on a few occasions that nothing makes me feel more special then when he gets me flowers. There is just something about the added time involved to stop and pick some out for me in mind. The best time to give flowers in my opinion- on special days, but also on random days. Maybe you get out of work early enough to catch the florist shop still open- stop and get her some flowers.

On the debate of potted vs. cut flowers- I worked in a green house for several years so I understand the value of a potted plant, but every now and then its amazing to get cut flowers. And when recieving roses or other flowers that dry well-tie them together with a ribbon and hung upside-down to dry out. They will last forever this way.

32 Bruce Prentice February 3, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Interesting, as always. You do not always have to give a bouquet. How about just a single flower when the mood strikes?

33 Bruce Williamson February 3, 2009 at 5:37 pm

A really good article. Especially the meaning of the flowers. Now I can tell her the meaning of the flowers that she loves so much.

I already know which flowers she likes and in which colors.

I always give flowers on St.Valentine’s Day and her birthday. Every now and then I give flowers for no reason.

34 Abe February 4, 2009 at 9:59 pm

hey , just wondering,,, is there any kind of message behinde how many flowers you give a girl? say a single rose opposed to a bouquet

35 blaiko February 9, 2009 at 11:44 am

Red rose by it self means lack of thought or no brain don’t make this mistake

36 John H April 29, 2009 at 6:31 am

Nice article … Although I’d read somewhere else recently that giving flowers was “old-fashioned” in a bad way, I gave a bouquet of daisies to my new girlfriend after learning that they were her favorite flower. She seemed to like them well enough and I was pleased, but a few days later she was still talking about them, had arranged them in a vase on the middle of her mantel in her living-room, and had taken 10,000 digital photos of them. She later told me that no one had given her flowers in 15 years and was thrilled … and she is not the blushing, gushing type. Best $25 I ever spent.

37 RAYMOND June 20, 2009 at 12:49 am

This site is a place to explore information about flowers deliver. You can browse the catalogues to find the ultimate gift for any event or occasion. You will see here beautiful summer bouquet and anniversary bouquet for your wedding, first date or first kiss.
http://www.flowersofchina.com

38 Niyse July 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Good article and comments!
If you choose special flowers to go together for meaning, and want to avoid sending a codebook, your florist will usually have free message cards that you can either handwrite (if you’re there in person) or have them print out and deliver along with the bouquet. You can say something like, “Sarah – This unique bouquet was handpicked for you: yellow roses for happiness, phlox for unity. You are my only sunshine, my days would be dark without you. Glad we’re together! Love, Fred” Granted, that’s a little sappy. But it doesn’t take much to translate when your flowers do most of the talking. :)

39 L.Sinclair August 7, 2009 at 12:25 pm

This post is yet another one I’ll forward to e.v.e.r.y male I know.
“It can become an amazing tradition you’ll both enjoy. Seriously. Women eat this stuff up” It’s true. We do.

40 Dustta Burch January 22, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I abosolutly LOVE the daisys… i know most females like the expensive stuff, but i am perfectly content with the simpler things in life, daisys are the fruit of life and love. Love the best you can with the least amount of luxuries and you two will become closer than ever. :))

-the loved one

41 Thapelo Mokoena March 11, 2010 at 7:59 am

i so wish that one day my man will remember to buy me flowers, cause he knows that i`m dying for flowers but not on my birthday or valentines day…. hope

42 shop flowers June 11, 2010 at 11:47 am

I break out in a sweat when I go shop flowers, but even I can use a one-page shopping cart! Just one thing — I notice a random flower gift can make a woman mighty suspicious ; ) maybe use an imaginary reference to “you know, the first time we…” nothing dirty, necessarily, just memorable, even if you already forgot!

43 Livingstone July 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

Well, this is great! I, admittedly, forgot about this. (Gulp!). Thanks for the refresher! Great value, as always!

Well done :-)

44 Pete July 26, 2010 at 12:43 pm

For those of you gents lucky enough to live in the country, why don’t you try putting a new spin on things and pick your lady some wildflowers? They may not have specific meanings like those mentioned above, but chances are they’ll be more unique than the everyday, run-of-the-mill, Walmart varieties.

Plus, it gives you another reason to escape into the wilderness for a few hours while you search for a custom-selected bouquet that will charm the heck out of your true love.

Nothing says “I’m romantic AND creative” like a handful of freshly picked wildflowers.

45 Daniel Dover December 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hey, don’t forget that you can give flowers when they give a performance (a play, a dance recital, etc)

46 Shawn April 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Ok… Giving flowers to your lady is great but today I hand delivered some flowers to a close “friends” job and she was happy at first but once everyone started asking questions about who they were from she became bitter about them. BtW, It was here 3rd time in 2 weeks receiving flowers at work from me. Had a death in the family so i sent Lillies, 2 days later I send a dozen rose, then today 3 roses and a teddy bear…. I believe that some of the people at her work were just a little jealous and were giving her a hard time causing her to get embarrassed and bitter…. Really? I say forget them and be happy!!!!

47 The Pro May 24, 2013 at 1:56 am

I am keeping my fingers crossed,a bouqet of flowers and a lil teddy is set to be delivered to her this morning,remained anonymous because she knows i’m a man who isn’t reall Victorian plus i did a little mess so i hope the flowers will do the trick,after that i’m asking her to marry me,tonight…pray for me….

48 DapperDan June 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Great article. I believe I will be using this today.

@The Pro – how did it go?

49 Edward December 26, 2013 at 8:43 pm

It’s also worth it to grab some flowers when she is performing is a play/recital/concert or something of the like. Giving them afterwords says “You stole the show”, and before hand says “Break a leg sweetheart.”

50 Daniel March 26, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Show me a man who hasn’t cheated and I’ll show you a 16-year-old. God created flowers because he created men.

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