A Valentine's Day Guide To Flowers & Their Meaning | A Cultivated Living

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A Valentine’s Day Guide To Flowers & Their Meaning

Gardening

Last Updated on February 9, 2021

An arrangement of roses, tulips, hyacinths, and hydrangea laid out in the shape of a heart on a grey stone background. A guide to flower and their meaning.

For me, flowers are always the perfect gift. I love them in all of their beautiful forms. At Valentine’s Day, in the bleak of winter here in Vermont, they are an especially welcome sight. Having been a floral designer for many years, I know the inflated prices around this holiday and the myopia surrounding that ubiquitous red rose. The truth is, you don’t have to buy roses… there so many more interesting, more unique, more fragrant, and more personal options to choose from.

A flat lay of an assortment of roses, tulips, hyacinths, and hydrangea and wax flower on a grey stone background for a guide to flowers and their meaning.

Why more personal? In addition to their diverse beauty, flowers also “say” different things. In Victorian times, when flirtation and conversation between lovers was discouraged, flowers and nosegays were exchanged in discretion, to convey messages through the flowers’ symbolic meaning. Below is a guide to some of my favorite flowers and their meaning.


A Guide To Flowers & Their Meaning

An arrangement of frilly pale yellow and white ranunculus with pink tips.

Ranunculus Mean “Radiance”


Ranunculus are one of my favorites. They seem like a mix of miniature peonies, garden roses, and cabbage. Perfectly round, opening to a frilly and almost poppy-like shape, it’s not surprising they speak of radiance. They are available in an wide array of warm hues. They are a truly happy and pretty flower.

Floral Tip: Make sure you get these from a good florist though because the lesser quality blooms can be diminutive and not last long. These look great tucked in with other flowers, en mass, or even all alone as their stems have an interesting form too.


A hand tied bouquet of pale pink hyacinths.

Hyacinths Mean “Constancy Of Love”


Scent. For me it is so important. If I am going to buy myself flowers I almost always buy something with scent and the hyacinth is a force to be reckoned with. While not a large flower, it is one of the most fragrant. A few stems will fill the room with the delectably sweet, fresh scent of spring. These are my go-to flower in January and February because just walking into a room with them reminds me of warmer days to come and helps me shake winter. They come in a variety of colors… lavenders, purples, pinks, peach, pale yellow, white, and my favorite, a deep rich magenta-plum. And the best part? They last for quite a while.

For tips on growing your own hyacinths click here.


A bouquet of frilly pale yellow and pink peonies.

Peonies Mean “Devotion”


One thing is for sure, I am utterly devoted to peonies. It doesn’t get much better than peonies. Their big, round buds turn to bowls of petals full of layers of ruffles and a light but sweet scent. They come in all of the warm hues, moving from white to the palest, feminine pinks to dark, crimson reds. One of the more intriguing is a coral peony, which starts as a big, bold orangey-pink ball, brightly opening to reveal a yellow center. It then fades over a few days transforming to the palest peach. It’s hard to go wrong with peonies but they aren’t always in season, which perhaps adds to their luxury.


A hand tied bouquet of pale yellow double tulips lying on a stone background.

Tulips Mean “Declaration Of Love”


The superlative tulip. The beauty of the tulip is its simplicity. It is beautiful all on its own. A bunch of tulips is always appropriate, always elegant, and really hard to mess up. They come in so many different colors and different combinations of colors, and I really can’t think of one that I wouldn’t like. Though if you want to kick it up a notch, some more interesting forms of tulips are parrot tulips (feathery and twisted), peony tulips (double flowered), French tulips (very tall), or lily-flowering (fluted) tulips. You can’t go wrong whichever you choose. Declare your love.

For tips on growing your own tulips click here.


A hand held bouquet of pale pinkish peach sweet peas.

Sweet Peas Mean “Bliss”


The sweet pea, for me, is the ultimate in frivolous luxury. They are diminutive to be sure. But the little butterfly, fluttery, rounded petals which dance upon squiggly stems are steeped in a light but spicy-sweet scent. They are so pretty and feminine. And the colors… pinks, purples, magentas, lavenders, reds, corals, and some are even speckled with other colors. Sadly though, they do not last all that long. But for a moment, they are utter bliss.


An aged silver cup filled with lilac sitting on a mirror.

Lilacs Mean “First Love”


Nothing compares to lilac. Lilac is like first love. Its sweet scent is so true and jubilant and is cast with such abandon, that for a moment, nothing else exists. Known for its hue, it ranges through the purples from pure white and ivory to the deepest magentas and plums. Sadly, it can be a fragile cut flower. But it is everything while it lasts.


A hand tied bouquet of pale green hydrangea.

Hydreangeas Mean “Playfulness”


Hydrangeas truly are crowd pleasers. They are like big balls of color, ranging in hues from green to white to blue, purple, magenta, reds, and even brownish-plums. They are best when in a big mounded bunch or mixed with other flowers.

Floral Tip: Their one drawback is that they can sometimes be temperamental, you can generally gauge their demeanor by feeling the flower head, if it is firm they will last, if it’s soft, beware. If the flowers crash, soak the whole flower head in a bowl of cool water for 5 minutes, shake off the water gently, and recut the stem underwater – then give it a little while to (hopefully) perk up.


A close up of the flower of a white Phalaenopsis orchid.

Orchids Mean “Exotic Beauty”


Similar to tulips, it is pretty hard to go wrong with orchids. They are the largest group of flowers in existence and have been around for thousands of years. Did you know that vanilla is from the bean of an orchid? Orchids are, themselves, exotic beauties. So many different varieties, different shapes, different sizes, different colors. The most common cut flowers are the Dendrobiums, Mokaras, and Cymbidiums, though you can get Phalaenopsis (pictured here), Lady Slippers, Oncidiums, and Cattleyas from a good florist probably by special order. Am I speaking Greek at this point? Well, Latin I guess. The short and sweet, orchids are beautiful, and better yet, they will last for a long time as a cut. They are a very special flower.


A hand tied bouquet of lavender roses.

Roses Mean “Love & Friendship”


If it just doesn’t seem like Valentine’s Day without roses, I understand. Roses are absolutely beautiful and one of my favorite flowers. There are so many beautiful colors of roses, of course the reds, but pinks, whites, lavenders, yellow, orange, green, peach, and mixtures therein… and here is where it gets complicated. Different colors have different meanings.

Pink roses mean “friendship,” red roses mean “love,” white roses mean “I am worthy of you,” and lavender roses mean “enchantment.”

If you really want to make a statement, you can choose my favorite roses, garden roses. These are the most beautiful and most fragrant roses, the scent will knock you over, really. Standard (tea) roses do not even compare as far as scent goes. Garden roses open round and full of ruffles of petals, appearing very similar to peonies, as they have many more petals than a tea rose. They are however, probably hard to find, unless you go to a very good florist. They are such a treat. You can practically taste their fruity sweet scent.

At Valentine’s Day just beware of the prices of roses, and beware of the lesser priced roses – these may not be the best quality and may not last very long.

Floral Tip: Squeeze the head of the rose to test its firmness. If it is firm (but not like a rock) it will last, if it feels hollow and soft it won’t last very long.


Well that wraps up my guide to some of my favorite flowers and their meaning. I hope that this helps you find something that really speaks to your love. If you have any questions on flowers or floral design just ask me below. What’s your favorite flower?


An arrangement of roses, tulips, hyacinths, and hydrangea laid out in the shape of a heart on a grey stone background. A guide to flower and their meaning.

Click here for more of my favorite flower inspiration on Pinterest.

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