Shoppers picking out a bouquet of flowers may choose their bundle based on color, smell, price, or season.
In previous centuries, however, every flower in a bouquet had its own meaning and flowers could be given to send a variety of different messages.
A solid-colored carnation, for example, signified an affirmative answer to a proposal, while a striped carnation meant the proposal was refused. English daisies were given in honor of newborn babies, gardenia for secret love, hydrangea to express frigidity and orchids to express magnificence.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch/Dawn Renee Kozusnik, owner of Bethani’s Bouquets in Wheeling, arranges a bouquet of flowers in preparation for the weekend.
But knowledge in the meanings behind each flower seems to be a dying art, as Bethani's Bouquets owner Dawn Renee Kozusnik said few customers come to her looking for particular flowers.
"They (customers) do ask sometimes, but not a lot," Kozusnik said.
Color tends to be the guiding criteria for putting together floral arrangements these days, Kozusnik said.
FOR EVERY OCCASION
A Few Traditional Meanings Behind Familiar Flowers:
- Ambrosia: Reciprocated love
- Aloe: Sorrow or Grief
- Cactus: Bravery, endurance, maternal love
- Buttercup: Rich in charms, childishness
- Daffodil: Respect
- Forsythia: Anticipation
- Lavender: Devotion
- Lily: Honor, majesty, purity of heart
- Magnolia: Perseverance
- Marigold: Trouble
- Petunia: Resentment
- Primrose: Young love
- Poppy: Dreaminess
- Pansy: Loyalty
- Rhododendron: Danger
- Snapdragon: No means No!
- White Tulip: Forgiveness
- Violet: Innocent love
- Sunflower: Opportunity
She said weddings tend to use a lot of white flowers and people celebrating anniversaries follow the traditional silver for 25 years and gold for 50. She said flowers for babies tend to involve a lot of pinks and blues.
"We do always ask what the occasion is because it does still matter," Kozusnik said. "It does still kind of have some meanings."
Seasonal traditions help a few other flowers retain their significance, according to Wheeling Flower Shop co-owner Howard Nikolaus.
"People like to send fresh fall flower centerpieces for Thanksgiving," Nikolaus said. "There's also lilies for Easter and poinsettias for Christmas time."
Nikolaus agreed that few shoppers come to him looking for specific species of flowers.
Besides cut flowers, shoppers do not come to Ianetti's Garden Center looking to plant specific flowers for special meanings either, according to Ianetti's owner Annette Ianetti.
"Nobody comes to us looking for that kind of stuff," Ianetti said. "I think it's a cool thing; I just don't see it anymore."
Speaking for gardeners, Wheeling Civic Garden Center director Brenda Finch said she sees a rise in planters interested in the meanings of flowers, especially among younger people interested in old-fashioned hobbies.
"I think there's always an interest in it," Finch said. "I think the younger people are starting to come around too. It's just sparking an interest in just going back to the basics and looking into the meanings of things."